Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Clock ticks for Moldova to resolve political deadlock

Time is running out for the current parliament in Moldova. Having failed for almost a year to elect a president, lawmakers were put to work on March 25 to devise constitutional changes to resolve the impasse, but it's looking more likely that a new round of parliamentary elections will have to be called in June – a setback for the new reformist government that ousted the old guard last year.

The country has been stuck in a constitutional crisis without an elected president since July when an EU-oriented coalition called Alliance for European Integration managed to replace the statist Party of Communists administration led by the then-president Vladimir Voronin. However, Moldova's unique constitution sees the president elected by a three-fifths majority of the unicameral parliament, but the coalition is one MP short of the 61 votes needed, and the now-oppositional Communists are in no mood to compromise on a candidate. If no president is picked, the deadline for holding new parliamentary elections is June 16 - one year after the previous parliament was dissolved.

In an attempt to resolve the crisis, the parliament on March 25 set up a commission to draft amendments to Article 78 of the constitution, which sets out the rules for electing a president. The commission's 11 members include representatives from all the political groups in the parliament, including four Party of Communist deputies. It has just one month to draw up its proposals. Acting President Mihai Ghimpu had hoped to call a referendum on constitutional changes before June 16, thereby avoiding the need for early elections. However, the Party of Communists, which has been boycotting parliamentary sessions, has said it will only back plans to amend the constitution if the ruling coalition agrees to dissolve the current parliament and call fresh elections.


Although the reformist, pro-European coalition government has secured a $2.6bn support package from the EU, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international donors impressed by its economic development plans, Moldova still risks losing international credibility if the political crisis isn't resolved.

The political deadlock has made it difficult for the new alliance to push ahead with political and economic reforms. This coalition won a July re-run of elections after the April 2009 elections culminated in thousands of Moldovans pouring onto the streets of Chisinau to protest against alleged vote rigging and fraud, which then erupted into violence on April 7 when the demonstrators stormed the parliament and other official buildings.

Attempts to progress along the road to EU membership have been frustratingly slow, with Economy Minister Valeriu Lazar saying on March 25 that Moldova would not be content to sit in the EU's "waiting room" forever, RFE/RL reported. And visiting Chisinau on March 25, Mevlut Cavusoglu, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said the situation was "draining too much political and human energy."

"The current deadlock would not bring political dividends to any political force. It only deviates the country from urgently needed political and economic reforms," Cavusoglu said in his address to the Moldovan parliament. "It projects an image abroad which would do nothing to help Moldova's further integration into the European architecture and into the international financial and economic structures."

However, Moldova's economic stabilisation programme for 2010-12, launched in October, has helped attract international support. "We fully support the Moldovan Government's plan to Rethink Moldova," said Stefan Fule, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, at a donor conference March 25. At the conference, the IMF, EU, World Bank and several individual countries pledged a total of $2.6bn over four years to Moldova. This follows the IMF's decision in February 2010, to provide a $574m package in support of the stabilisation programme.

The funds will help the Moldova government in its attempts to stabilise the economy and restore growth, but in the longer term the political situation will have to be resolved in order to continue with reforms and restore investor confidence.

By bne. Published on 31 March 2010
Copyright (c) 2010. BNE Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Business New Europe
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of S & D.

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