Moldova’s surprise election result

The EU can play a positive role in brokering a solution in Moldova – it can’t afford a third election

After the last
Moldovan elections in April, parliament burned as protestors claimed the ruling
Communists had rigged the vote. The
authorities blamed youthful rioters; the opposition blamed government
provocateurs. Hundreds were arrested and allegedly beaten. The authorities clamped
down on the media and on businesses that supported the opposition. The outgoing
President Vladimir Voronin accused neighbouring Romania of organising a coup d’état
and introduced visas for Romanian visitors. Yet the opposition won enough
seats, 40 out of 101, to ensure that the new parliament was gridlocked. Voronin
installed himself as chair of parliament, and hoped, like Putin in Russia,
to remain the power-not-too-far-behind-the-throne; but after it twice failed to
elect Voronin’s chosen successor as president, he reluctantly agreed to dissolve
the new parliament and hold new elections on 29 July.

The predicted
result is again finely balanced, with the Communists losing ground; but it is
too early to assume, as many early reports have done, that they will finally
relinquish power. The Communists have claimed around 45% and 48 seats, compared
to 50% and 60 seats last time. Exactly as in April, however, the main exit poll
gave them 5% less, indicating that similar methods of padding the result may
have been used. The three opposition parties won 38% and, once again, 40 seats.
If the exit poll had matched the official results, they would have won 45.[1]

it is too easy to characterise the three parties in the current opposition as a
united pro-European front. The Liberal Party represents pro-Romanian youth and
intelligentsia, the core of the opposition that has gained momentum since
April. The Liberal-Democrats are a business party, some of whose business
supporters have come under pressure since April (the Ascom business group led by Anatol Stati).
Our Moldova
is most vulnerable, as it is dominated by former officials who have been out in
the cold under the Communists, like the former Mayor of Chişinău Serafim Urechean; and is a
declining force. More subtly than swinging to the opposition, Moldovan
voters have, encouragingly, moved to the centre. The Communists lost ground and
the Liberals failed to advance, while the Liberal-Democrats and Democrats
gained votes.

The key to Moldova’s governability after the
elections is Voronin’s predecessor as chair of parliament from 2005 to 2009 Marian
Lupu, who left the Communist Party after the April events and took over the
Democratic Party in June (which won only 3% last time), reinventing it as a
centrist party that promised an ‘end to political war’. With almost 13% of the
vote and 13 seats this time, Lupu had hoped to be king-maker in the new
parliament, possibly even crowning himself as the next president.

But the detailed maths of coalition building doesn’t
really add up. The three older opposition parties plus Lupu have 53 seats,
which is enough for a bare majority but not the ‘super-majority’ needed (61
seats out of 101) to elect a new president. If Lupu cut a deal with the
Communists, they would have exactly 61 seats. If such a coalition then tried to
govern over the heads of the opposition, many of whom have accused him of being
in reality a secret ‘satellite’ project to prolong the Communists’ stay in
power, there would again be uproar.

A third solution would be some kind of government
of national unity. But the formula is again not clear. Including every party is
one possibility. Maybe the Communists could try to do a deal with Our Moldova. Or
the three opposition parties plus Lupu could hope the Communists might split,
and further defectors would join Lupu to create a workable majority. Though the
Communists also hope to split the Democrats, between the old guard around
Dumitru Diacov and the new arrivals under Lupu. Or the count may be refined –
or there could be a recount – and one side or another could win one or two
extra seats to tip the balance.

It is certainly
too early to say the opposition have ‘won’. The trend is in their direction,
but there is no clear winner. Lupu has done as well as he could have hoped, but
is stymied by the overall result. A lot of horse-trading lies ahead. The EU can
play a positive role in brokering a solution. Whatever the formula that
emerges, it will be unstable unless it emerges within a broader context
of national accord. The EU’s priority should be to help build that accord. The
EU should also help deal with the unfinished business from April: promoting reform of the legal system and security
apparatus and a properly independent investigation into the events of 7 April
(the day parliament burned). It should also help Moldova deal with the
economic problems that have accumulated while it has had no effective
government since April – GDP is forecast to drop by up to 13% in 2009. Moldova cannot
afford a third election. 


[1] Results of the
July 2009 Moldovan Elections (with 98% of the votes counted)


                                                                    Vote                        Seats (out of 101)

Communists                                                 45.1%
(-4.4%)                        48 (-12)

Liberal Party                                                  14.4% (+1.3%)                      15

Liberal-Democratic Party                                 16.4%  (+4%)                        17

Our Moldova
                                                7.4%    (-2.4%)                        8 (-3)

Democratic Party                                           12.6%  (+9.6%)                    13


Turnout: 58.8%


The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.


Senior Policy Fellow

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