Communists Unexpectedly Hold Keys to Survival of Moldova’s Minority “Pro-Europe” Government

January 29, 2015
James George Jatras
Deputy Director, AIU

Following Moldova’s November 30 election, western media were full of glowing reports of the victory of the “pro-Europe” three-party coalition. Hooray, a vote for Europe! Moldovans had rejected Russia and chosen the path of reform and democracy towards the radiant future: the usual black-and-white script.

In practical terms, the expectation was that the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (PLDM, led by Vlad Filat), the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM, led by Marian Lupu), and the Liberal Party (PL, led by Mihai Ghimpu), would be able to cobble together a virtual replay of the outgoing government with a only a few tweaks to reflect the reshuffled seat count. Some difficult horse-trading was to be expected, with the pending problem of the parliament’s inability to reach the 61 votes needed to elect a new president.

Despite these few hiccups, though, the reconstitution of a pro-western government looked all but certain. First on their agenda would be moving forward energetically on a “reform” plan to implement the Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union that Kishinev hastily ratified earlier this year – which, as AIU noted shortly after the vote, threatened Moldova with a dismal replay of the mistakes that destabilized next-door Ukraine.

But it’s now almost two months after the election, and still no government. The evident holdout is Ghimpu and the PL. According to RFE/RL:

“The PL, which holds 13 mandates, has accused the other two parties of being ready to govern with the support of the Communists, while the PLDM and PD said the PL was refusing to join a pro-European coalition unless it would be given certain positions in the government.”

Unexpectedly, the PL's hesitation over Europe has landed the Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM), led by former president Vladimir Voronin, in the role of kingmaker. In the 2014 vote the once-ruling PCRM suffered the loss of about half its parliamentary seats, largely to the upstart Moscow-backed Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM, led by former Communist Igor Dodon), which won the largest number of seats and vows a vigorous opposition to any “pro-EU” policies, notably implementation of the AA.

Still, unless the PL is pulled back on board with its former partners, the Communists now appear ready to support a minority PLDM-PDM two-party coalition, under certain conditions. According to reports, one of these appeared to be rejection of Iurie Leancă (PLDM) as returning prime minister. Nonetheless, on January 28 President Nicolae Timofti designated Leancă to form a new government.

Even assuming a deal for the Communists to support a minority government holds together, it doesn’t appear the PCRM would actually join the government. This would allow Voronin maximum flexibility to support the government when he desires, and to sign its death warrant with a no-confidence vote any time he chooses and perhaps set the stage for early elections.

Rather than consolidating Moldova’s pro-Europe path, it seems the November 30 election has produced an even weaker government and an unstable state of affairs. At a time when the conflict in Ukraine is heating up, more uncertainty is the last thing Moldova needs.