Thursday, July 30, 2009

Don't make us sing Kum Ba Yah

We are starting to hear voices from Europe and Russia telling us that now the election is over we should kiss and make up.

1. Javier Solana has issued a statement calling for a 'spirit of reconciliation'. He's probably feeling sorry for his old drinking buddy Vova.

2. Russia has made its views known through the report of the CIS monitors, who gave the election process (and implicity the result of it) a ringing endorsement.

3. Even senior Romanian politicians such as Weber, Marinescu and Diaconescu are calling for the election result to be accepted and playing down allegations of fraud and irregularities.

Understandably what the Europeans want most is stability on their borders. What Russia wants is a good relationship with Europe so that their 50bn loan application will be received favourably.

What is best for Moldova, however, is the return of truth. As the South Africans understood very well, you cannot have reconciliation and forgiveness without all parties first recognising historic truths, including bringing to light the appalling crimes commited by different groups within a divided society.

Right now we need truth about the election result. While we are grateful for the end of communist domination, the irregularities, intimidation and fraud that accompanied the election must be exposed and dealt with, not swept under the carpet. It must be recognised that a Party cannot score 45% when an exit poll with a margin of error of 2% gives them 40.5%.

We need truth in the media. Todercan and his crew must leave and make way for professional journalists at Teleradio Moldova. The government should quit its ownership of Moldova Suverana and Nezavisimaya Moldova.

We need truth about April 7th and the days that followed. We need truth about the crimes committed by Communist politicians over the last eight years. We need truth about Transnistria and Russia's role in the conflict. We need truth about the state of the nation's finances.

Without the return of truth, Moldova's serious underlying illnesses cannot be healed. This is a state bitterly divided along linguistic and ethnic lines and a people taught immorality by their leaders. It is the poorest country in Europe due to poor government and the political instability generated intentionally by the Russians in Transnistria.

Truth must be spoken into these situations and issues. Not for the purpose of revenge or for obtaining power, but for the purpose of generating understanding and promoting remorse, forgiveness and unity, in that order.

It can set us free.

I get 47.

The latest results published by CEC are as follows:

Concurenţi electorali Voturi
Partidul Comuniştilor din Republica Moldova 706,630
Alianţa “Moldova Noastră” 116,088
Partidul Liberal 230,698
Partidul Liberal Democrat din Moldova 261,265
Partidul Democrat din Moldova 198,114

My understanding of the D'Hondt formula is that it works as follows:

1. Add up all the votes for parties which have crossed the threshold (1,592,795 with 99.8% counted)

2. Divide this by the number of seats (101) to get the number of votes per seat (14,978).

3. Give a seat to the party with the highest number of votes.

4. Subtract 14,978 (the "purchase price") from the party you've just given a seat to.

5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until all seats are allocated

I did this in Excel. The first 30 seats go to the Communists. From then on the next largest party, the Liberal Democrats, start picking up seats as well. The Liberals start their count at seat 36, the Democrats at seat 43 and Moldova Noastra at seat 65.

When I go through this process I replicate CEC's seat results for the PLDM, PL & PD - 18, 15 & 13 respectively. But I get 1 less for the Communists (47 instead of 48) and one more for Moldova Noastra (8 instead of 7).

This may not seem a big deal, however it would give the three liberal parties 41 seats, which, as we know, is enough to block a presidential election.

Have I got something wrong, or is CEC trying to pull a fast one on us?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On Election Day

WEAR THE COLOURS

Electioneering is prohibited on election day. They can't however stop you displaying your support by dressing in your party's colours, and such a show of strength might just squeeze out an extra vote here or there.

If you're a Liberal, wear light blue. Liberal Democrats should wear green while supporters of Moldova Noastra should wear yellow. Better still, grab a couple a couple of friends and wear all three colours together.

GET OUT THE VOTE

Ring all of your friends and family to make sure they have voted. Encourage your neighbours to get to a polling station.

If you have a car, fill it with petrol and give people rides to the polling station. If you live in a small town or village, bring some students back to Chisinau so they can vote (or at least give them the bus fare).

DOCUMENT

Write, record and video what you see, especially any funny business. This information may come in useful later on. (Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged and you have something to write with)

SMILE

Potentially this is liberation day for your country. Enjoy it. Smile. Avoid fights.

Now, we pray

The campaign is over. All that is humanly possible has been done. The battle is no longer in the public arena, but in the hearts, minds and souls of a million and a half Moldovans. And the only person who has access there is Almightly God.

The PCRM has engaged the Moldovan Orthodox Church in its campaign, with, for example, the Bishop of Balti call for parishioners to vote for 'stability and statehood', both communist codewords. The alternative orthodox grouping, the Basarabian Orthodox Church is closely aligned with the communist-allied Christian Democrat party. The only religious leaders that have stood up to the communists have been one or two independent-minded priests and some figures in Moldova's small protestant minority.

But don't despair. God, I believe, is the first liberal. He placed us in the Garden of Eden and allowed us to eat of any tree in the garden except one. He gave us freewill, to the extent of allowing us even to rebel against him should we want to.

He's also the first social democrat, instructing us to love our neighbours and to look after the poor, the weak and the imprisoned, demanding that we be our brother's keeper as well as taking responsibility for our own lives.

God is just. He has watched as the communist leadership has accumulated massive fortunes at the expense of the people. He has watched as those who are supposed to represent him have instead chosen to side with evil. He has watched as the security services beat up Moldova's youth. These matters will not go unpunished.

So now we pray that God's will will be done in Moldova as it is in Heaven. There is a promise which God once gave the people of Israel which hopefully also applies to Moldova in some part: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will heal their land."

Monday, July 27, 2009

More Spinning than Rumpelstiltskin

Tkaciuk: The PDM is distributing a false leaflet saying that Iurie Rosca will be the communist's candidate for president.

Zimbru: So what? That sort of statement is akin to a weather forecast. It might rain, or it might not.

Tkaciuk: The PLDM is distributing a false leaflet in which Lupu and Voronin make a common appeal.

Zimbru: Prove it.

Tkaciuk: No evidence has been presented about the falsification of the election.

Zimbru: I didn't realise you weren't able to read. Those who can are able to access a huge amount of evidence held by the opposition, the independent media and deposited with both the Constitutional Court and the Court of Appeal.

Tkaciuk: The opposition is falsely transmitting that the PCRM will not pay pensions.

Zimbru: Not 'will not' but 'cannot'. In a pre-election bribe the PCRM increased pensions to a level that simply can't be supported by social security contributions.

Tkaciuk: The opposition doesn't have serious arguments against the communists

Zimbru: That would be with the exception of (a) four deaths, twenty rapes & hundreds of beatings at the hands of the police, (b) 32 breaches of the constitution over the last eight years, (c) the pillaging of the economy by Oleshka, (d) the deterioration of Moldova's already weak democratic institutions, (e) the failure of the PCRM to diversify the economy away from remittances, (f) the failure to improve Moldova's energy security, (g) the failure to reintegrate Transnitria etc. etc.

Tkaciuk: On the 29th, the opposition has arranged for young people, dressed in red, to make pro-communist demonstrations.

Zimbru: Good to see you already have a cover story for the illegalities the PCRM plans to commit on election day.

Tkaciuk: Everyone should go to church, make the sign of the cross, pray, and then go and vote communist.

Zimbru: ...only if you want to be struck down by lightening.

Tkaciuk: If the PCRM doesn't win the election, Moldova will be isolated internationally

Zimbru: How will we ever manage without North Korea and South Ossetia backing us?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

YOU CAN HELP!

I'm sorry I didn't think of this earlier - there is an excellent way in which readers living outside Moldova can help bring democracy back to the country.

The Communist regime is trying to make it as difficult as possible for certain sections of the electorate (e.g. students, workers living overseas) to vote. Outside of Moldova, the only places that votes can be cast are at Moldova's diplomatic representations (of which there aren't very many). Furthermore, by calling the election on weekday in mid-summer, they are making it very difficult for someone who, for example, lives in Dublin, to get to the nearest polling station (Moldova's embassy in London), not to mention expensive...

There is however one group of voters living outside Moldova who can be got to a polling station relatively easily, but who nevertheless have some difficulty meeting the travel costs. I'm referring to the thousands of Moldovan students who live in Romania's university towns - Timisoara, Cluj, Craiova, Suceava, Iasi, Constanta etc. They need to travel to Bucharest in order to vote at either the embassy or the consulate.

The cost of a train ticket should be no more than ten euros. That doesn't sound a lot, but these folks are on very tight budgets and many of them will not make the journey because they can't afford to.

Here's the idea. If you wish to and are able, please send a little bit of money to one of the various Basarabean students associations in Romania, with instructions that it be used to pay for train tickets to Bucharest for the 29th. There's not much time left, so you will need to move very quickly. Here are the links for the contact pages of the various associations. Write in whatever major language you are comfortable with - they'll figure it out.

Timisoara, Craiova, Cluj, Suceava, Constanta

Get in touch with them, ask how you can transfer some money and send them a proof of payment once you've done it.

YOU CAN HELP!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why I'm not afraid of Lupu

Many commentators are forming a conclusion that Marian Lupu's defection is a communist project and that the democrats will form a coalition with the communists after the election, the price of which will be handing the Presidency to Lupu.

There is probably some truth to this; whether actively planned or passively allowed, Voronin is probably counting on Lupu's support to shore up his power base after the election. There would need to be a few cosmetic 'democratisation' initiatives (such as we saw with the PPCD in 2005), and Lupu would be the figurehead, but other than that Voronin could conduct business as usual.

But now think from Lupu's perspective. He's a generation younger than Voronin and still has a long political career ahead of him. Why would he want to tie himself to an aging dictator when he could instead rely on the support of the more politically acceptable liberal bloc to achieve the presidency?

More than that, think of the longer term. What Lupu and his backers (both Russian and European) want to achieve is the replacement of the Communist Party by the Democrat Party as the leading party of the Moldovan centre-left.

With the support of the liberal bloc, the PCRM could be eliminated from the Moldovan political scene over the next four years. Its leaders would be prosecuted for their various crimes while the party itself could face severe sanctions for constitutional abuses. Teleradio Moldova would be freed from communist control, allowing eight years of brainwashing to be unwound and grass-roots communist support to fall away.

That would leave the Moldovan political scene from 2013 onwards looking rather normal, with the (mildly pro-Russian) Democrats on the left and the (mildly pro-Romanian) liberal bloc on the right alternating in government. Lupu could look ahead to a long and illustrious political career, relatively untainted by the dictatorship of 2001 - 2009.

[One final comment, so nobody gets me wrong. I am not a supporter of Lupu and do not encourage anyone to vote for him, unless the only other option is the PCRM. Moldovans should vote for the three liberal parties who proved their integrity on June 3rd.]

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Voronin's 'chemistry' with the electorate

Seraphim Urecheanu, AMN has provided more details to supplement Vitalia Pavlicenko's earlier statement about the methods the Communist regime will use to rig the July 29th election.

According to Urecheanu, specially treated voting papers have been prepared in Israel. These papers will be delivered to larger polling stations which have a majority of communist-controlled officials. The papers have a stamp - 'Voted' - which is printed in invisible ink. This stamp will appear in the PCRM row on the ballot a couple of hours after exposure to light.

Similarly, these polling stations will be equipped with ink that fades away after a couple of hours, rendering the real option of the voter illegible.

Urecheanu has also warned that thousands of false ID documents have been prepared to facilitate fraudulent voting by communist acolytes.

Russia Interferes



This story and image was posted on http://garda.com.md earlier today:

Sources who wish to remain anonymous have sent us images of an airplane belonging to the Russian Ministry of Exceptional Situations, which landed at Marculesti Airport (Zimbru: a former military base in the north of Moldova). The sources mention that the aircraft landed on the 22nd of July at 5.45 and took off again at 7.45 having unloaded its cargo. "The Russian aircraft left behind some toys for the police - batons, shields and other equipment. The 'toys' were loaded into a truck which then left the territory of the airport."

Another day, another poll


A new poll has just been released based on samples taken in the ten days to 20th July.

My understanding of the d'Hondt formula is limited, however on data provided by the Association of Demographers and Sociologists I would see seats in the Parliament being apportioned as in the chart to the right. Unimedia gives the last seat to the Communists, whereas I would see it going to the Liberals.

This could be important, as without that seat the PCRM would not be able to block a presidential vote. As I have stated previously, I do not believe it would be in the interests of the communists to block the election of a president, however.

The main item of interest is the very strong showing of the centrist parties, the PD and especially the PSD. I'm not sure I believe the PSD result given the context of the campaign, although I could understand former communist voters supporting Lupu's democrats.

The liberal camp seems stuck at around the 40% mark. This probably has something to do with the biased information being fed to voters by the ruling regime's propaganda machine. Nonetheless, a president could not be elected without their approval. Also, it's good to see AMN safely crossing the 5% threshold.

All in all, provided the PCRM is unable to rig its way to victory, it looks like Lupu's democrats will hold the balance of power and Lupu will therefore be President. For this, however, he will need the support of the Liberal parties, and the price for this will probably be that the roles of speaker and prime-minister will be allocated to the PL and the PLDM. Other roles would be apportioned among the parties in the governing coalition (which would be all the non-communist parties with the possible exclusion of the PSD).

My 'dream team' would be Lupu as president (even if you don't like or trust the guy, he and Urecheanu are the only politicians capable of representing all of the country's citizens), Filat as prime minister, Urucheanu as speaker and Ghimpu as head of the Constitutional Court (is he eligible). This would play to their strengths - Filat's managerial ability, Urecheanu's sense of fair-play and Ghimpu's strong democratic credentials. The latest poll means this is no longer impossible.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gurbulearbage

Prosecutor General, Valeriu Gurbulea held a press conference this afternoon with reference to the events of April 6th - 8th.

Gurbulea: 6 cases have been sent to trial and another 10 are in preparation

You detained 600 young people and you're only going to prosecute 16?!

Gurbulea: 96 cases of torture by the police have been registered.

The true figure is higher, but at least this is a start

Gurbulea: Eugen Tapu was strangled by his shoelaces

...which failed to leave any mark on his neck...

Gurbulea: Veaceslav Tabuleac fell from an electric power pilon

It is of course, totally normal for people to climb electric power pilons for no particular reason.

Gurbulea: Maxim Canisev drowned. He was found with a suicide note.

Actually, he was found with his spinal column broken and would have had tremendous difficulty throwing himself in a lake.

Gurbulea: Valeriu Boboc was found near the Triumphal Arch, have died from blows with a heavy object.

Perhaps you could tell us who was holding the heavy object?

Gurbulea: We can't accuse any parties of causing the disorder. We can accuse members of parties and we have in mind the PL and the PLDM.

So in fact you are accusing parties of causing the disorder, given that you mentioned names... You don't mention the PPCD, though - their members were caught on film in the middle of the violence by the Parliament and the Presidency

Gurbulea: Romania did not participate in the protests, however there was a cyberattack on government servers and attempts to cross the border.

No mention of the SIS attacks on opposition and independent media servers and web-sites? Oh, and by the way, the people trying to cross the borders were Moldovan students coming home to defend their democracy and futures.

Gurbulea: The concrete slabs that were being broken up by police in the courtyards weren't offered to the protesters.

So...er...they just wanted to build a rock garden?

Gurbulea: Protesters were released on decision of the prosecutor's office, not because the President offered an amnesty. there is no facility for an amnesty in law.

So why aren't you prosecuting Voronin for overstepping his powers and trying to free the detainees illegally?

Gurbulea: The young people who beat the police will be punished.

Punishment is the province of the courts, not the prosecutor. Your job is to bring cases to trial and you have no right to make this statement.

Gurbulea: In the night of the 6th to the 7th, the police didn't intervene because the young people were very violent.

No they weren't. There was no violence until the afternoon of the 7th.

Gurbulea: The audio recordings in the film "Attack on Moldova" weren't furnished by the Prosecutor's office.

Only the authorities have the right to tap phones, so if it wasn't the Prosecutor then it was the police or the SIS, and they should be held accountable for leaking evidence which is sub judice.

AMN must secure its vote

The recent IPP poll gave the Moldova Noastra Alliance (AMN) under 3% of voter preferences (i.e. below the 5% threshold to enter parliament). Like many, I didn't believe this poll and thought it had probably been rigged in some way. But look at the online poll at Vocea Basarabiei.

Remember that Vocea Basarabiei is a station which is almost exclusively listened to by opposition supporters. Let's say, for argument's sake, that that means 50% of the electorate. AMN would then, according to the (admittedly unscientific) listener poll, obtain only 4.7% of the vote on July 29th, and would miss out on obtaining seats in parliament. This would be an absolute tragedy for the liberal bloc and could mean another four years of communist-dominated government.

AMN needs to shore up its vote. First, it needs to work harder in its natural heartland to secure the rural non-communist vote. Secondly and more importantly it should urgently consider fusing its list with that of the PLDM. While this would obviously be a somewhat humiliating move, I think the stakes are too high to risk having a significant part of the liberal electorate disenfranchised.

North by Northwest

A fellow blogger has written an article in which he contends that the happiest hunting ground for the opposition should be the towns and villages in the north of Moldova. This is because (a) they voted heavily for the communists on 5 April, but (b) they have low levels of ethnic minority voters (the communists' most loyal support base). The theory is that if the opposition can spread the truth about what happened in April, and (tacitly) about Russia's support of Voronin, then these voters could be persuaded to switch allegiance, at least to the PD if not to the liberal parties.

The converse also holds. There is little point in putting effort into Chisinau or its suburbs (already a liberal bastion) or into places like Balti and Gagauzia which are dominated by Russian-speakers.

It would be nice if there were not a correlation between ethnicity and voting patterns - as I have written before I believe Russian speakers have as much to gain from a true democracy as ethnic Moldovans do - however in the current campaign we need to be pragmatic, recognise that differences do exist and adjust strategies accordingly.

Papuc must go

Unimedia has this morning posted an audio transcription of a meeting between Internal Affairs Minister, Gheorghe Papuc and a group of security companies, private detective agents and the like. Those who live outside Moldova should know that Minister Papuc directs both the Police and the SIS.

In the recording, Mr Papuc is heard instructing his audience to support those who are 'promoting Moldova's statehood' (code for the Communists) and reminds them that the Police have been 'promoting their business'.

Mr Papuc's statements contravene the law in three ways:

1. A minister of the state who is not a candidate for election has no business campaigning for anyone. His duty is to defend the rights of all Moldovans, not to promote the interests of a particular party. This is a clear conflict of interest.

2. A minister of state should not use his position to put pressure on any citizen to make any decision with respect to their vote.

3. The Police should not be 'in business' with private companies. The relationship between the state and private sectors must be detached and professional.

Most importantly, let's also not forget the beatings, rapes and murders committed by the forces under Mr Papuc's command in the wake of the April 7th protests.

Also remember that he is the subject of two outstanding criminal cases. The first relates to financial abuses in the late 1990s in the police units under his control at that time. The second relates to drug-smuggling.

Mr Papuc should resign or be sacked, and he should be prosecuted (to conclusion) for his numerous (alleged(!)) crimes against the Moldovan people.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Finland's Choice

What comes to mind when the name "Finland" is mentioned? Maybe Nokia, the timber company turned world-dominating maker of mobile phones? Perhaps an exemplary tradition of democracy and respect for human rights? Boreal forests and saunas on the shores of icy-cold lakes? The courage and discipline of the Finnish army? Smooth running Nordic simplicity and efficiency?

Yes, all of the above combine to make Finland one of the world's most successful countries, a model to be emulated by smaller countries the world over.

And yet it wasn't always like that. Finland was almost totally destroyed by the second world war, laid waste by a Russian army seeking vengeance for Finland's decision to side with Nazi Germany. In the late forties and early fifties it was a sorry place with almost no industry and tremendous poverty.

Out of the mess a populist communist party emerged with Soviet backing. In the 1944 election it secured around 35% of the vote and 50 seats, becoming the dominant force in Parliament. In the 1948 elections it was expected to secure a majority which would allow the establishment of a USSR-style political and economic system in Finland.

It wasn't to be, however. The people of Finland opted instead for moderate and democratic parties of the centre-left and centre-right, leaving the communists with just 22%. They never again had the opportunity to challenge for power.

Think of what Finland would have looked like today had the communists won. Possibly a lot like Moldova. Would you still be chatting with your girlfriend on a Nokia, or would you be sending food-aid to the starving masses in Helsinki? Would Finns be the world's top rally drivers or taxi drivers?

Moldova faces a similar, epoch-defining choice on July 29th. Vote communist and spend decades in totalitarianism and poverty. Vote liberal and get a chance for a brighter future. Who knows - maybe one day 'La Placinte' will be a world famous space tourism company from Chisinau...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Things are getting (more) interesting

The first credible-looking opinion poll has been released ahead of the July 29 election. The poll is published by Moldova's Institute of Demographers and Sociologists and appears to have been produced in a statistically rigorous manner.

It gives the Communists 29.7% of voter preferences, Liberals 13.3%, Liberal Democrats 12.8%, Moldova Noastra 7.9% and the Democrats 7.1%. All other parties (including the Christian Democrats) fall below 3%.

So what do these results mean?

1. If the Christian Democrats want to have any credibility with respect to the values they purport to hold, they should now withdraw in favour of the parties that most closely share those values (i.e. anyone except the Communists)

2. The opposition can take heart from their relatively strong showing versus the communists, which can only improve in the next two weeks as the message about 7 April gradually filters out and the economy continues to deteriorate.

3. Moldova Noastra in particular can take heart that it is comfortably above the threshold and that it's electorate should not be worried about losing their votes.

4. The Democrats appear to be taking votes from the Communists rather than the liberals, which is fine by me.

In terms of parliamentary seats, the key variable is the undecided vote. in Moldova this traditionally flows strongly to opposition parties. If, say, we reallocate it on the basis of the expressed preferences, we get the following result:



As you can see, the liberal block (PL + PLDM + AMN) would be the largest in parliament. It would have the power to block a presidential election but could not approve a government or enact law without the support of the Democrats. Similar comments apply for the Communists.

In theory, a Communist - Democrat majority could be formed in Parliament. This would be temporary, however, as they could not elect a president and eventually new elections would be called. More likely in my view is a Lupu presidency (supported by all groups) and a government approved by a liberal - democrat coalition.

Also in theory the Communists could play hardball and trigger new elections by boycotting the presidential vote. I don't think they can afford to do this, however. The liberals and democrats will write new electoral laws empowering their electorates (students, overseas voters). They will also free TRM, allowing the full horror of eight years of communist government to be understood by all of Moldova's people for the first time. The communists would only lose further in the event of fresh elections; their best hope would be to sit through four years of opposition and then try to return to power in 2013.

Oh no, they're back!

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has announced that it will be sending its 70-person mission back to Moldova to monitor the July 29 election. It is no doubt a source of great joy to the communist party that such paragons of democracy as Turkmenistan and Belarus will be sending their finest to put their seal of approval on the PCRM's victory.

Realistically, however, this mission has zero credibility:

1. In their report on the April 5th election, they gave it a clean bill of health, despite the numerous anomalies documented by the opposition, independent media and even the OSCE.

2. Of all the members of the CIS, the only one that can really be described as a democracy at this time is Ukraine.

3. In their findings on other elections observed, the true assessment criteria of this mission appears[ to have little to do with the freeness and fairness of the process, as with the acceptability of the result to the CIS's dominant member, Russia.

In a sense, there's no point having this team actually show up in Moldova. A lot of money could be saved on hotel and restaurant bills if they stayed at home and simply produced two versions of the report ahead of the election - one praising the electoral process in the case of a communist victory and the other lambasting it should the opposition win.

On the other hand, Moldova needs all the money it can get at the moment, so please do come and enjoy our hospitality, fine wines etc. just don't get upset if we're not interested in your opinions.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kudos to Petrencu

Anatol Petrencu, president of the 'European Action Movement' (MAE), has announced that his party will withdraw from the election at the end of the campaign, telling his supporters (about 1% of the electorate) to vote PL, PLDM or AMN. He intends to use his party's election machinery to campaign for an end to communist rule.

By taking this decision Mr Petrencu is ensuring that his supporters' votes will not be wasted. It is a step which Vitalia Pavlicenko's PNL and the other small non-communist parties should now follow.

Spot the Fascists

It's time to talk about the 'F' word. No, the one with seven letters - "Fascism".

It's a word that carries horrific connotations, being associated with Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and countless Latin American despots. It's a word that brings to mind the horrors of the holocaust. A word, like 'genocide', that needs to be used sparingly and carefully.

And yet we see it regularly trotted out and bandied around by Voronin, the PCRM and their Russian backers. According to them, all Romanians are fascist, on the strength of the 10 years or so in the 30s and 40s when Romania fell under Antonescu's dictatorship. Moldova's liberal opposition are fascists, although in this case Voronin doesn't even appear to have specious arguments to support his claim. The judges of the European Court of Human Rights are also fascists - how else to explain the frequency with which they find against the Moldovan and Russian governments? The independent media are fascists, as are non-compliant NGOs.

In short, anybody who doesn't support the PCRM's worldview is deemed a fascist.

But hang on a moment - what does the word actually mean? Here's the definition in the Compact Oxford Dictionary:

" noun (1) an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government. (2) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice."

With the limited exception of 'nationalistic' in certain cases, none of these adjectives can be applied to the target groups. Romania's government is clearly left of centre, having policies of increasing taxes, pensions and the size of the state. Romania's government is clearly neither authortarian nor intolerant; human rights and democratic freedoms are by and large respected. Romania does defend its national interests, but no more than any other state, and not to a degree that could be cast as 'nationalist'.

Contrast this with Moldova. The 'authoritarian' tag applies - 600 peaceful protesters were locked up by the police in early April. The PCRM government is also nationalistic, demonizing all that is Romanian and accentuating race issues. It is, in fact right-wing. Social security is miserly and the economy is controlled by a cabal of corporations centered on Voronin's clan. Finally, the PCRM is intolerant; witness the inability of Teleradio Moldova to permit the expression of points of view which differ from the government.

So who are the real fascists?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Time to Bang Heads Together

I have just watched with dismay a video clip from Moldova 1's YouTube site. In the video the leaders of the PL, PLDM and AMN are shown complaining about having their members stolen by other liberal parties, debating the price of a tank and other silly nonsense.

Wake up folks! Moldova is in a death struggle and you, Messrs Ghimpu, Filat & Urechean are its only hope for survival. By all means promote your particular policy agendas and personalities, but please, please, please do not fall into the traps being set for you by TRM and the PCRM. They just love it when you fight and when you take your eyes off the real prize which is the removal of the communists from power.

You scored a great victory in keeping the 'golden vote' safe, but that in itself is not going to get you home safe. You are in a fight to the death with a cheating opponent. You have to use every advantage you have or can create.

Let's have some ground rules:

1. Disputes among the three opposition parties get settled in private, not in-front of the media.

2. The only permissible comparisons among the liberal parties should be those relating strictly to policy.

3. Build each other up in public. Save your attacks for the real enemies.

4. If you are stealing people from each other, stop.

5. Don't allow the communist party and their media to sidetrack you onto frivolities

6. Keep bringing the debate back to the real issues which affect ordinary Moldovans, the economy and their human rights.

THESE SIX POINTS ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE. YOU JUST HAVE TO DO THIS IF YOU WANT TO HAVE ANY CHANCE OF GAINING A MAJORITY ON JULY 29.

I would also plead for a common list, with each party forming a separate parliamentary faction after the election. I know you each have your electorate that you want to protect, but I think your voters will understand. The advantages of a common list are
(a) it will eliminate any chance that one of the three parties won't break the hurdle.
(b) if the MAE, PNL, PC etc are included it will mop up a couple of percentage points of the vote that would otherwise be wasted.
(c) all of the firepower of the liberal camp would be directed at the real enemy, rather than at each other
(d) the unity & strength on display will in itself attract additional votes to the liberal camp.

The election will be tight and may come down to a seat or two. It would be a tragedy if Moldova were to continue its downward spiral into dictatorship simply because of squabbling among the liberals.

TIME IS SHORT. MOVE NOW OR IT WILL BE TOO LATE.

Для Русскоговорящих

Румынский граждан "Джей" написал интересный и важный комментарий на www.unimedia.md:

Приветствую вас всех. Уважаемые посетители этого сайта (среди которых безусловно много русскоязычных). С тех пор как открылся этот сайт (обычно я отписываюсь на Unimedia) я замыслил зайти сюда и оставить и здесь несколько строк. Побудило меня сделать это еще и хорошая знакомая из Молдовы, с которой недавно обсуждали сложившуюся там ситуацию. Я, будучи из Румынии, затронул тему русскоязычного населения Республики Молдова и спросил ее откуда взялось столько ненависти и непонимания – неужели все принимают за чистую монету то что говорят коммунисты? Я объяснил ей, что еще со времен когда мы готовились ко вступлению в Европейский Союз, нас в Румынии учили уважать национальные меньшинства и ценить их вклад в культурное богатство и престиже страны. Европа именно это и поддерживает – девиз Европы ЕДИНСТВО В МНОГООБРАЗИИ, и имеет даже целый департамент по поддержке языков народов ЕС, а европейские официальные лица посчитали, что для этой должности подходит представитель Румынии, так что на данный момент Орбан занимает должность комиссара по поддержке «многоязычия». В какой-то мере я понимаю сложившуюся в Молдове ситуацию – я застал эпоху коммунизма в Румынии времен Чаушеску. В то время нам старались внушить, что венгры наши враги, а коммунисты постарались и сделали все, что в было в их силах, чтобы подавить их язык и культуру. Примерно то же самое, что делают коммунисты по отношению к румынскому языку в Республике Молдова, название которого они не признают, и называют его молдавским. Нас приучили ненавидеть венгров, которые составляют существенное меньшинство в нашей стране. Настал 1989 год и вместе с ним революция, и страна шагнула в новую эпоху — эпоху демократизации. Мы хотели вступить в Европейский Союз, но нас предупредили, что для этого, необходимо чтобы в стране произошли определенные изменения. Среди них было и то, что нам надо научиться жить в мире и согласии с представителями других национальностей, что должны научиться оценивать и взаимно ценить друг друга. Потребовалось несколько лет чтобы понять что венгры такие же люди как и мы, и что они тоже хотят жить лучше, и у них есть свои радости и невзгоды. Недавно, один наш выдающийся гандболист, Мариан Козма, который играл за венгерскую команду, был убит в Венгрии. Но венгры же оплакивали его и принесли все нужные почести, а это затронуло и нас, мол вот, можно же быть и понимающими людьми, и хорошими соседями чтобы помочь друг другу в беде. Это только пример из тысяч. Мы поняли какое вклад принес венгерский народ для нашей культуре и цивилизации. В данный момент Европейский Союз служит нам примером межнационального сожительства.

Но не только венгры живут рядом с нами. Есть и немцы, и русские (которых мы называем липовянами, от региона где они живут), украинцы, евреи, татары, цыгане. Мы научились жить в мире и согласии со всеми. У них есть право учиться на родном языке, у них свои школы, журналы, газеты, книги, обустраивают свою жизнь как им угодно, никто им ничего не запрещает. У нас есть даже своего рода фестиваль танца, где приглашаем представителей каждой из перечисленных национальностей, чтобы они показали свои обычаи. Вот значит, нужно поныть, что в Румынии нет угнетенных национальностей и никто не мешает им говорить на родном языке, как учат вас коммунисты. Приезжайте хоть раз в Румынию чтобы увидеть это своими глазами.

Я бывал в Молдове. Первый раз это было 8 лет тому назад. Был очень любопытно посмотреть что там за Прутом, потому что нас учили на уроках истории что там люди говорят и на румынском, и на русском, и у нас также как и у вас есть коммунистическое прошлое. Нам говорили, что в Молдове живут воры, убийцы, и что идти туда опасно, что если приедешь на машине вернешься пешком, что на окнах они вешают решетки, и много такой же чепухи. Приехал я по приглашению одного знакомого с которым познакомился в Интернете. Было немало боязни, но любопытство было сильнее. Добрался без приключений и познакомился с необыкновенными людьми, очень гостеприимными, с которыми общаемся даже по прошествии стольких лет. С тех пор приезжаю каждый год, потому что чувствую себя там как дома. Должен признаться, что самые лучшие мой друзья из Молдовы. Несмотря на то что не знаю русский язык, со всеми в Молдове общался на румынском и мы всегда понимали друг друга. Даже с русскими, которые были очень любопытны увидеть как выглядит румын и о чем он хочет поговорить. Очень ценю то, что они обращались ко мне на румынском, даже если с некоторыми ошибками, но это было проявлением дружбы и уважения которые для меня очень много значат. Поэтому, и я выучил, сколько смог, несколько слов и высказываний на русском. На будущее хочу выучить больше.

Не хочу утомить Вас длинной речью. Хочу только сказать что у меня в Молдове очень хорошие друзья, один из которых молдаванин с румынским гражданством, один русский, другой гагауз. Это исключительные ребята, которых премного уважаю. Гагауз всегда отпрашивается с работы, когда я приезжаю, чтобы поговорить со мной, сколь бы усталым не был. Самые добропорядочные люди.

Недавно коммунисты возвели стену между мной и моими молдавскими друзьями. Они считают что таким образом могут разрушить дружбу и разлучить людей. Вот только они не могут воздвигнуть стену в Интернете. Здесь мы еще свободны. Я призываю вас понять, что Румыния не злая собака, и не империалистическая держава, как они стараются убедить Вас. Не позволяйте им больше ослеплять вас и решать за вас. Если бы Румыния не соблюдала права человека, ее никогда бы не приняли в Европейский Союз. Никто не может принудить Молдову объединиться с Румынией, потому что и здесь есть силы которые не хотят этого. Я лично хочу этого, но нельзя чего-либо достигнуть принуждая человека. Если в будущем встанет этот вопрос, то решить это сможет только население Республики Молдова.

Я вернусь еще чтобы изложить свое видение относительно того что происходит в Республике Молдова. Напишу на английском, так как не знаю русский в достаточной степени, поэтому прошу понять меня, делаю это не из высокомерия. Попросил свою знакомую перевести мое сообщение на русский, чтобы Вы поняли меня легче. Если кто-то захочет со мной общаться, всегда пожалуйста, в рамках приличия и уважения. В связи с грядущими выборами, отдаю предпочтения PL, но и PLDM и AMN думаю, смогли бы вывести страну из нищеты. Думаю, настало время изменить свою судьбу. Вы должны быть там, где благосостояние и прогресс, рядом с нами, в Европе. Всего Вам доброго, и не позволяйте другим решать за вас.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Democracy and electronic media

The communist regime in Chisinau has found conventional media much easier to control and manipulate than electronic media. For starters, the PCRM didn't really understand the importance of electronic media in this day and age, and thought that securing TRM would be sufficient to control the messages reaching the electorate. Secondly, electronic media is just different. It's nimbler, lighter on its feet and inherently less easy to control.

As time goes by, however, Voronin, Papuc and their Russian backers are doing their darnedest to limit freedom of expression in the electronic media. Some of the things they've done since April 5 include
1. Taking down ISPs (although you can only do this for short periods because otherwise there is economic impact)
2. Taking down mobile phone networks (once again, a short-term measure)
3. Denial of service attacks against opposition and independent media sites.
4. Deregistration of ".md" domains
5. Blocking of access to particular websites
6. Pressuring popular sites (e.g. Odnoklassniki.ru) to censor referrals to independent Moldovan media sites.
7. Threatening legal action against site owners because readers are leaving comments on the sites which the authorities class as racist of incitements to violence.

1 to 5 are clearly attempts by a repressive regime to curtail the freedom of speech which is every Molodvan's right under the constitution. These practices need to be attacked in Moldova's courts and before the ECHR by those who are having their rights violated. On a more practical note, independent media needs to take actions to mitigate the impact of SIS interference in electronic communications:
a. Get your internet connection from an ISP who won't be pressured by the Government to cut you off. Better still, get a satellite connection or a direct radio connection from Romania or Ukraine.
b. Have mobile telephone accounts with multiple suppliers (and satellite as a last resort). Expensive but will be necessary if the PCRM resorts to repressiona again after July 29th.
c. Owners of independent media sites should have their sites hosted overseas, with well-known mirror addresses that do not use the ".md" extension. They should also try to obatin security services / software that would mitigate DDOS attacks.


The solution to item 6 is to vote with your feet. Get off odnoklassniki.ru and move to another social networking site. Admittedly these are mostly in English, but there are some in Romanian and Russian.

The website comments issue is trickier. To what extent is the owner of a site responsible for the material that appears on it? Does the constitutionally-protected right to free-speech trump the societal norms against racism, hate-speech etc.? Let me make the following comments

1. The internet is an inherently democratic place, designed for the sharing of information and views. Media sites (such as those affiliated with the PCRM - omega.md, noutati.md etc) which do not allow comments are undermining this ethos.

2. Media sites should therefore allow comments, but state clearly that they are not responsible for the views of people posting comments (and make sure that the 'contract' with readers and posters supports this position).

3. On the other hand, while I like reading comments, I do not want to have to wade through a bunch of offensive garbage...

4. On the other other hand, I do not want somebody else making the judgement for me as to what is offensive and what is not.

5. The solution seems obvious to me. Have a moderator go through the comments and place all comments which do not appear to conform to the site rules into a 'trash can'. This way, those that don't want to read trash don't have to. On the other hand, the trash can would still be accessible on the site, allowing the comments to be read and the moderator's judgement to be challenged.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Miszei Misses Mark Mischievously

Kalman Miszei, EU special representative to Moldova, gave two statements yesterday which you can find at http://www.azi.md/en/story/4129.

In the first statement, he makes some generally good comments about the need for the July 29th elections to be seen as free and fair, and what needs to happen for that to be accomplished. What he fails to say, however, is that the upcoming vote has already been compromised by propaganda spewing forth from communist-allied TV channels, including the supposedly public Moldova-1, and that this damage cannot be totally undone in three weeks. July 29 cannot be a free and fair vote; the best we can hope for at this stage is 'freer and fairer than April 5th'.

The other problem here is that the communists have chosen to simply ignore the requests of the European Parliament, European Commission and Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. Political detainees remain under arrest, no-one has been put on trial for police brutality, the opposition and NGOs have not been co-opted into the investigation commission, electoral law wasn't reformed to facilitate voting by Moldovans living overseas and Teleradio Moldova is still under the control of the PCRM.

Europe now needs to wave a big stick at Voronin and the PCRM if it really wants to see movment on these issues. I believe that an appropriate sanction would be to say that "Europe will not recognise any ruling-party victory on July 29th as legitimate unless all of the recomendations of the European Parliament are fully implemented to the EU's satisfaction by midnight on July 5th." That would concentrate minds.

In Miszei's second statement, he talks about the dangers of extremist rhetoric, and, in a sense, I agree with him. Calling your opponents 'fascist' and making all sorts of claims about them when you don't have a shred of evidence is very unhelpful. On the other hand, I think it's perfectly legitimate and necessary to label as 'totalitarian' a group of politicians that has, over an eight year period but more particularly in the last months, completely undermined democratic institutions.

As I mentioned yesterday, the July 29th election isn't a choice between various political flavours, it's a choice between democracy and totalitarianism. In this context, Miszei's instincts as a diplomat to mediate and compromise do not serve the country well.

One final point. Miszei make the following statement (translated from Romanian): "Those who scare the population on the one hand with fascism and on the other hand with Stalinist practices are doing a disfavour to democracy. We, together with those from Moldovan political life who have demonstrated a sober attitude and a centrist political culture, need to openly explain this to both parties."

The only 'sober', 'centrist' parties with any sort of presence on the national scene are Lupu's Democrats and Rosca's Christian Democrats. What Miszei's statement means, amazingly, is that the appointed representative of the European Union has bought the Voronin/Lupu position that Moldova's liberals are 'right-wing extremists', and even worse, has decided to start promoting particular political parties within the Moldovan scene. This is totally unacceptable and Mr Miszei's superiors in Brussels should consider carefully whether Kalman Miszei is fit for the job.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Moderate extremists

Voronin and his clan are trying to portray the opposition liberal parties as dangerous far-right extremists, hell-bent on destroying the Moldovan state.

1. He accuses them of being behind the April 7th violence. They weren't.
2. He accuses them of being fascists. They're not.
3. He accuses them of associating with 'Noua Dreapta' from Romania. They don't.
4. He accuses them of seeking union with Romania. They never have.
5. He accuses them of attacking ethnic minorities. Not true.

Actually the three liberal parties are just normal centre-right groupings fulfilling their responsibility as an opposition: to oppose. They probe the weaknesses of the governing party, expose its wrongdoing, present policy alternatives and improve the quality of proposed legislation etc. This is exactly what an opposition is supposed to do and, in a normal country, would not in any sense be classified as 'extremism'.

It is this very normality that upsets Voronin and the PCRM, because it stands in sharp contrast to the totalitarianism of the communists and their attempts to undermine democracy and human rights.

Just one other somewhat tangential point: The PD and PPCD under Lupu and Rosca respectively are trying to position themselves as centrists able to 'mediate' between the 'extremes' of left (the communists) and right (the liberals). The communists, however aren't really on the left; they have made no attempt to build a 'social' Moldova. Similarly, the liberals aren't that far to the right; their policy programs all contain elements of solidarity and redistribution.

The choice on July 29 isn't between left and right, it's between democracy and totalitarianism, good and evil. If Lupu and Rosca want to negotiate with the wicked men and women running the PCRM, and try to 'mediate' between them and the liberals, that's their business. I'm having none of it however. Vote democracy, vote human rights, vote PL, PLDM & AMN!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Messages to the Electorate

The opposition is putting a lot of effort into counteracting communist propaganda by spreading the truth about the fraud of April 5th, the protests of April 7th and the week of police violence that followed. This is right, proper and necessary.

Unfortunately we also need to remember that we are in an election campaign and that the key to winning is attracting voters. Many of these will be motivated by other issues, and the opposition needs to get some key messages across. In particular they need to address some key communist constituencies:

To the pensioners:
1. Your pensions are funded out of taxes; taxes collected depend on the state of the economy; we will create conditions for the economy to grow so that your pensions can grow too.
2. We will work hard to reduce the price of food and clothing by reducing taxation, eliminating corruption and slashing bureaucracy in the economy.
3. We will create a democratic society and a growing economy for your children.

To the ethnic minorities:
1. We represent you as well
2. All of your rights as a minority (as defined in the Copenhagen convention) will be respected.
3. We have no intention of uniting with Romania or of joining NATO.
4. We will aim to have the best possible relations with Russia and the Ukraine, within the context of promoting Moldova's national interests and acceding to the EU

To the Rural population
1. We will allow foreigners to own land, which will increase its price.
2. We will establish national marketing boards to enable Moldova to penetrate foreign markets with its agricultural produce.
3. We will attract EU investment into Moldova's infrastructure, and private sector investment into agribusiness.

To Business People
1. We will remove the impediments to doing business represented by corruption and bureaucracy. In particular we will disestablish the licensing palace and we will simplify registration procedures
2. We will devise a tax system which is simple and which rewards initiative and hard work.
3. We will be predictable and will telegraph changes months if not years ahead.

Slip sliding away


According to Freedom House, here's what has happened to Moldovan democracy during the Communist's two terms in power. '1' is the best score (think Finland) while '7' is the worst (think North Korea).



After a rapid decline during the first term a degree of stablisation was achieved (probably due to the 10-point plan negotiated with the PPCD in 2005). Recently, however, the downwards slide has resumed.

The 5.07 score from 2009 is pretty atrocious when you consider that the Baltics (which started from the same place in 1991) all have scores around the '2' mark. Here's the descriptive text for a score of 5.07:

5.00-5.99 Semi-Consolidated Authoritarian Regimes

Countries receiving a Democracy Score of 5.00-5.99 attempt to mask authoritarianism with limited respect for the institutions and practices of democracy. They typically fail to meet even the minimum standards of electoral democracy.

While national elections may be held at regular intervals and contested by opposition parties and candidates, they are marred by irregularities and deemed undemocratic by international observers. Public resources and state employees are used to guarantee incumbent victories. Political power may change hands, yet turnovers in the executive are well orchestrated and may fail to reflect voter preferences.

Power is highly centralized, and national and local levels of government are neither democratic nor accountable to citizens. Meaningful checks on executive power do not exist, and stability is achieved by undemocratic means.

Space for independent civil society is narrow. While governments encourage nongovernmental organizations that perform important social functions, they are hostile to groups that challenge state policy. Institutional weaknesses and insufficient funding, save international support, also contribute to the limited impact of politically oriented groups.

While independent media exist, they operate under government pressure and risk harassment for reporting that is critical of the regime. Investigative reporting on corruption and organized crime is especially risky. Harsh libel laws sustain a culture of self-censorship. Most media, particularly
radio and television, are controlled or co-opted by the state.

The judiciary is restrained in its ability to act independently of the executive, and equality before the law is not guaranteed. The judiciary is frequently co-opted as a tool to silence opposition figures and has limited ability to protect the basic rights and liberties of citizens.

State involvement in the economic sector is sizable and corruption is wide-spread. Efforts to combat corruption are usually politically motivated.