Moldovans can barely make out anything – or at least to the extent that would have been normal in a society based on transparency – from what the three major parties say and do in the aftermath of the February 24 elections. The difficulties of the government formation talks, and in particular the communication problems involved, were discussed at a debate titled “Passion, forgiveness and reconciliation in Moldovan politics”.
Igor Boțan, the Series’s standing expert, noted that nine weeks since the elections, things seem to be far from moving towards any meaningful outcome. There are several factors for that. First, the country is still profoundly marked by the infamous “heist of the century”, which has sent further cracks into the already divided Moldovan society and, through a string of related developments, has strained relations with the European Union. Then there are the “objective” factors. “We have in Parliament four parties with their objective differences. Each party caters to a certain segment of voters, and we all know that our society is still very divided. To the older division lines, there is this newer, contextual problem of the embezzled billion”, said Igor Boțan.
It is natural for political parties to have wholly different views, notes the expert, sketching the “objective” aspect of the battlefield positions in the current Parliament. There is the bloc ACUM, which looks towards Europe and has the ambition to implement the Association Agreement in just a one four-year term; there are the Socialists, who overall lean Eastward, despite their apparent attempts lately to seek a more balanced foreign policy; and then there is the Democratic Party, which proposes a “fourth way” in an apparent isolation from Europe, Russia, Romania or other “strategic” partner.
Perhaps the most immediate impediment to why even sitting down for discussions has been so difficult is the “subjective” factor, with the parties so eager to fling around accusations against one another. This can be ironed out, however, and it’s good that “we are at a point of having proposals to have a discussion”, as the Democrats and the Socialists, and the Socialists and ACUM already made such attempts. (ACUM and the Democrats haven’t met, as far as the public has been informed). While it’s a good thing such contacts started to appear, says Boțan, the real question is whether the parties’ differences in principles can be reconciled. In fact, it’s the first time ever that the formation of a coalition has been so uncertain, notes the expert.
Gaik Vartanean, the Socialist lawmaker, said Igor Boțan rendered a fairly accurate picture. Vartanean recalled that his party invited only the bloc ACUM to discussions, only to hear back a vitriolic response, still in campaign fashion, with declarations like “we don’t negotiate with thieves”. This rhetoric has somewhat softened, says the Socialist, but has remained unchanged in essence. “Indeed, the Party of Socialists, sticks to the position favored in most long-standing parliamentary democracies that the party with the most seats in Parliament gets to choose first the offices it likes. From the very beginning, ACUM’s unyielding position that they want the two most important positions in our state, that of Speaker and of Prime Minister, despite having only the third-largest group in Parliament, and their insistence on the PSRM to vote for a minority government, has bewildered us. We haven’t quite understood which European model exactly they follow when launching such an initiative”, said Gaik Vartanean, adding that the exact opposite would be fair.
According to him, the PSRM’s understanding is simple, and namely that today two opposition forces have a chance to unseat a party that has been in government in one way or another for then years straight. “As concerns the pro-European orientation, (the PDM and ACUM) are actually closer. But despite our ideological divergences, it’s for the first time in independent Moldova that two quite different opposition forces can set an example of flexibility and political maturity, in correspondence with the priority of changing the government and in line with what 70 percent of voters voted for”. So, in Vartanean’s opinion, the solution would be to abandon the aggressive rhetoric which has fuelled divisions within Moldovan society for far too long and put reason first.
ACUM lawmaker Igor Munteanu said that one of the major problems has been the abusive interpretation of Parliament’s statutes in a manner that impedes the legislative process. “The main obstacle to progress is this malfunctioning of the state institutions”. If Parliament business had proceeded as normal, with its managing bodies and commissions appointed, the pace of progress would have been different, says Munteanu. Another complicating factor in his opinion is the fact that elections in Moldova, like in other young democracies, seem to be never ending. “The legislative elections just ended, but political actors have already set their minds on snap election mode. This year we also have general local elections, and someone is already preparing for them. And this incessant pressure on the political agenda is responsible for this sort of galvanization among voters and among radical factions of certain political groups which ultimately precludes any political compromise”, thinks Munteanu.
However, says the ACUM lawmaker, compromise is a key instrument of political culture and cultural processes in general. If no room is left for negotiating common priorities, meeting voters’ expectations is next to impossible. “In our case, the bloc ACUM has several positions of principle which we cannot surrender or trade for material things like offices. We are not interested in any political office. All we are interested is to achieve de-oligarchization, a goal that means freeing the state’s main institutions from political control. This position we will not change. Our political opponents regard this as rigidity, but it’s really not. It’s rather an invitation to have a dialog on how we can create a joint agenda, because the Socialists, and perhaps other MPs as well, could contribute with objectives that aim to free the state from captivity”, declared Igor Munteanu, adding that this should be the top priority of the current Parliament.
The Democratic Party was also invited to participate in the debate, but no representative was delegated.
The debate titled “Passion, forgiveness and reconciliation in Moldovan politics” is the 109th installment of the “Developing Political Culture in Public Debates” Series, organized by IPN and Radio Moldova, with the support of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.