Monday, June 6, 2011

Democratic Federalism

Amidst the tension related to the Chisinau mayoral election, another important movement is taking place behind the scenes.  Germany and Russia are trying to organise a solution to the Transnistrian conflict.

According to Vlad Socor, what they are proposing is a re-run of the Kozak memorandum.  Moldova would have a bi-cameral parliament, the upper chamber of which could be used by Russia (through their Transnistrian and Gagauz proxies) to block any legislation they didn't like and to slow, if not stop Moldova's process of integration into the European Union.  Transnistria would also have the right to secede should Moldova lose its statehood (i.e. reunify with Romania), and Russia's illegally disposed troops would be legitimised.

Let's be clear.  The problem is not with federalism, which works well for Germany, Canada, Australia and even small countries like Switzerland.  The problem is the wierd and wacky form of federalism that Russia is trying to force on Moldova (and which Germany doesn't seem to fully understand).  My challenge to the Russians would be to implement this form of government in Russia first and see if it works:

  1. Allow Russian oblasts to secede if they see a threat to Russian statehood or democracy (bye-bye Kaliningrad, the North Caucasus and the Far East)
  2. Give Chechnya a veto over all decisions taken by the Duma or the Federation Council
  3. Let Turkey protect muslims in the North Caucasus by stationing its troops there.
This form of federalism is clearly nonsense and must be rejected by the Moldovan state.  What might be worth trying, however, is to propose a democratic form of federalism which the Germans (and not only the Germans) would recognise and support.  This sort of federalism would be based on the following principles:

  1. The legitimate rights of minorities (e.g. to their own language and culture) would be respected.
  2. The legitimate right of the majority to rule their own country would also be respected.
  3. Moldova's neutrality would be de facto as well as de jure.
  4. Each region would have sufficient voting power to promote its interests.
  5. No region would have a veto in its own right.
  6. The right of secession would be available in the event of Moldova losing statehood.
I'm not particularly fond of no. 6 (as it plays to an essentially racist romanophobia), but I can't see a solution being accepted without it.

How would you build a federation based on these principles?
  1. The state should have multiple provinces, not just three (Transnistria, Gagauzia and the Rest).  As far as possible the populations of each province should be roughly equal, and there should be a geographical or cultural reason for the grouping.  Maybe a return to the old counties would be the way to go?
  2. Moldova should retain its unicameral system for reasons of cost and simplicity.  Each county should have three seats plus one seat for every 50,000 of population.  Gagauzia (popn 187,000) would get 7, Transnistria (popn 500,000) would get 13 while Chisinau (popn 700,000) would get 17.
  3. Half the seats in each county would be electorate-based, with the other half coming from party lists to ensure proportionality (i.e. German style MMP).
  4. As well as being its representatives in the national parliament, a county's deputies would also form the ruling council for the county.  
  5. Motions would normally be passed by a simple majority of members, however any motion which is not supported by a majority of the deputies from at least half of the counties would be vetoed.
  6. Russian troops would be obliged to leave Transnistria, in recognition of the fact that the population of Transnistria is under no threat, and in accordance with Moldova's constitutional neutrality.
  7. Counties would have the right to secede if and only if Moldova loses statehood or falls into dictatorship.
  8. Moldova would have a single national language (Romanian), but each county could choose a second official language.  Many counties would choose Russian, but some could go with Ukrainian and Gagauzia should of course promote its own language.
Now that's a system which the Germans would be very comfortable with, and which the Russians would find it hard to argue against.  Moldova should stop being led by the nose and instead propose its own creative and just solutions to the Transnistrian impasse. 


  1. Zimbru, I love the suggested solutions. While they might not have a snowball's chance in hell of being adopted, they do make interesting reading and great food for thought. Candango

  2. where do you live Zimbru

  3. Frankly any form of reintegration of Transnistria will be disastrous for Moldova's future. Moldova has just recently managed to break away from the Soviet mentality that has kept the Communists in power and has allowed the country to set in earnest upon a course of "Europeanization." Adding 600,000 chauvinistic Pro-Russians (the defining characteristic of Transnistrians, which transcends ethnicity) will retard (and probably reverse) this progress for decades to come. Thankfully it's highly unlikely that Transnistria will rejoin Moldova in the foreseeable future if ever.

  4. I agree with anonymous. The simplest solution is simply to let transnistria go. Perhaps they could be persuaded to return tighina in exchange for independence. The land east of the river has never been traditional romanian land anyway.

  5. "The simplest solution is simply to let Transnistria go."

    Oh yeah?

    Is it smart? For who?
    - For Moldova, what will loose a highly industrial pole outside? And will loose also a chance to obtain back bessarabian Cernauti and Bugeak lands?
    - For Russia or Romania, both of them who has separatist trends in the country?
    - For international law, giving an example of people "auto-determination", so tomorow will ask independence Spanish Basques Galicians and Catalans, Belgium Flanders, Transilvanian Hungarians, Germany Bavarians, UK Stotish, Welesh, Irish, Cornish, English and Mans people, Armenians Nagorno-Karabakh people, etc etc...?

  6. It's smart BOTH for pmr and moldova. PMR suffers from being unrecognised and Moldova suffers from having an unresolved conflict next to it. I don't think Moldova is ever going to get back Budjak etc just as Finland is not going to get Karelia back(there are plenty of other examples)

    Self-determination is the way to go. IF a majority of Scots vote for independence(which sems unlikely at the moment despite the SNP result) the rest of the UK won't stop them. The same with Flanders, Bavaria or Basque country.(Franco might have thied, but then again he was a fascist dictator)

    Why try to force people into an unwanted union when you can have friendly cooperation between sovereign states?