Connect to share and comment

Moldova: Outsized political drama

On Monday the Communist Party walked out of Moldova's parliament, meaning the small country faces months of more uncertainty.

Marian Lupu, the sole candidate for Moldova's president, talks to the media after casting his ballot in parliament in the capital Chisinau, Dec. 7, 2009. (Valery Korchmar/Reuters)

KIEV, Ukraine — Tiny ex-Soviet Moldova continued to churn out political theater far beyond its size this week, as members of the Communist Party dramatically exited parliament’s chambers on Monday before a vote to elect the country’s president.

The walkout meant that Marian Lupu, the candidate from the Alliance for European Integration, parliament’s largest faction, was once again blocked from becoming Moldova’s leader, since the communists staged a similar boycott before a presidential ballot in November. The 101-seat parliament chooses the country’s president by a three-fifths majority, or 61 votes.

Monday’s events were notable for two reasons, observers said. First, the Communist Party (CP) seems to have remained a potent political force, despite its defeat in July parliamentary elections to the Alliance, a collection of four western-leaning parties that collectively captured 53 seats. (The communists nevertheless remained the largest single party with 48 seats.)

Despite reports that eight communist deputies would defect to provide the needed votes for Lupu’s selection, the party managed to maintain ranks. This was seen primarily as the accomplishment of Vladimir Voronin, the party’s iron-willed leader, who served as Moldova’s president for eight years before resigning in September. (Lupu is also a former communist, but left the party to join the opposition this year.)

Second, Moldova’s political standoff between the Alliance and the CP, which has lasted since spring and has at times resulted in political stalemate, continues unabated. Disputed parliamentary elections in April led to violent public protests, which led to a re-vote in July. Now comes the inability to elect a president, and possibly further deadlock.

What comes next is anyone’s guess. Voronin is banking on the prospect that, as per the constitution, parliament will be dissolved, new elections will be called next year and the CP will storm back to power. This would take place no sooner than summer 2010, and maybe as late as October or November.

“Don’t worry,” Voronin said on Monday. “We will return to the parliament after early elections, and we will win.”

Alliance politicians believe that the solution lies not in a new parliament, but in altering the system itself of electing the president. They are championing changing the constitution to lower the number of parliamentary votes, or allowing for direct popular election.

Making a constitutional change, however, would create its own political complications. According to Arcadie Barbarosie, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy, a think tank in the capital Chisinau, deputies must either amend the constitution by the same three-fifths majority, or the population must approve the changes in a referendum.

In other words, Moldova is looking at perhaps another six months of political uncertainty — maybe more.