Monday, August 31, 2009

Do you speak my language?

It's twenty years since Romanian was declared the official language of the Moldovan state, regaining its place after 45 years of disuse under Soviet rule.

Unfortunately, however, the aggressive Russification of Moldova, though held at bay during the 1990s, was resumed under communist rule.

Today in Chisinau you will be addressed by shop assistants in Russian. You will order your taxis in Russian and your business meetings are likely to be conducted in that language. You will go to Patria and watch an English-language film overdubbed into Russian by a man with husky voice. If you want to read a lifestyle magazine, a whole range are available to you (in Russian). If you want to sit through a communist party conference (I don't advise it) you will need to sit through hours and hours of meaningless speeches, once again in Russian. If you want to be cool and prove how smart you are, you will need to speak Russian.

It's all got to stop. The appropriate position for the Russian language in Moldova is as one of two foreign languages that every Moldovan citizen should learn at school (the other being English). It should also be protected and honoured as the mother-language of the 5.6% of the population who identify themselves as Russian. But that's it.

Moldova has grown up. It's now 18 years old and has been through a rite of democratic passage in 2009. Russian speakers have had twenty years to learn the language, and time is now up. No more should Moldovans extend the courtesy of using Russian with people who have not bothered to learn the national language. No more should Moldovans be content with a state of affairs in which they have to use a foreign language in so many aspects of their lives.

Moldovans should be confident and proud in using their own language. Remember this is not a peasant language as some would claim, but a direct descendent of Latin. It is the language of Eminescu, Caragiale and Vieru.

Parliament should adopt new laws to protect the language. These would, for example,require the use of the language in official situations and in publicity. It also urgently needs to look at Moldova's media space and find ways of encouraging more Romanian language programming and written content. Finally, ethnic minorities need to be encouraged to learn the language, so that the national language, and not Russian, becomes the 'language of inter-ethnic communication.

NB: Please don't get me wrong. Russian is a beautiful language and I mean no disrespect to its speakers. However its cultural influence in foreign countries such as Moldova needs to be restricted so that those countries can rediscover and redevelop their own languages and culture.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Communists in Hot Water

In Vladimir Voronin's case, we're talking jacuzzis. Apparent Chisinau traffic was held at bay last night so Voronin's motorcade could pass through to the airport. From there he flew to his favourite holiday spot, Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, a town famous for its thermal springs.

I'm not quite sure how that squares with the official reason the Communists sought a postponement of yesterday's session ("more time needed to form the parliamentary faction"), however it would explain Voronin's short temper on seeing the AIE unravel his scheme.

My guess is that when he arrives back on September 3rd he'll be taking a "Marshrutka" from the airport. I expect the AIE majority to declare the office of President vacant on the 2nd, meaning that from that point on Voronin will just be a simple deputy and Ghimpu will be the one driving around in the Presidential limo.

******

The other communist likely to be in hot water (figuratively this time) on September 2nd is Valeriu Todercan, the head honcho at Teleradio Moldova (TRM). Yesterday the state-owned media company refused the AIE's request to host a one-hour debate session so they could explain the AIE's position direct to viewers. The reason cited was that no studio was available (although studios never seem in short supply whenever Voronin needs one...)

Parliament has also demanded that TRM broadcast the next session of parliament, which will take place on September 2nd. Once again, Todercan has refused, citing 'technical reasons'. This time, however, the AIE's demand is not just a polite request. It is a resolution by Parliament under a specific law which gives it the right to demand coverage by state-owned media. Should Todercan continue to obstruct this instruction, he will find himself facing criminal charges.

The Logic of Power

Here's why Mihai Ghimpu should now be considered the acting President of Moldova:

1. Vladimir Voronin was elected for a four year term as President on April 4th, 2005.

2. Voronin's term expired on April 4th, 2009, however the Constitution requires and allows him to continue on in an acting capacity until the new President takes office.

3. That said, the constitution does not allow the President to hold any other remunerated function, including that of a deputy. Should this occur, the person concerned has 30 days to renounce one or other function. Should he fail to renounce the other remunerated role, the office of the President becomes vacant and the Speaker of Parliament becomes the interim President.

4. Following the April 5th election, Vladimir Voronin, on April 22nd, received from the electoral commission his mandate as a deputy in the new Parliament. He needed to decide by May 22nd whether he would continue on as acting President or as a deputy. He failed to make this election, meaning that the office of the President became vacant.

5. On May 22nd, the office of the (acting) President passed from Vladimir Voronin as former President to Vladimir Voronin as speaker in the new legislature.

6. On August 28th (i.e. yesterday), Mihai Ghimpu was elected as Speaker of Parliament, ending Vladimir Voronin's tenure in that role.

7. As the office of the President is still vacant, it continues to be filled temporarily by the Speaker of Parliament, who is Mihai Ghimpu.

Why is all this important?

a. Following a precedent recently set by the Communists, Mr Ghimpu has the right to propose an interim government for approval by Parliament. Zenaida Grecianai's team can now be replaced by Vlad Filat's, meaning that the country can be effectively governed through the current economic crisis.

b. The President is the commander in chief of Moldova's armed forces and security services. Ghimpu can order the troops currently surrounding Teleradio Moldova to stand down and instead to enforce Parliament's demands that the public television station rebroadcast the next sitting of Parliament.

c. The President enjoys other prerogatives under the Moldovan Constitution which are safer in Ghimpu's hands than in Voronin's.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"At your service, Mr President"

These were the words addressed to the new Speaker of the Moldovan Parliament, Mihai Ghimpu by the State Security Service Agents assigned to protect him.

This was just one of a number of signals that Ghimpu's election was being viewed as valid, the others being the fact that the diplomatic corps stayed on to observe the AIE-only part of the parliamentary session and that even pro-communist news agencies such as Omega and Noutati Moldova were openly describing Ghimpu as the new speaker of Parliament.

What is really intriguing is that on some readings of the Constitution, Ghimpu should now become the interim President of the Republic, replacing a Vladimir Voronin who is well past his use-by date. It will be interesting to see if the AIE can effect this change.

*****

The AIE has announced that Marian Lupu will be proposed for the Presidency and Vlad Filat for the Prime Minister's office. The role to be assigned to Serafim Urecheanu is being kept a secret for now, but, in a delicious irony, is rumoured to be that of prosecutor general. The man who has spent the last eight years being hounded by Voronin's judicial hound-dogs will be the person responsible for bringing to justice eight years' worth of communist illegality.

*****

The AIE has taken two immediate moves to bolster freedom of the press in Moldova, allowing journalists into the hall where Parliament was in session and requiring the public television station Moldova 1 to broadcast the next meeting of Parliament live.

*****

The next battle is likely to come this evening, when, according to a demand issued by Parliament earlier in the day, Moldova 1 is required to cede 1 hour of time to the parliamentary parties to allow them to inform the nation about developments in the country.

Interesting times....

So far, the first session hasn't disappointed

A major scandal has broken out at the first session of Parlament in Chisinau this morning.

After the formalities, the session president, Ivan Calin, unilaterally declared a 10-day pause in the session until September 4th. The Communists left the hall, while the AIE continued the session under a new session president (the oldest AIE member, Ion Hadarca).

The communists outside the hall are claiming that the session continuing inside is illegal. Actually it was Calin's termination that was illegal, for many many reasons:

1. As noted in yesterday's post, a Speaker must be elected by this session, and the session can only take place on a single day. Calin's pause has breached this requirement.

2. The Agenda included the election of the speaker. Changes to an agenda can only be made on the basis of a vote of members. No vote was held.

3. The pause was announced on the request of communist Maria Postoico. She wanted the PCRM to be allowed to have ten days to 'form their faction' (as if they don't already know who the members and office holders should be). The other factions are already formed. As the PCRM is in a minority, Mrs Postoico's proposal should have been put to the vote.

4. The parliament is only fully constituted when its leadership is elected. Today is the last day when that can happen under the constitution.

Mr Calin committed other abuses during the session, including switching off the microphones of deputies without motivation.

It appears that Moldova is now in a constitutional crisis. One hopes that the army, government apparatus and the security services will recognise the legitimacy of the parliament and its AIE majority.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Parliament must elect a speaker tomorrow

Here's what articles 2 and 3 of the regulations of the Moldovan Parlament say:

Article 2. The Inaugural Session of Parliament

(1) The inaugural session of the newly elected Parliament is presided over by the oldest elected deputy. Later, after election, it is presided over by the President or one of the Vice Presidents of the Parliament.

(2) The chairperson of the session invites the President of the Constitutional Court to submit a report on the election results and on validation of the mandates of the deputies elected.

Article 3. Date on which Parliament is constituted

Parliament is considered legally constituted from the date of the inaugural session.


Please bear with me; I'm going to have to pick out a few fine points here:

a. The 28th of August is the last date on which the inaugural session can be held (30 days after the July 29th election)

b. Article 3 above implies that the inaugural session occurs on a single date, and cannot be spread over multiple dates.

c. Article 2 above implies that the election of Parliament's leadership must take place during the inaugural session, as it requires the second part of the session to be presided over by either the elected President or one of the Vice-Presidents.

The upshot of (a)-(c) above is that Ivan Calin and the communist party cannot prolong their dictatorship over Moldova by terminating the session immediately after conclusion of the formalities.

The law requires them to hand over control over parliament to the new majority, and they must do it tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The AIE - an all boys club?

www.zdg.md has just published a worrying analysis. As much as I am a supporter of the AIE, it troubles me that out of fifty-three deputies, only five are women, i.e. less than ten percent. Contrast this with the communist party, where twenty out of forty-eight are women.

The leaders of the four constituent parties need to address why their parliamentary representation is so masculine. Is it to do with the personalities of the leaders? Are there structures within their parties that make it more difficult for women to progress? Are they attracting an equal number of male and female members in the first place.

The problem is not just that it looks bad on paper and that women may be the subject of discrimination. There's also a practical issue; the AIE is a combination of four parties each of whose leaders are male and have strong egos. They will have to work extremely hard to prevent dissension within the coalition.

Women tend to lead in a different way to men. More consensus, more conflict-management, less strutting around like peacocks. A few more women in the mix could be the glue that the AIE needs to stick together.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

You've got to be kidding!

Voronin has today awarded the "Order of the Republic" to the chief justice of the Constitutional Court, citing his 'long and prodigious service to the organs of the law and his professionalism in the conduct of constitutional justice".

A few points

1. It is completely improper in a democracy for a political figure such as Voronin to make such an award to a serving member of the judiciary. Such awards should wait until the retirement of the judge, so that any hint of bribery is avoided.

2. Mr Pulbere does not merit the award, at least not for his time on the bench of the Constitutional Court. Under Mr Pulbere's leadership, the court has become a lap dog for the communists, and has singularly failed in its duty to prevent the rigging of elections, the denial of human rights and the usurpation of power by a single man, Vladimir Voronin.

3. Voronin knows that he is in for a rough ride in the near future. Once the opposition gains control over the prosecutor's office, he is likely to become the target of criminal proceedings, in particular for his failure to relinquish the role of President on becoming a deputy in the previous parliament. I guess he is try to keep the Constitutional Court sweet as an insurance against this eventuality.

Dear Mr Diacov, don't even think about it

Pavel Paduraru of Timpul is troubled by some comments that Dumitru Diacov (former leader of the Democratic Party) made on Saturday.

"We need to see how much of an alliance the Alliance is, and whether there is understanding. the Coalition hasn't put anything very clear on the table: what do we do, where do we go, how do we vote..."

The truth is that the Coalition has been fairly specific with its policy objectives. I believe as well that many more points have been decided behind closed doors, but that the four leaders are keeping these matters to themselves in order to deny the communists the opportunity to attack the programme.

So Mr Diacov's wobbliness and lack of support for the team of which he is a part is quite troubling, especially for somebody who has a reputation for being available to the highest bidder. Paduraru justifiably fears that Diacov may render up votes to allow Voronin remain as speaker in return for a few goodies for Diacov's 5-person section of the Democrat Party.

Diacov would do well to remember why he holds a deputy's chair. This is not though any effort of his own (the Democrats under his leadership scored a woeful 2.97% in April), but rather through (a) the locomotive power of Marian Lupu, and (b) the former communist electorate's revulsion with the behaviour of that party.

The mandate the electorate has given Mr Diacov is limited solely to following Marian Lupu and opposing the communists. If he provides support to the PCRM he will be straying outside this boundary and will deserve every bit of the opprobrium he receives from his voters and the AIE electorate in general.

I am SO looking forward to Friday...

On Friday the new session of Moldova's parliament convenes for the first time following the July 29th election. The "Alliance for European Integration" (AIE) will have 53 seats in the parliament while the Moldovan Communist Party (PCRM) will be in the minority with only 48.

Parliament is arguably the most powerful institution under the Moldovan constitution, and the AIE's simple majority will allow it to push through a number of pro-democracy refoms:

1. The reinstatement of a 1991 law illegally abrogated by a subsequent decision of President Lucinschii a few years later. This law made it illegal for any party to use communist symbols or adopt a marxist-leninist idealogy, and is now supported by a Council of Europe resolution condemning communism.

2. The replacement of the chief prosecutor, Valeriu Gurbulea. This will make it possible to pursue criminal cases against all those who have committed abuses during the eight years of communist rule (including cases against Papuc, Resetnicov & Voronin)

3. The replacement of the Teleradio Moldova board & leadership, the re-opening of all transimission frequencies to tender and the sale of all Government-owned media outlets. This will allow public television and radio to become equidistant and independent, freeing it up to report real news and conduct investigative journalism. It will also allow a stronger, more independent private media sector to emerge.

4. The reform of electoral law to (a) reduce the wastage of votes given to parties which don't make the 5% hurdle, (b) replace the D'Hondt formula, making the allocation of seats more equitable, (c) most importantly, provide increased opportunities for Moldovans overseas to vote. This will ensure that the communists can never again monopolise power in the country.

There are probably some other goodies out there as well, but my guess is that 1-4 above will be sufficient to persuade all but the stupidest communists that fresh elections would not be to their advantage, and that they should vote for a liberal-democrat President.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Iasi-Chisinau Offensive

The Soviet troops who had occupied Basarabia in 1940 were quickly pushed out when Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of the Soviet Union) was launched in 1941 by combined German and Romanian forces. This offensive pushed on deep into Russia, resulting in the sieges of Leningrad, Stalingrad and Moscow. It was eventually turned back when Soviet forces managed to punch a hole in the Axis front line, resulting in the encirclement and collapse of the German armies besieging Stalingrad.

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the beginning (24 Aug 1944) of the Iasi-Chisinau offensive. This was essentially the recapturing of Basarabia by Soviet forces, who, having relieved the siege of Stalingrad, pushed the combined German-Romanian forces back across the Ukraine to the river Nistru, and then on into Basarabia itself.

The Iasi-Chisinau offensive was seen in the Soviet Union and is still seen by the Moldovan Communist party as a 'victory over fascism' which marked the 'liberation of the Moldovan people from occupation'.

Now I'm no fan of fascism, and I do recognise the heroic role of the Soviet Union in defeating Hitler, but nonetheless the statements above are problematic:

1. A day prior to the start of the offensive, the Romanian fascist leader Antonescu had been dismissed by King Mihai and replaced by a democratic leadership. At the same time the country switched its allegiance from the Axis to the Allied powers. The Soviet Union (technically at least) invaded an allied democracy...

2. How can you liberate a people from their own ethnic kin (i.e. the Romanian wartime administration of Basarabia)? Can Michigan be 'liberated' from the United States of America?

3. In what sense are you liberating people when the system you impose is every bit as demeaning and illiberal as the one it replaces? How does replacing fascism with communism help anyone?

Sorry, but I don't see oodles of glory here (which is not in any way to discount the valour of those who fought and died on either side). I see instead a totalitarian power taking the opportunity to grab a bit of territory and impose its will on the people who live there.

An event to be noted, and learned from, but not celebrated.

A chance for Lupu and Diacov to earn their spurs

As I commented on Friday, Vladimir Voronin has decided to play hardball with the AIE (Alliance for European Integration). Following a party meeting on Saturday, the communists have decided to not even recognise the existence of the AIE, portraying it as a heterogenous amalgam of 'lilliputian' parties. The communist go further to claim that, as the largest party in Parliament it is they that should be at the centre of any coalition government. Now they plan to set about negotiating with each opposition party separately, to try to obtain the votes necessary to govern (3) and to elect a president (13).

Personally I think this initiative is doomed to failure. After all of Voronin's name-calling and intimidation, the three liberal parties won't have a bar of it. They have already proved their integrity by standing firm prior to the June 3 presidential vote. They will insist on the PCRM talking to the AIE as a whole.

Which leaves the Democrats. The leadership of this party has a chequered history. Lupu is a former communist and stood alongside Voronin as he committed some of his worst excesses. Diacov and Serebrian have proven to be 'purchaseable' in the past (e.g. both voted for Voronin's election in 2005). The communists quite predictably think they will be able to get some votes out of this party.

I have to say that I don't think they have a hope of getting 13 votes, as a vote in support of a communist presidency is political suicide in Moldova. They could get three, however, and that would create a significant problem for the AIE, pushing them back into opposition in Parliament and delaying the democratisation process.

Lupu and Diacov need to stand firm. They have signed a coalition agreement with the liberal parties. They need to stick with it and ensure that all the Democrat deputies do likewise. If they do, they will partially redeem for their past failings and prove themselves worthy of electoral support. If, on the other hand, they allow votes to leak to the communists, their political careers (as non-communist politicians) are over.

Oh, by the way, I don't think the AIE should be entirely on the defensive either. Signs are that Voronin is losing the backing of the Russian leadership. His refusal to dialog won't go down well in either Brussels or Washington. If Moldova goes to fresh elections in 2010, there is a good chance the communists will be decimated. Communist deputies must be getting nervous about their futures, and some may be willing to cut a deal with the AIE, even if Voronin isn't.

More on Molotov-Ribbentrop

Some very good information here from the BBC

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Republic of Molotova

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocol.

The main (& public) part of the pact was signed on the 23rd of August 1939, nine days before the German invasion of Poland which marked the beginnning of the Second World War. The public part of the pact was a non-aggression agreement between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. In the secret protocol, the sides carved Europe up into two 'spheres of influence', with each side agreeing to allow the other free reign within its sphere.

Poland , Czechoslovakia, Hungary and most of Romania were included in Germany's sphere, while Basarabia (more or less today's Republic of Moldova) and the Baltic states were included in that of the Soviet Union.

In June 1940, Western Europe was overrun by Nazi forces and distracted from events in the Eastern part of the continent. Stalin seized the opportunity and ordered the Romanian Army and administration out of Basarabia. The 'Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic' was established on much of the territory a month later, while other parts (Bujeac and Bucovina) were transferred to Ukraine. Similar events took place in the Baltics.

Revisionist Russian historians are currently claiming that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was a necessary instrument designed to provide security to the Soviet Union. Some go further, continuing to promote the Soviet lie that the Baltics and Basarabia asked to join the Union.

As a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact the peoples of the Baltic republics and of Basarabia were condemned to 45 years of soviet communism and (in Moldova's case) a further 18 years of crony capitalism. The Soviet Union's refusal to enter the war on the side of the allies in September 1939 lead to the overrunning of both Western and Central Europe by the Nazis. The British in particular have cause for complaint, being left alone to fight the German war machine for a year after the fall of France on the 22nd of June 1940.

The saddest thing of all about the pact is that it didn't even keep the Soviet Union safe; within two years of signing German troops were on Russian soil, besieging Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad.

All in all, Molotov-Ribbentrop was a complete failure. Modern Russia needs to acknowledge this and work constructively alongside other powers to undo its continuing negative outcomes.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Voronin Refuses to Dialog with the AIE

Here's one in the face for EU Rep. Miszei and US Ambassador Chaudry, both of whom have been pleading with the AIE to include the Communists in discussions about the Presidency and other institutions of state.

This morning there was an event in Chisinau at which the deputies elected on July 29th formally received their mandates from the Electoral Commission. At the event Vlad Filat approached Vladimir Voronin in the name of the AIE and invited him to a discussion among all parliamentary party leaders, to take place next Tuesday. Voronin refused to accept the invitation, which came in both verbal and written form.

Voronin now heads off to Sochi for a meeting of unclear purpose with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, betraying his instinctive preference to rely on Russian influence rather than deal openly with the elected representatives of the Moldovan people.

Brussels and Washington need to realise that Voronin is yesterday's man and quietly shift their attention to younger, less-compromised leadership in the PCRM.

The AIE shouldn't be too concerned by Voronin's snub. My guess is that Tkaciuc will find them the eight votes they need to elect a president. Why? Because (a) this will keep 48 communist deputies in Parliament, whereas an anticipated election will likely see seats lost by the communists, and (b) going clearly into opposition is the best way to ensure that the Communist party is shaken up seriously enough to give Tkaciuc the opportunity to emerge as its leader.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Join the dots

Dot number one: Parliament will meet on August 28th and a presdiential election will follow in which communist votes will be decisive.

Dot number two: US ambassador Asif Chaudry states (disingenuosly) that he honestly believes that the entire international community (including Russia) has the objective of developing Moldova, and that the AIE coalition should work together with the communists.

Dot number three: (Discredited) EU emissary Kalman Miszei meets with the (interim interim) Minister for Reintegration Vasile Sova, in order to restart Transnistrian settlement negotioations as soon as possible.

Dot number four: Voronin is off to Sochi for consultations with Medvedev.

On the face of it, this is all very strange:

1. American ambassadors are way too well informed to believe that Moscow is interested in Moldova's development.

2. Why would Miszei meet on the Transnistrian question with Sova when Sova will be replaced within a month by an AIE minister?

3. Why is Medvedev wasting his time with a political corpse like Voronin?

One hypothesis comes to mind.

a. All the big international players, together with the PCRM have come to some sort of accord which would see Moldova 'Finlandised' (i.e. neutral in all senses of the word - no NATO, no EU, no Russian troops).

b. Transnistria will be reintegrated with a high degree of autonomy. This will allow Russia to redeem itself somewhat for its sins in Georgia last year, while at the same time retaining a high degree of influence in Moldova (and Transnistria in particular).

c. The Communists have agreed to play ball, considering that some form of 'miraculous' Transnistrian settlement will boost their flagging ratings and strengthen their negotiating position with the AIE.

Reality dawns in Chisinau

Funnily enough the title does not refer to the changes in the Moldovan population's state of mind which are (happily) taking place at the current time.

No, I'm talking instead about Romania's 'Realitatea-Catavencu' media group, which has just announced its intention to open a nationwide television channel in the Republic of Moldova from February 2010.

Notwithstanding the shady background of its owner (Sorin Ovidiu Vintu, who was involved in a major financial scandal in the 1990s), this is a very welcome development, as it will bring competition to the state-controlled media in the towns and villages of Moldova. One hopes also that TVR will now re-enter and the Pro TV Chisinau will obtain a nationwide licence, bringing much needed balance to the media environment after years of domination by the state (read the Communists) and by Russian channels.

What we still desperately need however (and this goes for all of Eastern Europe) is a quality Russian-language channel whose news and current affairs perspective is not guided by the Kremlin. Russian-speaking communities in the former soviet republics tend to tow the Kremlin line simply because all they have to watch are channels that rebroadcast the propaganda approved by the Russian government.

For example, Moldova's Russians seem to have bought Putin's view that the August 2008 Russo-Georgian war was all Saakasvili's fault. They have never heard about the cluster-bombing of Gori, the expulsion of tens of thousands of Georgians from their homes or about the failure of Russia to observe the Sarkozy plan.

These communities don't know any better because they don't have other sources of information. Please can somebody give them one?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Possible futures for the PCRM (Moldovan Communist Party)

1. Radical modernisation and internal democratisation, so that the PCRM becomes a modern social democratic party. This would involve tossing out the entire old guard - Voronin, Misin, Stepaniuc, Calin, Ostapciuc etc. Remember also that Marian Lupu's Democrat Party already occupies this political territory. In all it would be a very difficult scenario to pull off, but the only one that would give the communists a future as a party with a broad political base.

2. Head back into old-fashioned Marxism-Leninism. It would have to toss out its capaitalist wing and anyone who smells too much of money, and find a true believer (Isaev?) as a leader. The party would gain political credibility, although its support base would shrink to around 10% or so. It could, however, be a junior partner in left-leaning Democrat-led coalitions.

3. Rebrand and position itself as the party of the Rusophone electorate. In this scenario they would really only have to get rid of Voronin, I think, together with one or two people like Stratan who are too "Moldovan". This would probably give it a share of around 20% of the vote, and, if it is moderate and plays its cards well, it could be a junior partner in most future governments (as the ethnic Hungarian UDMR is in Romania).

4. Gradually descend into oblivion. If it fails to clearly make one of the three choices above, the PCRM will gradually see its electoral base stolen by other parties or die off due to advanced age. It will be riven by internal tensions which will result in factions splitting off and going their own way. Over the course of the next decade the party will shrivel up and disappear.

Let the People Decide

There's a lot of fuss and intrigue about who will be the next president. Remember that in Moldova, the President is elected by parliament with a 3/5 majority, so gets to be the subject of a lot of inter-party horse trading.

The problem with all this is that it has little to do with the people of Moldova. How about we ask them who they want as their next president? Obviously we can't do this formally (the constitution doesn't allow it), but we can draw on opinion polls.

The last IPP poll (July 09) asked a question relevant to this decision: How much trust do you have in the following politicians? The highest scores were, in order, Voronin, Lupu, Chirtoaca & Filat. Voronin is excluded as he has already served two terms. Chirtoaca is out because he's younger than 40. Which leaves Lupu & Filat.

The Institute of Sociologists and Demographers published a poll at around the same time, asking: In which politician do you have the most confidence. Here the order was slightly different - Voronin, Chirtoaca, Filat, Lupu. Once again, after tossing out Voronin and Chirtoaca, we are left with Filat & Lupu.

It stands to reason that the two men Moldovans most want to see as their next president are Vlad Filat and Marian Lupu. I suggest that both be put up for election. The communists can choose which of these two they want to have, but they should not insist on any other candidate.

To do so would be to go against the will of the people.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The EU attacks press freedom in Moldova

Javier Solana's spokesperson sent the following letter to "Jurnal de Chisinau", a leading independent newspaper in Moldova:

Brussels, 14 August 2009

Mrs. Rodica Mahu
Editor in Chief
Jurnal de Chisinau

Dear Ms. Rodica Mahu,

The European Union expresses bewilderment with the article published on the website jurnal.md on August 12 and in the newspaper "Jurnal de Chisinau", on August 14. The article contains unsubstantiated allegations of criminal activities and treachery allegedly committed by the Special Representative of the European Union (EUSR) for Moldova, Mr Kalman Mizsei. We expect from a professional mass media organisation that any article containing such serious allegations be carefully examined by the editor-in-chief, using established codes of ethics and the professional journalistic practices of verification of information.

The EUSR, Mr Kalman Mizsei, enjoys the full confidence of the High Representative of the European Union, Mr. Javier Solana, and of the Foreign Ministers from all 27 EU Member States who on an annual basis have reconfirmed that trust by extending his mandate. We expect above-mentioned article to be removed from the site jurnal.md, and that a denial will be published in next edition of Jurnal de Chisinau.

Regards,

(signed)

Cristina Gallagh
Spokesperson of the SG / HR Javier Solana



This is absolutely astonishing and inacceptable conduct from the EU. They are effectively ordering an independent newspaper to retract a story. How can an organisation which pretends to promote open societies, democracy and press freedom do such a thing?

If they really believe that Mr Miszei has been libelled, they should put together a fact-based case and go to court to seek redress. That would be the appropriate action to take.

In fact I think the EU have taken this approach because they know that any libel case wouldn't stand up in court. Mr Miszei does, in fact, have a long, sorry and well-documented history behind him; a few quick google searches will turn up the necessary evidence (e.g. this article). Remember also that this is the man who has Mark Tcaciuc as a Facebook buddy and who in April tried to persuade the Moldovan liberals to accept communist rule following a fraudulent election.

What the EU's letter to "Jurnal" shows is that George Scarlat's article was right on the button. Why the EU allows itself to continue to be represented in Moldova by somebody who is so obviously in the pocket of the Russians and the Communists is beyond me. The Commission and Parliament should address this as a matter of urgency. They should also respond firmly to Javier Solana's attempts to muzzle the Moldovan press.

Time to speak Romanian

Petru Gutul is the president of a consumer protection organisation. He seems to be about 50 years of age and, judging from his name, is of Moldovan / Romanian ethnicity. Yesterday he gave a news conference in which he spoke in Russian. Some journalists addressed questions to him in Romanian, which it became clear he didn't understand. Mr Gutul asked them to address their questions in Russian. They refused. Mr Gutul launched into a tirade against them, accusing them of being 'impostors' and fuelling 'ethnic hatred'.

To many in Moldova, Mr Gutul's position appears reasonable. As the journalists were perfectly capable of speaking Russian, wasn't it rude of them not to extend that courtesy to Mr Gutul?

In 1991 the answer would have been 'yes'. The country had just emerged as an independent state with its own language, and there was a significant minority who didn't speak any Romanian at all. It would have been unreasonable to have expected them to instantly become fluent in the language. As a result, shop assistants would always address people first in Russian and any conversation involving a non-Romanian speaker would be conducted in Russian.

Now, however, it's 2009. While the courtesy of speaking Russian should still be extended to (a) visitors from Russian-speaking lands, (b) the very old and (c) those mentally incapable of learning the language, Mr Gutul fits into none of these categories.

He has had 18 years to learn the national language but obviously hasn't bothered. He is an intelligent man heading an organisation which is important at the national level. He is an ethnic Moldovan and a citizen of the state. He has no excuse.

The journalists weren't being rude. They were displaying the dignity of a nation learning (at last) to respect itself.

Monday, August 17, 2009

More "smecherie" from the PCRM?

Stirea Zilei reports that the first session of parliament will be held on August 28th. This is apparently so that Voronin can preside over Republic Day celebrations on the 27th.

Stirea Zilei understands that the first session will be short, and will be adjourned without a new speaker being elected.

If this is true, it would appear that the Communists aim to maintain their control over the country by preventing the new AIE majority from taking control over Parliament. While the PCRM's planned approach may be within the letter of the Constitution, it would treat with disdain the decision of the Moldovan people to give a majority to the liberal - democrat coalition.

The fact is that the only task which the first session needs to accomplish is the election of a new speaker, so that the house can begin its work in ernest. Ivan Calin needs to preside over the election, then clear off. That's it.

We don't need pomp, ceremony & various political tricks; we need democracy and good government. The PCRM needs to get out of the way and allow it to happen.

More on the Adventists

SATURDAY'S EVENTS

August 15th has been and gone. The Chisinau court of appeal ruled that the Adventist event should take place somewhere other than the central square (PMAN) of the City. In other words, Metropolitan Vladimir won. Unfortunately I haven't been able to locate the Court's argumentation anywhere, so I'm not able to enlighten you on its rationale.

The Seventh Day Adventists are a law-abiding religious group that has operated in Moldova since the late 1800s. They have around 15,000 followers nationwide, and wanted to bring them together to participate in the Moldovan leg of an international effort called "Follow the Bible". This is an effort to both increase levels of bible reading and at the same time increase tolerance, brotherhood and understanding among nations. The Church has created a huge Bible that is touring the world, each book being written in a different language ("Philemon" is in Romanian)

It was impossible to meet elsewhere due to the logistics of the event, so they applied to the Mayor for a permit to use the PMAN. The Mayor, good liberal that he is, didn't see any legitimate reason to deny the use of this public facility and hence gave the Adventists their permit.

What happened on Saturday, however, was that the Adventists had their 100% legal event shunted off by the Court of Appeal to one of their churches on the outskirts of Chisinau (which of course was way too small to accomodate all of their faithful). Moldova is apparently the only country where the "Follow the Bible" project has been derailed in such a manner.

In its place in the PMAN, there was a 100% illegal (no permit) demonstration by a section of the Orthodox faithful, in which the language of hate and revulsion reigned. The Adventists were labelled a 'sect' and their demonstration was marked as an 'attempt to proselytise". Their attempted presence so close to the Cathedral on a major feast day was deemed an 'abomination'.

So instead of a legal, peaceful event intended to get people to read the bible more and to bring together different nationalities, we had an illegal, hate-fuelled protest.

RELIGIOUS AND GEOPOLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Anatol Petrencu, leader of the "European Action Movement" made a comment in his blog that the protesters were using the slogans developed by the Communist Party during the recent election campaign (e.g. "Let's defend the Fatherland"). He also comments on the closeness of the leadership of the Moldovan Orthodox Church to both the Communist Party and the Russian State. There is plenty of evidence for both of these connections, e.g. the diplomatic passport that Metropolitan Vladimir isn't supposed to have, the subjection of the Moldovan bishopric to the Moscow patriachate, and even Vladimir's own background (born in Ukraine, educated in Moscow).

Petrencu's fear is that, now that the Russians' favourite tool of influence in Moldova (the Communist Party) is in decline, they will now seek to use the Orthodox Church as their instrument for sowing instability and protecting what they perceive to be their interests in Moldova. Saturday's events may be the 'first shot' fired in this new campaign.

So how should orthodox Moldovans react to all this? As you may have picked up I am not Orthodox. But neither am I anti-orthodox - there is a great wealth of tradition and spiritual experience in this church that must be preserved. On the other hand, the Moldovan Orthodox Church does appear to have fallen under the sway of totalitarians, who are using it to suppress the God-given freedoms that we all should enjoy.

Were I a Moldovan orthodox believer, I would consider very seriously the possibility of temporarily switching my place of worship to another confession, until such time as the influence of the Communists and of the Russian State disappears. They have no business interfering in an individual's relationship with his or her God, or in the actions of the Moldovan State with respect to the religious life of its citizens.

Friday, August 14, 2009

An attack on religious freedom in Moldova

First, the letter from Metropolitan Vladimir to Chisinau City Hall (Romanian original at http://logos.md, response from Arcadie Gherasim follows further down the page):

Dear Mr Mayor,

The Metropolitan of Chisinau and all Moldova wishes to express, on behalf of Orthodox Citizens of the Republic of Moldova which are part of the Metropolitan Church of Moldova, deep concern and indignation regarding an event which is the first to be held in our country:

The Adventist confession, which includes 13,503 members according to the last national census (which is only 0.34% of total population in RM), has announced its intention to hold on August 15 this year, in the Square of the Great National Assembly at 10.00, a concert under the fun slogan "Follow the Bible". This announcement was made on the electronic page of the official organizations and is spread through advertising panels in the city.

Because Article 5, art. 15, cap. 2 of the Law on the cults and their component parts of 11 July 2007 shows clearly that "the State recognizes the importance and primary role of the Orthodox Christian religion and the Orthodox Church of Moldova in the life, history and culture of people of the Republic of Moldova (Zimbru: Note that this communist law is a flagrant breach of the constitution under which no religion is to be officially recognised or favoured) , The Metropolitanate of Moldova, as the legal representative of Orthodox Christians in the Republic of Moldova (Zimbru: except for the "old believers" and members of the Basarabian Orthodox Church), believes that:

It is absolutely inadmissible that an aberrant minority religious group intends to use the Square of the Great National Assembly, the symbol of our national conscience, for propaganda and to instigate social disorder. In the same way, it is a provocation that, in front of the monument to the faithful prince Stefan cel Mare Sfint - the national hero - there will be conducted a meeting of an essence that is exactly opposed to the values for which the ruler fought for us and left to us, Orthodox citizens of this country, as a legacy at great cost;

The timing of this action is absolutely inappropriate. As is known, at this hour, the Metropolitan Cathedral "Nativity", located close to PMAN conducts each day, including Saturday, holy Liturgy, and such a type of demonstration-concert would produce serious inconvenience to Orthodox Christian citizens who wish to participate in the sacred Liturgy, moreover, that the concert will take place during the fast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary;

This demonstration is deeply manipulative because the adventists, under the neutral pretext of "Bible study", without transparent and relevant information in advance, is abusively proselytising citizens.

This year is dedicated fulfillment of 650 years since the foundation of Moldova. It is deeply important to us that the motivation for the establishment of this state was to protect these orthodox lands from the expansion of the holders of other faiths. Therefore, the organization of this event at the heart of the country, with an indicated goal totally against the nature of the people and the state is an extreme provocation, which revolts the orthodox and insults the memory of our ancestors.

During the last 2 weeks I have received a number of petitions from parishes and individual Christians expressing live indignation with regards to the event in question, which they qualify as being outrageous and revolting. The dissension that are spreading in the Church particularly worry me, which leads me to indicate that you find another place for such events which does not carry the symbolism of the Square of The Grand National Assembly.

Vladimir,
Metropolitan of Chisinau and all Moldova

The response from Arcadie Gherasim in this morning's "Timpul"

I read "The address by the Metropolitan of Moldova to the Chisinau City Hall regarding the sectarian concert" and I became extremely worried about the mentality into which our ancestral church has been led.

If it's true that this has been signed by Metropolitan Vladimir, then we are dealing with a regrettable pattern of intolerance, and with a violation of art. 31 of the Constitution of the Republic. Moreover, the offensive language used against the Adventist confession and the speculative and historical references, which are used as arguments against allowing an Adventist concert in the Square of the Great National Assembly, convinces us of the fact that those at the head of the Orthodox Church are so affected by communism that they are trying to apply the beliefs of the "holy father" Voronin. Put another way, after they have filled the holy places with communists, offending thousands of believers, now the Metropolitan is pouring out his fury on other confessions, without stopping to ask, however, why the people are running away from his priests.

Oh, and by the way, how come I have never seen a similar action against the "National Wine Day" which takes place in the same square, labelled as a "symbol of our national conscience"?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Doing Justice

One of the thorniest issues Moldova now has to face is how to deal with the (alleged) crimes of eight years of communist government. Under Voronin's leadership, the courts have tended to be used to dispense political discipline, rather than justice, meaning that those in the President's inner circle have had a very easy ride indeed.

Now the time of reckoning has come; a new non-communist administration is forming. How should it best ensure that justice is dispensed? On the one hand, it would be a crime in itself if the misdeeds of the last eight years were not brought to justice. On the other hand, as Louis O'Neill has pointed out, there should be no place for revenge in this process.

Personally I do not believe that the Moldovan justice system can be made truly independent of politics without a great deal of intervention from outside the country. The people of Moldova are just too polarised, and their competing versions of history and decades-old mistrust of the other side mean that judicial decisions will always be coloured by personal prejudices.

So what are the answers? Here's some I would like to explore:

1. An amplified and clearer constitution. This would remove a lot of the scope for interpretation that currently exists, e.g. it would become clear, for example, that all people holding state functions should step aside from their posts during an electoral campaign, to prevent the misuse of administrative resources.

2. A stronger tradition of precedent, such as exists in English common law. Judges should not be able to rule differently given the same set of facts. This would give higher degrees fo certainty and facilitate un-biased decision making.

3. The development of a judicial review body, with a high level of EU involvement. This institution would have the role of reviewing judicial decisions against the constitution, law and precedent, issuing reports on the performance of judges and making appointments to vacant judicial positions based on experience, qualifications, integrity and past performance.

4. Establishing (at least for 10 years or so) an international court as Moldova's court of final instance, with the power to overrule Supreme Court and Constitutional Court judgements.

The final proposal is perhaps the most controversial, as it subtracts to some extent from Moldova's sovereignty. But consider the benefits:

a. The local judiciary will be kept on its toes and will be anxious to issue decisions that will not be overturned.

b. The final say on an issue will come from a group of highly experienced, disinterested judges who are deeply familiar with how things should work in a democracy.

In one respect Moldova already has a court which partially fills this role. the European Court of Human Rights is able to find against the Moldovan government whenever it is proved that the Moldovan court system has not upheld the rights of a citizen.

This power is too limited for our purposes, however, as it only deals with rights violations, and the only possible defendant is the Moldovan government. We need to find a court capable of dealing with a wide range of criminal and civil actions in which individuals, companies, NGOs, media organisations and political parties can be held to account.

The United Kingdom's Privy Council acts as the final court of appeal for a number of Commonwealth countries, and so could be suited to the role. On the other hand, Moldova has a continental style legal system (i.e. not common law) and is not a member of the Commonwealth. Maybe la Francophonie has a similar institution that would fit Moldova better? Maybe the European Court of Justice could fill this role?

I'd love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Neutrality and all that

According to its constitution, Moldova is neutral. Neutrality in Moldova's context basically means that it will not join any military bloc or enter into military alliances, and that no foreign troops should be dispositioned on Moldovan territory.

Actual breaches of Moldova's neutrality:

1. The stationing by Russia of troops and military assets in Transnistria

Potential breaches of Moldova's neutrality:

1. Moldova has taken part in military activity abroad (e.g. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan), however this is typically under a UN mandate.

2. Joining the European Union, which (in theory at least) operates a common foreign & security policy.

3. Participation in strategic / military cooperation as part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

So what should be the new majority's policy with respect to Moldova's neutrality. The coalition agreement is somewhat silent on this, probably because it's a bit of a hot potato and the supporters of the Democrat Party and the Liberal Party have very different views. The Democrats have a large Rusofile / Moldovenist support base and are looking to steal more of these voters from the Communists. They campaigned on the promise of a 'strategic partnership' with Russia. The Liberals are pro-Romania, pro-EU and pro-NATO.

Within the coalition, these views need to be reconciled; my view is that a strict interpretation of Moldova's neutrality will be the key to success.

First, Moldova's membership of the CIS is a positive thing so long as this organisation is focussed on economic matters, i.e. building trade and investment links among the member states. The Liberals should have no problem remaining in the CIS under these conditions. If, on the other hand, the CIS begins to take on a military / strategic nature, then Moldova will be compelled to withdraw due to her constitutional neutrality. Such a stance would send a good message to CIS member states and Russia in particular, i.e. don't try to turn the CIS into a military alliance.

Second, Moldova should keep out of NATO provided that her neutrality is truly respected by all and that her sovereignty and territorial integrity is not under threat. This means that Russia would need to promptly withdraw her troops from Transnistria (say by the end of 2010) and stop supporting the separatist regime (immediately). It would also mean observable good behaviour by Russia in other parts of its near abroad (e.g. full observance of the Sarkozy plan in Georgia).

If, on the other hand, Russia maintains her military presence in Transnistria, continues to support the separatist regime or engages in another war in Georgia (for example), then Moldova's neutrality is compromised and her sovereignty and territorial integrity are under threat. In such circumstances she should seek the protection of a NATO security guarantee. I would argue that, although this would breach the letter of Moldova's constitution, it would conform with the spirit, by restoring a strategic balance that is currently missing.

The good news for Russia is that, through good behaviour, it can achieve its major stated foreign policy goals in Moldova - the Republic can be neutral, in the CIS and outside NATO. This would obviously suit the Democrats as well. But the Liberals would also be happy because of the removal of the Russian military threat and the improved prospects for reintegrating Transnistria. Potentially its a win-win-win situation.

The Juvenile Delinquent

He had an unhappy childhood, being brought up in an orphanage and denied the security of a loving family. He never developed the people skills necessary to play a positive role in the modern world, and, as a result, thinks that society is out to get him. He has read about the exploits of his father, a powerful but cruel man, and idolises him as a role model.

Now he is eighteen and powerfully built; he can overcome all but the strongest in a fight and he doesn't hold back from letting this be known. He likes to get his own way, usually by coercion but occasionally through violence.

He has several younger brothers and sisters. All share his neuroses to some degree. Some fear him and so try to copy his lifestyle and mentality. One or two of the braver ones have, however, rejected both their elder brother and their upbringing and are seeking to integrate themselves in civilised society. They are learning new skills and overcoming their attitude problems.

This has made the elder brother very angry. Last year, his bravest sister attempted to take back some money he had stolen from her. In a fit of violence, he beat her black and blue and tore off her arms (her new boyfriend was out of town and unable to protect her). She hasn't subjected herself to her brother, however, and now he is threatening to beat her again, possibly to death this time.

Society doesn't know what to do with the boy. After the violence last year they gave him a light telling off and hoped he would mend his ways. He didn't. In fact he has been emboldened by the lack of an assertive response to his actions. His potential for destruction continues to grow.

Society needs to respond as is appropriate to a juvenile delinquent. First of all, the boy must be restrained so he can do no more harm. This will take a mammoth effort, however, as the boy is very strong. Secondly society will need to provide extensive counselling to help the boy see the error of his ways and begin to make reparations. Once again, this will represent a huge commitment of resource and it may take many years before the boy is able to take his rightful place in the community.

The alternative, however, is too dreadful to contemplate.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Half Truths from Rogozyn

According to Infotag, Dimitri Rozogyn, Russia's ambassador to NATO, has today made the following statements about the Transnistrian conflict.

Rozogyn: Russia has behaved appropriately with respect to Moldova & Transnistria

Zimbru: I disagree. In spite of its declared support for Moldova's territorial integrity, Russia has encouraged the development of Transnistrian statehood and has stood idly by while the separatists clawed out concessions from the Moldovan side. In 18 years of peacekeeping, the Russians haven't made a single move to encourage a durable and equitable peace.

Rozogyn: The civil war of 1992 was stopped by Russia.

Zimbru: Yes, and it was also started by Russia through her encouragement of the separatists. Had Russia not 'stopped' the war (via the intervention of the 14th Army on the side of the separatists), Moldova would have won and restored her territorial integrity. Chances are she would be a mature democracy and an EU member state.

Rozogyn: Until 1940, Transnistria wasn't part of either Moldova or the old province of Basarabia. Romania has no pretences on the territory.

Zimbru: You are perfectly correct, however you neglect a necessary symmetry. Until 1940 Bucovina and the Bujeac did form part of Romania, but were torn off by the USSR and given to Ukraine (i.e. not even left in the Moldovan Soviet Republic). If Transnistria is to return to the Slavic world, then Bucovina and the Bujeac should return to Moldova or Romania...

Rozogyn: I want Moldova and Transnistria to have a peaceful coexistence.

Zimbru: So why are you arming the Transnistrians and stationing your troops there?

My Picks

Who should fill the top jobs?

President. Personally I like Urechean for this one. He is the longest serving of all four leaders and could easily fit into a 'father of the nation role. He has a good sense of humour and would manage the Russia-Romania balance well. Importantly, as head of the smallest coalition partner, his weak power-base would prevent him from using the Presidency as Vladimir Voronin did.

Prime Minister. This has to be Filat. His Liberal Democrat party has come from nowhere in the space of two years to be the largest opposition party. That is due in no small part to Filat's managerial and organisation skills, which I think would make him perfect for a job heading the executive. He is moderate in his comments but determined in his actions.

Speaker. Under the Moldovan constitution, this is actually the most powerful role. I would like to see it develop along Westminster lines, such that the speaker is completely impartial unless a casting vote is required. Marian Lupu sits at the centre of Moldovan politics and would be the best person to ensure that all sides get a fair say.

And what of the Liberal Party? Well, they already have the Chisinau mayoralty, however I would see a role for Ghimpu as head of the Constitutional Court, replacing the awful Dumitru Pulbere. The Liberal Party is the organisation most likely to defend Moldova's democratic principles, and Ghimpu's family have proved in the past that they are prepared to suffer for what they believe in.

The vice-presidency of the Parliament should be given to Alexandru Tanase, while Corina Fusu should break up the all-boys club as Deputy Prime Minister.

Why Moldova isn't in the EU

Today's Jurnal de Chisinau contains some interesting revelations from two politicians who formed part of the Alliance for Democracy and Reform (ADR), a four-party centre-right grouping that governed Moldova in 1998. One of the parties was Iurie Rosca's Christian Democrats. In opposition to the ADR were the Communist Party of Vladimir Voronin and the Agrarian (Socialist) Party of the then President Petru Lucinschi. The government was headed by Ion Sturza, who is now a top executive within Dinu Patriciu's business empire.

Valeriu Matei and Valentin Dolganiuc have revealed that in 1998, the EU was asking (yes, asking!) Moldova to sign an association agreement (NB: still unsigned in 2009!), in preparation for accession to the EU alongside Romania and Bulgaria in 2007. The Sturza government made all the necessary preparations and requested Lucinschi as head of state, to sign the application to be submitted to the EU.

He refused. Instead, he used his influence to sack Sturza and replace him with a premier (Ion Ciubuc) who was 'docile and blackmailable'. At around the same time, Iurie Rosca pulled his party out of the alliance, leading to both its collapse and the eventual ascension of the communists to power three years later.

The two interviewees claim that Lucinschi and Rosca were acting in accordance with the instructions of Russia, whose strategy with respect to independent Moldova has been to keen the country unstable and out of the European Union.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Ideas for breaking the deadlock

Electing a president and establishing a functional government are proving very tricky given all the egos and mutual suspicion involved. Here are some ideas that may help:

1. Simplify the political scene by merging the three liberal parties. This would create the country's most powerful political organisation, and would result in a simpler, two-way negotiation with the Democrats. It would also take the punch out of Communist attempts to divide and rule.

The policy differences between the three parties are slight and compromise should be easy. There is now a good level of trust between the three parties which should further facilitate a merger. Filat should lead the new party, with Ghimpu and Urechean as vice-presidents.

2. Form a (possibly) temporary legislative coalition with the Democrats, for the purposes of democratising and de-communising the country. Over the coming weeks and months the legislature could write law that frees TRM from communist control, sacks Papuc and Gurbulea, lifts the immunity of criminally culpable communist deputies and rewrites the electoral code so that it is truly democratic. The Grecianai government can continue to function during this period, however it will need to observe the new laws coming out of Parliament.

Lupu will need to understand that he cannot be the speaker in this parliament because he has not yet earned the trust of the Liberals. Later on, perhaps, but not now.

3. Parliament should order a committee to review the constitution with a view to patching up all its leaks and making it far clearer and descriptive. In particular, the right to elect a president should be returned to the people, with effect from 2013. This constitution should then be enacted by referendum.

Should the communist deputies refuse to support the election of a liberal - democrat candidate for president, the popular election provision should be changed to have immediate effect.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Zimbru for PM?!

I note that one of the issues the liberal-democratic coalition is facing is that everyone wants to be President and/or Speaker, but no-one wants to be Prime Minister.

The undesirability of the premier's job appears to be related to the facts that (a) he/she can be sacked by the President and / or Parliament at will (and given the inherent instability of coalitions this is odds-on happening), and (b) this person is going to have to clean up the mess left by the communists and exacerbated by the economic crisis (e.g. minor little problems such as not having any money with which to pay pensions).

Well here's the good news - Zimbru hereby offers to fill the role, at least for six months or so. I have most of the necessary qualifications - management experience, a good understanding of economics and politics, an international view, the wisdom of years etc. etc.

There is the wee little matter of my not being a Moldovan citizen, however I'm sure that can be fixed. As Vladimir Voronin has so admirably shown us, constitutions are meant to be bent rather than observed...

So there you have it: give me the job for at least six months and let me appoint apolitical technocrats to key roles so we can sort the place out. After that you can sack us at your leisure and spend the next 3.5 years taking credit for our achievements. We won't mind, honestly. The pleasure of seeing Moldova functioning as a normal democracy with a recovering economy would be sufficient reward.

You are wrong, Mr Stirbu

President of the Central Electoral Commission, Eugene Stirbu made the following statements earlier today:

1. The Electoral Code prescribes use of the D'Hondt formula for allocating seats.
2. No-one except parliament has the right to interpret the electoral code.

Mr Stirbu is wrong in respect to item (1) because the electoral code makes no mention of the D'Hondt formula. In Art. 87(1) there is a reference to 'successive division', however the wording of this article is so vague and confused it is of little use to anyone.

Furthermore, the electoral code in two places repeats the requirement of the constitution with respect to votes being of equal value. Because they have constitutional support and protect a fundamental right of Moldovan citizens, these provisions must take prevalence over Art. 87(1), which is merely a (flawed) mode of implementing the requirements of the constitution.

More troubling is Mr Stirbu's assertion that it is Parliament's job to interpret the electoral code. This displays a degree of ignorance which is astounding for someone who has achieved such a high office, and should lead to questioning of his fitness to fill the role.

Like most modern and democratic constitutions, the Moldovan document separates powers, ascribing to parliament the power to write laws while giving the court system the power to interpret them.

Mr Stirbu should consider that the complaints of AMN and the PL about the inequality of the D'Hondt formula relate to a fundamental consitutional right. That means that the two parties can appeal decisions all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, a court which has proved time and again that it will take no nonsense from Moldovan officialdom.

Europe the Naive

President Traian Basescu's admission that he and other European leaders assisted in the election of Vladimir Voronin in 2005 shows the continuing naivety of Europe in dealing with KGB manipulation. Let me explain:

First, consider a little recent history. Voronin, a former Soviet militia general and an avowed Rusofone, comes to power in 2001 on promises to (a) make the Russian langauge official and (b) take Moldova into a political union with Russia and Belarus. These plans get overturned when, under US pressure in 2003, Voronin refuses to sign the Kozak memorandum which would have reintegrated Transnistria, but at the cost of Moldova becoming a Russian vassal state. Russia bans all exports from Moldova and starts messing with the gas supply in response. Voronin has no choice but to turn to Romania and the European Union for support, and reorient his foreign policy westwards (even though this goes against every fibre in his body and cramps his totalitarian style).

In the 2005 election, the communists (through fraud) achieve a simple parliamentary majority, but don't have enough votes to elect a president. The Moldovan press is full of reports that the main opposition grouping (Democratic Moldova, led by Serafim Urechean) has fallen under Russian tutelage. The balance of power is held by the small Christian Democratic party. led by Iurie Rosca. Rosca is well-known as one of the leaders of the "Romanian Nationalist" movement that led to Moldova's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

In Basescu's mind, he and other European leaders saved Moldova from Russian domination in 2005 by convincing the "Romanian Nationalist" Rosca to vote for the presidency of the "Pro-European" Voronin and keep the "Pro-Russian" Urechean out of power.

During the term of the 2005 - 2009 parliament, complaints by Urechean's grouping about the increasing totalitarianism of the communists would fall on deaf European ears. They preferred to take the word of their trusted opposition leader, Rosca, over that of known Russian sympathiser Urechean. Rosca would assure them that everything was OK and Voronin was basically doing a good job.

This continued right up until the April 5th elections, with Europe even being prepared to turn a blind eye to massive electoral fraud so that the "pro-European" Voronin could remain in power.

It was the brutality of April 7th to 9th that finally caused parts of the European establishment (notably the Romanian government and the Liberal Democrat faction in the EP) to wake up. Ferrero-Waldner and Miszei, however, continued to push the opposition to accept the results of the election and dialog with the communists.

The truth of the matter is that Voronin was never 'pro-European' and that Rosca was and is a deep-sleeping KGB agent sent in to the nationalist movement in order to pervert its aims over the long term. What happened in 2005 wasn't Basescu convincing Rosca, but Rosca making a fool out of Basescu and the EU.

Urechean never was "Pro-Russian", although it is true that he has a milder approach to relations with Russia than either Filat or Ghimpu. It would be best to characterise this as pragmatism rather than servitude.

One can only hope that Europe has now finally woken up to the realities of the situation in Moldova.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Radical Extremist Forces

This is the latest term used by Voronin to describe the Moldovan Liberal Party. Similar terminology is being used by the pro-communist press and by the Russian establishment, some of whom have even used the 'f' word on occasion. Medvdedev calls them 'Nationalist Unionists'. Socor calls them 'Nationalist Irredendist' - this one sent me scurrying off to Wikipedia; apparently 'Irredentism' is "any position advocating annexation of territories administered by another state on the grounds of common ethnicity or prior historical possession, actual or alleged."

So with all this name-calling going on, perhaps it's time to shed some light on the subject. Does the Liberal Party propose union with Romania? Do they espouse a right-wing extremist / fascist philiosophy? Off to the website (www.pl.md) we go...

The Liberal Party's philosophy is summed up in article 5 of its statutes: "The Liberal Party promotes liberal values: the rights and freedoms of the individual and of the family, the protection, strengthening and expansion of private property, the free exchange of economic and cultural values, free and equal access to education, political pluralism and the strengthening the democratic system." Nothing extreme there, no mention of Romania. In fact there is no mention of Romania anywhere in the statutes.

What about in the programme of government? Here are the references to all things Romanian:

1. They want to write a new constitution which would establish Romanian as the official language (Note: Romanian is already the official language; although it is referred to as either 'Moldovan' or 'the language of the state'). Nothing radical or extreme here, just a different view of history and ethnographics from that held by the PCRM.

2. They want to build up the Romanian language collections of public libraries. (Note: As a legacy of the Soviet era, libraries are domminated by Russian-language books or Romanian-language books written in cyrillic script). Radical extremist stuff?

3. Section 9 commits the majority Romanian population to tolerance respect for the rights of minorities. This isn't what you would normally expect from fascists.

4. They would like the format of the Transnistrean negotiations extended to include a greater role for the US, EU, Ukraine & Romania. Anything wrong with that, given that the current format is heavily overbalanced in Russia's direction?

5. They want to strengthen bilateral relations with Romania and the Ukraine. As a small landlocked country it makes perfect sense to have good relations with your neighbours.

In summary, I find some faint evidence for 'nationalism', although personally I would characterise this as 'patriotism' instead. There is no evidence, however, for the claims of 'fascism', 'extremism', 'radicalism', 'irredentism' or 'unionism'. If Voronin, Medvedev and Socor want to keep using these terms, they should produce some solid evidence (i.e. put up or shut up).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The right to an equal vote

www.politik.md has published an interesting little table:



On average, the votes per seat is 15,003, however there is quite a wide range between the votes per seat for AMN and those for the PCRM and PLDM. The PL and PD are in the middle.

www.politik.md points out that the constitution of Moldova enshrines a principle that each citizen's vote should be equal. Obviously this cannot be perfectly achieved in practice, however the question arises as to whether the result shown above is the 'most equal'. The aim should be to minimise the standard deviation of the observed votes/seat variable.

The standard deviation of the above results is 807. If I now take a seat away from the party with the 'cheapest' seats (i.e. the PLDM) and give it to the party with the most 'expensive' (i.e. AMN), I get the following result:



Now the range is much narrower and the standard deviation drops to 428, so this is a 'more equal' and hence 'more constitutional' result.

But what if I take the seat away from the PCRM instead of the PLDM? Here's the result:



The standard deviation for this arrangement is 420, making this an even more 'equal' and 'constitutional' result than the previous one.

Oh, and by the way, it would give the liberal bloc a golden vote again ;)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Managing Russia

When you look at the programmes of the four non-communist parties you find a lot of common ground. Everyone wants to improve the business environment, everyone wants better social outcomes and everyone wants to build democratic institutions.

The one area of potential disagreement is Moldova's relationship with Russia. On one end you have the mildly pro-Romanian Liberal Party that wants to withdraw from the CIS and join NATO. On the other end you have the mildly pro-Russian Democratic Party that wants Moldova to have a strategic partnership with Russia.

Can these views be reconciled? What should be the goals of Moldova's policy towards Russia?

Here's what I would like to see:

ECONOMIC

1. Encouragement of Russian (and other) investment in Moldova's economy on a free and transparent basis.

2. Promotion of Chisinau, Balti and Cahul as university towns providing high-quality Russian-language education to students from all over the CIS.

3. Development of economic partnerships not just with Russia but also with Ukraine and Turkey. Perhaps even an Eastern European customs union?

STRATEGIC

1. Moldova to remain neutral, providing that (a) Russia withdrwaws all troops from Transnistria within a year, and (b) Russia doesn't launch any further military adventures in Georgia or elsewhere in the 'near abroad'. Otherwise, Moldova should apply for NATO membership.

2. The recognition of the strategic importance of gas and electricity reticulation networks, and the construction of gas storage capacity

3. A strong push to develop wind / solar / biofuels to reduce Moldova's dependence on Russian gas. Participation in Ukrainian and Romanian energy security projects.

4. Moldova to use its own example to influence democratisation in Russia.

CULTURAL

1. Mitigation of Russia's cultural stranglehold on Moldova through the reintroduction of Romania's channel 1 television and through the extension of ProTV's licence to cover the whole country.

2. A strong push to teach the Romanian language to ethnic minorities so that they can participate fully in all aspects of life in Moldova.

3. Respect for the internationally established rights of the Russian-speaking minority, together with recognition of the limits of those rights.

4. Compulsory teaching of Russian in schools as a foreign language. Same goes for English, by the way. Moldova must relate to both East and West.

5. Specific laws (e.g. on advertising, TV programme content) to promote the national language and protect it from being swept away by Russian.

To sum up, I want Moldova to have as good and productive a relationship with Russia as is possible, subject to the constraints of maintaining Moldova's independence and cultural distinctiveness.

The list above is a bit of a grab-bag, however could be a good starter for discussion. If you have any other ideas on how the Moldova - Russia relationship should develop, please post them as comments.