Moldova’s Liberal Democratic Party Turns Handmaid for Communists’ Return

May 16, 2013
James George Jatras
Deputy Director, AIU

Every turn in Moldova’s protracted political crisis is more bizarre than the last. The latest is the marriage of convenience between the leading party in the collapsed pro-Western coalition and the Communists!

Observing the political fragmentation in Chișinău is like witnessing a slow-motion train wreck. First came the December 2012 “Huntgate” scandal over the fatal shooting of a businessman and the subsequent cover-up implicating high justice officials. Then came the March 2013 fall of the government headed by Prime Minister Vlad Filat and his Liberal-Democratic Party. Then came the April 2013 ouster of Parliamentary Speaker Marian Lupu, whose Democratic Party had been Filat’s coalition partner in the now-defunct “Alliance for European Integration” (AIE). (The third coalition partner was Mihai Ghimpu’s Liberal Party.) At each juncture, vindictiveness and personal animus among the erstwhile political partners seemed to take precedence over calculation of political advantage, to say nothing of the welfare of Moldova’s citizens.

Now the farce continues with a series of laws enacted by what the Washington-based (and stridently anti-Russian) Jamestown Foundation calls the “evolving majority” of Filat’s Liberal Democrats and former president Vladimir Voronin’s Communist Party. Ostensibly representing diametrically opposed agendas, the Liberal Democratic/Communist combination has rammed through a package of seven laws, including transferring authority over Moldova’s Anti-Corruption Center away from Lupu’s Democrats, recognizing passports from the Soviet era (which benefits the Communists), and implementing electoral “reforms” of uncertain impact. Jamestown characterizes the package as intended to “on the one hand stop and reverse [billionaire Vlad] Plahotniuc’s moves to control the political system, while on the other hand seek to ensure that the work of governance continues, and the European integration agenda remains on course.” A less charitable reading is that the Liberal Democrat/Communist “evolving majority” is trying to disadvantage in every possible way Filat’s former coalition partners -- Lupu (with whose party Plahotniuc is affiliated) and Ghimpu.

The transfer of authority over the Anti-Corruption Center is hardly incidental of course. Filat himself has been accused of corruption and was voted out of office in March by none other than the Communists, who now say that the very same Filat is not corrupt, now that he is their political ally. In giving their support to placing the Anti-corruption Center – which had brought criminal charges against members of Filat’s Cabinet – directly under the control of the Government (that is to say, of Filat), the Communists have joined with the Liberal Democrats in ensuring the effective end of all corruption cases against Filat and his minions.

Adding to the tragicomic aspect, Jamestown suggests that the goings-on in Chișinău “must not jeopardize Moldova’s front-runner position among the European Union’s six Eastern Partner countries to conclude association, trade, and visa-liberalization agreements with the EU at the upcoming Vilnius summit.” If Moldova is still a “front-runner” in anyone’s reckoning, one shudders to think what the rest of the field must look like. Perhaps a better recent characterization, also from Jamestown, is “Moldovan Politics Begin to Resemble Post-Orange Revolution Ukraine.

It should be kept in mind that Moldova’s supposedly leading position among the EaP countries had rested precisely on claimed reforms – most of all, ironically, on anti-corruption and legal reforms to bring Molodva’s standards into ostensible alignment with those of the EU – which are the most obvious casualties of the maneuverings in Chișinău. These had been advertised as Moldova’s chief strengths in a 2011 report by the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs on five EaP countries’ progress, which “repeatedly commended” Moldova “for its close cooperation on implementing the EU standards.” At this point, the gaping chasm between those same EU standards and Moldova’s dismal performance must negate any suggestion that Chișinău should be offered an Association Agreement in Vilnius.

About the only thing one can really say about the latest chapter in the ongoing spectacle in Moldova is that these latest developments signify, on the one hand, the EU's and its Eastern Partnership’s complete failure in Moldova and, on the other hand, a huge win for Moscow and the Eurasian Union. In effectively bringing the Communists to power, Filat has shown himself willing to betray democracy and “European values” to avenge perceived slights at the hands of his rivals, including someone – Plahotniuc – regarded by some as a mafia boss. But the EU hardly has any choice now but to condemn the alliance between Filat and the Communists, which could lead to the restoration of the mafia state that existed under Communist leader Voronin (and his billionaire son Oleg). Meanwhile, Filat’s Liberal Democratic Party, despite its temporary tactical advantage over Lupu and Ghimpu, is likely, in turn, to be destroyed and compromised by the Communists.

The bottom line: Moscow wins, Brussels and Washington lose.