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The Events in Moldova: Questions and Answers

The hot topic of discussion on our e-mail platform in recent days has been the bewildering events in Moldova after the recent disputed parliamentary elections there. Comrade V., a member of the Rezistenţa Populară group in Chişinău, kindly agreed to answer some of our questions.

1. What are the concrete contradictions between the pro-Voronin and opposition bourgeois groups?

The main contradictions between these groups center on personal commercial interests. There are no essential ideological or socioeconomic contradictions between them; or rather, these differences are purely ornamental. If we compare their political platforms, then we’ll see that all their promises—to raise wages to European levels; to increase pensions and stipends to the minimum living standard or higher—are completely populist because none of the parties explains where they plan to get the money.

In essence, what we’re seeing now is a struggle for spheres of influence in the commercial structures and for political power. This time round, Voronin decided not to stand on ceremony—to push the opposition into the background and not take them into account in any way. The ruling oligarchy decided to resort to falsifying the results (there are such cases), but the only thing it didn’t take into account was the possibility of popular demonstrations.

Obviously, power is being consolidated in the hands of the bourgeoisie, which is what always accompanies a consolidation of capital and the means of production.

2. Why has the idea of unification with Romania come up now? Or is this constantly in the background of Moldovan politics?

The theme of unification with Romania and the issue of what the language should be called [i.e. Romanian vs. Moldovan] are the usual bogeymen that are pulled out of the closet when the electorate needs to be taken in hand. (That is, this is done so that the electorate understands whom to support, including during the elections. In the end, this plays into the hands of the PCRM.) Yes, there is a minority of the populace—mostly, the remnants of the intelligentsia—who still rave about reunification, but the mass of the population prefers to live in an independent country, especially now that the crisis is sweeping the world. Our country might be a swamp, but it’s a warm, familiar swamp. But young people really have nowhere to turn. Maybe they would like to find well-paid work here, but under the current capitalist regime they aren’t given this opportunity. That is why they’re often inclined to support anyone whomsoever as long as at least something changes.

3. How much basis is there to Voronin’s claims that the Romanian secret services were involved [in organizing the unrest]?

During his entire administration, Voronin has been doing his best to strengthen his own system of state security. The creation, equipping and maintenance of the Information and Security Service (SIS) and the Supreme Security Council have probably put a big dent in the budget. You could spot SIS agents at every demo that happened in Chişinău. But now it turns out that they slept through an attack by foreign secret agents! Well, if that’s the case (since this is what Voronin says), then the SIS isn’t worth a farthing. So now they should be punished to the full extent of the law for their incompetence.

4. How strong was people’s interest in the elections themselves?

If you believe the statistics, 59.5% of the electorate voted in these elections. That is, people didn’t ignore the elections, but this percentage is lower than for the previous elections in 2005 (64.84%) and 2001 (67.52%). Many people say that elections have gradually turned into a farce or (at best) a festival. The majority is equally irritated by the red-orange hydra of Voronin and Roşca (Christian Democratic People’s Party), and the yellow-green-blue “cuttlefish” of Urechean (Alliance Our Moldova)-Filat (Liberal Democratic Party)-Chirtoacă (Liberal Party). People have bigger fish to fry. For example, how to live on a pension of 600 lei, to pay for utilities when the monthly heating bill alone comes to 900 lei. Or how to live on a monthly wage of 2,000 lei (and sometimes much less)—that is, how to clothe and feed your children, pay for kindergarten, school, university fees, medical care, and those very same crazy utilities bills. As they try every way they can to eliminate the class contradictions from their policies, the bourgeois parties are forced by other means to curry favor with the voters. This includes playing the “anticommunism” and “reunification with Romania” cards or promising entry into the EU—they really just have nothing else to offer people. But it’s unlikely that they will fulfill even these promises because opening the borders with the EU would lead to an even greater exodus of the population, who won’t be willing to work here for kopecks.

5. Considering the fact that the unrest didn’t begin immediately after the elections, is the opposition’s behavior directly linked to the election results?

The opposition began stirring things up before the elections in fact. It tried to stoke passions as much as possible. You have to hand it to them: in this they were successful. I think that if the communists had avoided falsifying the results, the opposition would have got what it considered it was in its rights to ask for—that it be taken into account. Then it would have immediately set about divvying up the portfolios and seats in parliament with the PCRM. But the PCRM ran such a smooth operation and spent so much money (officially, they spent around 5.5 million lei on the campaign—more than any other party) that they ended up outwitting themselves as well. Instead of a triumphal procession in celebration of their third administration, they got an organized popular revolt. Although it wasn’t carried to its logical conclusion, it showed that the PCRM, which to this point has done its all to support business, has no support amongst the masses.

6. All political forces claim that they had nothing to do with the demonstrations. What really mobilized people?

I think that the mobilizing factor was the hopeless situation of a particular social group (I wouldn’t begin to divide it according to language)—young people, who were counting on certain changes in the social, educational, and economic spheres, and who long ago lost confidence in Voronin personally and in the grouping of capitalists he has consolidated around himself. One thing is clear: in the absence of coherent social and political demands by the opposition, this social group will gradually radicalize. At present, around two hundred of the people who participated in the riots have been detained by the police. They’re facing fifteen years in prison for taking part in a coup—that is how Voronin has labeled the popular revolt against his regime. We’ll soon find out whether the leaders of the opposition will be arrested or whether our vigilant SIS will “slip up” again and let them escape into neighboring Romania. Whatever happens, the appearance in our country of political prisoners will do little to strengthen the Voronin regime and the country’s “stability.”

7. What is the role of the imperial powers in the current situation? Does the US want to bring down the Voronin regime? Is the EU interested in bringing Moldova into its fold? What are Russia’s interests?

As for international imperialism, I myself said on live TV that the Voronin regime has been supported in particular by the US ambassador in Moldova. Suffice it to say that the “red-orange” compact between CPSU apparatchik and ex-interior minister Voronin and pro-Romanian nationalist Iurie Roşca was concluded in the safety of the US embassy.

(This compact was reached after the 2005 elections when Voronin didn’t have the necessary number of votes in the parliament for re-election. This is precisely why, in the present elections, the voters “rolled” the Christian Democratic People’s Party. Roşca himself didn’t gain the minimum 6% required for re-election and thus lost his seat in the new parliament.

Practically speaking, close and active collaboration between the CDPP and the PCRM (although it was hidden from the public eye) began earlier. (For example, during the government crisis in late 2000/early 2001, when the PCRM parliamentary faction teamed up with the CDPP faction and tried to oust the government of President Peter Lucinschi on several occasions.) But the birth of a genuine “red-orange,” purely pro-American regime in the form it exists today happened after parliamentary elections in March 2005.”)

During the entire period of its administration, the Voronin regime has closely cooperated with the World Bank and the IMF, in particular with the SCERS program, which provides loans for economic development and poverty reduction. But what the World Bank and the IMF essentially demand is liberalization of the economy and privatization of the principal state sector enterprises.

By virtue of their interests, Russia, the EU, and the US would rather that Voronin stay in power. To be more specific, Russia doesn’t want another Georgia here. The EU is already conducting its own set of reforms: it is introducing its own system of education per the Bologna Process, including fees-based tuition and contract teaching, as well as its own system of medical insurance. (From my own experience, I can say that people are not very enthusiastic about these reforms.) The US is pushing its banking and loans system. Romania has extended its citizenship rights to the Moldovan population. (Until recently, people could get Romanian passports at the Romanian embassy. Voronin legalized dual citizenship, and so several of our parliamentarians have Romanian citizenship.)

How would the US profit by “whacking” the Voronin regime? Voronin more or less suits both the US and Russia. Russia is afraid of Romania, the EU, and NATO expanding onto Moldovan territory. As long as Russia keeps Transnistria as its ace in the hole in its dealings with Voronin, he’ll have to take Russia’s opinion into account. If the opposition comes to power, they might give up Transnistria and then Russia would just have to lump it. (It is clear that Transnistria is huge problem for the Moldovan political elite, a problem it isn’t capable of solving. That is why the opposition also seriously considers the option of joining Romania even without this region. As for who to give it to, one famous liberal politician declared that Russia could have a concession on it for thirty years!)

As for the US, I’ve already said that it was the US that encouraged Roşca to accept Voronin’s offer of an alliance. That means that Voronin suited the US then and he continues to suit them now: he does everything the World Bank and the IMF tell him to do. The overthrow of the Voronin regime would strengthen Romania’s position here; the US would probably have to step aside if Moldova joined the EU.

But no one in the EU is in hurry to take in Moldova. It’s the poorest country in Eastern Europe, but on the other hand it’s quite eager to please. Even without membership of the EU, it is conducting all the liberal reforms—reforms in education per the Bologna Process; reforms of its medical provision system; economic reforms via privatization. That is, it’s doing everything to become a capitalist country. (The communist symbols mean nothing.) But if the opposition comes to power and, let’s say, holds a referendum and it suddenly passes (which I seriously doubt), or Romania suddenly decides to open its borders and let us in, to rig up some kind of union with Moldova, then in this case the Moldovan leadership would lose its independence. It would no longer be possible to apply simple stupid pressure on it and blackmail it with loans and credits. You would have to go through Romania and the EU, and that’s not quite the same thing as direct pressure.

So all this spy mania isn’t worth a damn thing. Actual geopolitical interests don’t warrant such insinuations.

8. Western media have made a lot of the role of the “Twitter” generation in organizing the protests, citing in particular the work of liberal journalist Natalia Morar and her Think Moldova group. One US website even went so far as to claim that since young Moldovans can’t reasonably afford the iPhones (or other mobile devices) and high-speed Internet access necessary to carry out such complex actions, then this technology might have been supplied to them by US-front organizations. What is your reaction to such claims?

Maybe Morar was even able to organize some kind of flash mob consisting of six people. What, there weren’t flash mobs here before then?

Those students aren’t actually all that poor. At very least, having a decked-out mobile phone is considered the norm in their circles. It’s a matter of prestige, as they say.

9. The western media have also made much of the fact that, apparently, this is a confrontation between “liberals” in the opposition and the ruling “communists.” Are the communists really communists? What’s up with their name?

The communists emerged as an opposition to the liberal democratic forces that took power after 1993. As one of our comrades noted, this was something like the Zyuganov phenomenon in Russia. But when they themselves came to power, they rejected social and political change, and Voronin declared that there was no alternative to capitalist development in Moldova.

After this, the PCRM started to lose its activists and supporters. At present, there are no convinced, principled activists in its ranks (that is, no one who isn’t a paid-off party hack). Several of the members in our group (Rezistenţa Populară) left the PCRM after they came to power.

But, as you understand, they kept the name for cover.

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Rezistenţa Populară: On the Events in Moldova

A Communiqué from the Rezistenţa Populară Political Movement on the Situation in Moldova after the Parliamentary Elections of April 5, 2009

According to the official results of the parliamentary elections that took place on April 5, 2009, the ruling party in Moldova, the pseudo-communist PСRM (Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova), received 49.9% of the vote. This enables them to seat 61 deputies in parliament, and their votes are sufficient to elect the republic’s new president (who requires a three-fifths majority of deputies to take office). Despite the fact that international observers have declared the elections fair, numerous violations were noted on election day. Voters were surprised to find on the voting rolls the names of their dead relatives, as well as the names of unknown people who had been mysteriously registered as living in their apartments. There were also cases when election commissions refused to give people ballots—because someone had already signed and voted for them.

27654998The opposition parties publicly disputed the falsified election results. On Monday evening they held a peaceful protest rally on the square next to Government House that brought out approximately five thousand people. On April 7, from twenty to thirty thousand people gathered in the center of the capital; these were mainly university and high school students, who came in response to appeals from the opposition parties. Their principal demand was that the results of the election, which they believed had been falsified, be overturned, and new elections be held. Opposition leaders very quickly lost control of the crowd. The authorities, who had not anticipated such massive protests, had posted insufficient numbers of policemen to guard the buildings of the parliament and the presidential administration; they were simply swept away by the enraged crowd. The police—who in 2008 “heroically” dispersed protests by pensioners unhappy with their miserly pensions (lower than the minimum living standard)—proved powerless against the young people. Despite attempts by representatives of the opposition parties to prevent acts of vandalism, their appeals were simply ignored. The rioters smashed all the windows on the first two floors of Parliament and the Presidential Palace. Both these buildings were looted; furniture and documents were torched. Two stories of the Parliament were completely gutted by fire, and two police vans were burned. The damage amounts to millions of lei. The main propaganda force in these protests were members of the nationalist parties. It was they who chanted “Down with the communists!” and raised the flags of Romania and the EU over the Parliament.

In his address to the nation, President Voronin characterized these events as a coup, and he laid all the blame for the events on the leaders of the Liberal Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, and Our Moldova Alliance. That same day, PСRM representative Marian Lupu met with the leaders of these parties. In a neutral albeit admonitory tone, he asked them to cease all protests and engage in dialogue within the bounds prescribed by law. The opposition leaders repeated their demands for new elections, and they blamed the authorities and the police for what had happened. According to the opposition leaders, it was their actions that had provoked the riots.

MOLDOVA-VOTE-RALLYIn light of the current situation, Rezistenţa Populară makes the following statement. We fully recognize the fact that the ruling party falsified the election results. It is losing support amongst the masses, and it has attempted to compensate for this lack of support through falsification in order to remain in power. (For the bourgeois grouping who backs the party, this is quite important.) However, the PСRM’s influence is still quite great, and a significant number of voters did in fact vote for this party insofar as the other parties represent the interests of even more odious bourgeois groupings. Unfortunately, seduced by the PСRM’s promises to preserve an illusory “stability,” voters from the masses of workers and the poor did not use their chance to vote for the working-class candidate from Rezistenţa Populară. The central plank of our platform was organization of the workers’ struggle for their rights.

The events in Chişinău are a reflection of the struggle amongst the main groupings of the bourgeoisie over the redistribution of property and state power. The PСRM is supported by the state bureaucracy, which is wavering in this situation (the party has had no principled activists in its ranks for a long time). The opposition is supported by young people (mainly Moldovan speakers) unhappy with the system. The campaign platforms of these parties are indistinguishable. Both the PСRM and the opposition support rapidly integrating with the EU and continuing the liberalization of the economy. However, a defeat for the PСRM would destroy the party, which over the course of the past eight years has discredited the idea of communism. The young people who chant “Down with the communists” quite sincerely believe that communism equals the Voronin regime. His clan owns the factories, banks, transportation, IT, and telecommunications companies, and it is under his regime that a police state has been established in Moldova. President Voronin is Moldova’s chief “communist,” but his son is one of the republic’s biggest capitalists, a billionaire. And yet our country is the poorest state in Europe.

007846z5Rezistenţa Populară condemns the acts of vandalism, which have caused enormous damage to public property. However, we believe that blame for this is shared both the leaders of the opposition, who failed to keep the protests peaceful, and the authorities, who were unable to provide the necessary security for the parliament and presidential administration buildings. It is likely the case that, not entirely sure whether police units were loyal to him, Voronin was simply afraid to give orders to take more decisive action, just as was the case twenty years ago, when he was the interior minister of the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic.

We believe that the protests also have a definite social subtext. Most young people feel abandoned and unwanted by society in the new period of “stability” that has been established by the regime. During an “interview” with journalists from PRO-TV in the looted parliament building, one of the young marauders said, “I’m twenty now. What will I have in this country by the time I’m thirty? Nothing!” In essence, the universities are diploma mills for gastarbeiters, who will replace their parents on construction sites in Moscow and Italy.

In the current situation, Rezistenţa Populară’s main task is to provide a class-based explanation for what is happening. We argue that there is no principal difference between the PСRM and the opposition; that we need to fight not for one bourgeois against another, but in order to get rid of them all. It is capitalism that is to blame for everything: it throws people into the trash heap; it deprives them of work and the means of existence or turns them into beasts of burden. The only solution is for workers to unite in the struggle for their class interests—for a decent wage, pension or stipend; for an end to the privatization of public property; for the nationalization of the principal means of production and the banking system. In the end, for socialism!

April 8, 2009

Originally published (in Russian) on the website of the Vpered Socialist Movement.

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