The Communists have returned to power in Moldova. On 25 February 2001, early parliamentary elections were held after parliament failed to agree on a new president within the constitutional time frame. Three attempts to elect a new president at the end of 2000 deteriorated into hostile arguments and brawling between politicians. Petru Lucinschi, whose term as president expired in January, has remained in a caretaker capacity.
Voronin for president
Despite efforts by the Centrists, headed by Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis, to block the election of the Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin to the presidential position, the Communist Party secured over 50 per cent of the vote. Voronin now looks set to assume the presidency.
Voronin is a staunch Communist. Throughout his career he has held high-grade positions in the Communist Party of Moldova. Between 1980 and 1990, Voronin was a deputy in the Supreme Soviet of the Moldova Socialist Soviet Republic (MSSR). After independence in 1990, the Republic of Moldova banned the Communist Party from political activity for three years.
Since 1998, Voronin has been a deputy in the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova and a member of the Permanent Bureau. He is currently first secretary and chairperson of the Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova (CPRM).
According to the BBC, Voronin has stated that: "it is not possible... to go back to the olden times," but his office remains a museum to the Soviet days of old, adorned with pictures of Lenin and the symbol of the hammer and sickle. (BBC Online, 26 February 2001)
Voronin's election campaign revealed a relatively progressive stance, highlighting his commitment to the protection of human rights. Reforms over the past decade intended to push Moldova toward a market economy have driven the country deeper into poverty.
Voronin has argued that the right to a "normal" life in Moldova has been denied, and the nation is afflicted with severe social problems that need to be alleviated. His aim is to continue the democratisation process and to ensure that families have food and employment, that state medical care be supplied and that Moldova continues to build relations with the European Union and the former Soviet Union.
After ten years of failed market reforms, Moldova is officially the poorest country in Europe. The re-election of the Communist Party is confirmation that many Moldovans feel Communism offers greater financial and economic stability. For months, many of those who are lucky enough to be employed have not been paid a wage. Unemployment is rife and parents are unable to nourish their children.
On 9 February 2001, BBC Online reported a story about 26-year-old Nicoale Birden who was employed as a welder. Although he had employment, the money dried up and he went unpaid. As a result, he was unable to pay rent and was forced onto the street with his young family. Out of desperation he sold one of his kidneys for USD 3000 to buy food and accommodation for his wife and two children.
This type of story is not unusual and, sick of the lifestyle, many Moldovans are leaving the country—often illegally. Others queue for Russian passports from the Russian Embassy in Moldova, believing that if they could just get Russian citizenship, it would provide more openings for travel and employment.
The social situation is compounded by wider economic problems. Privatisation of state industries have resulted in shortages of goods and services, and have plunged the state into deeper debt. The sale of the state electricity company to a Spanish organisation has resulted in what has been termed the "kettle tax."
People are employed to knock on doors and ask how many electrical appliances a household has, they are then taxed accordingly. Suffice to say, many householders refuse to open the door or simply lie about their electrical goods.
This bizarre tax is a result of increased debts to neighbouring countries, such as Romania, which is one supplier of electricity to Moldova. Consequently, energy supplies are in high demand but short supply.
Privatisation is not the only problem. Faced with harsh social and economic circumstances, corruption is on the increase. The Communist return to power may take some privatised companies back to state ownership, but unless there is a crackdown on fraudulent companies, tax evaders and false privatisation, money that would be essential to securing economic stability will continue to be diverted into the hands of a few.
Speaking to the BBC, Prime Minister Braghis acknowledged the economic problems: "We have to do our best in order to have economic growth in order to make life a little bit easier." (BBC Online, 25 February 2001) However, acknowledging the problems and resolving them are two different ball games. Although Braghis has been offered the chance to retain his post under the new Communist administration, he has declined the opportunity.
Turning to Russia
There are already signs that Moldova is turning back to Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered his support to Voronin after the Moldovan Communist Party leader made a timely visit to Russia prior to the election.