In the balance
Aug 6th 2009 | CHISINAU
From The Economist print edition
The ruling Communists narrowly lose an almost-fair election
ALREADY the poorest country in Europe, Moldova has lately been doubly cursed by its politics. Protests after a parliamentary election on April 5th turned violent and led to three dead and hundreds detained in beastly conditions. Blame for that is still unclear: the authorities say that they were fighting off hooligans; protesters say that provocateurs hijacked their peaceful demonstrations against election rigging.
A mixture of international pressure, domestic discontent and a deadlocked result led to a rerun last week. Despite renewed claims of ballot-rigging the ruling Communists did worse than last time, with only 45% of the votes and 48 places in the 101-member parliament, a loss of 12 seats. The Democratic Party of Marian Lupu, a former senior Communist who split with the party after the April troubles, now holds the balance of power, with 13 seats. He could put the Communists back in power, or govern in coalition with three former opposition parties. They are a fractious lot, including some who want to reunite Moldova with Romania (to which it belonged in the pre-communist era) and others lobbying for business interests.
The immediate issue is who should replace the country’s serving president, Vladimir Voronin. He masterminded the Communist Party’s return to power in 2001. His second (and constitutionally final) term expired in April. The professorial, polyglot Mr Lupu would certainly raise Moldova’s international profile (it could hardly be lower). But some in the anti-Communist camp doubt his credentials.
Beyond that comes the task of kick-starting overdue reforms. Moldova’s wobbles between East and West have left it isolated and neglected. Mr Voronin has veered heavily towards the Kremlin in the hope of settling the frozen conflict with Transdniestria, a breakaway region backed by Russia. Despite yielding on issues such as the status of Russian military forces there, his soft line has brought no results.
The biggest boost to reunification would be economic and political success in the rest of Moldova. But Mr Voronin’s crony-capitalist approach has kept the economy backward. The machinery of government is stuck in the 1990s. Relations with Romania, which should be Moldova’s main advocate in the European Union, are astonishingly bad. Whatever coalition emerges, the new government will have plenty to deal with.
Friday, September 04, 2009