Central Europe Review: politics,
society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 1, No 24
6 December 1999

Catherine Lovatt M I O R I T A:
Political Turmoil in Moldova

Catherine Lovatt

Sandwiched between the Ukraine and Romania, the small ex-Soviet state of Moldova is facing political turmoil. Government collapse and fractious political parties are becoming the hallmark of Moldovan politics. Coupled with economic instability and ethnic rivalries the future of Moldovan security is questionable.

For the second time in eight months the Moldovan government was dismissed in a vote of no confidence on 9 November 1999. Initially, Ion Sturza, the former Moldovan Prime Minister, threatened that his cabinet would resign within ten days if parliament failed to approve a package of laws on privatisation and amendments to the 1999 budget. Addressing a news conference he said "we will present a list of laws and if, by the appointed date, they are not approved, this will be tantamount to a vote of no confidence in the government and it will resign." (Reuters, 3 November 1999). The laws were not approved. The minority centre-right coalition who supported the government abstained from the secret ballot but all fifty-eight deputies who voted agreed that the cabinet should step down.

Eight months earlier Ion Ciubuc had resigned from the position of premier for similar reasons - because the cabinet could not agree on a reform strategy. Inter-party conflicts and bickering have been the scourge of Moldovan economic and political reform since the state declared autonomy in 1991 Consequently, Moldova's post-Soviet governments have been fractious and short lived.

Ciubuc's coalition managed to hold onto power in order to vote in Sturza's government but disintegrated soon after over proposals by president Petru Lucinschi to alter the constitution giving himself rather than parliament the right to form governments. The pattern was repeated with the moderately reformist Sturza administration. Proposals to privatise the state dominated wine-making and tobacco sectors and to amend the 1999 budget were continually obstructed by Presidential supporters undermining conditions laid down by the IMF to secure a loan of USD 35 million.

The Moldovan parliament is dominated by Communists, Nationalists and smaller groups split between reform or a reversion back to centralised dominance. Lucinschi, a former Communist party boss, is seeking greater power and control arguing that the absence of a mature democracy and true majority has resulted in short-lived governments and instability. In this he would not be wrong. However, his desire to change the constitution in his own favour would result in a step backwards for the future development of Moldova. It would merely revert back to a Communist-type system where supreme authority would lie with Lucinschi.

The fall of Ciubuc's coalition had a knock-on effect in the economy. The Moldovan economy is reliant on foreign funding and trade. The collapse of the government in March delayed a key loan from the IMF. Nonetheless, the government managed to maintain its plans for privatisation and avoided default on foreign debts.

The collapse of Sturza's administration in early November has once again resulted in the IMF suspending relations with Moldova. It is unlikely that payments on foreign debts can now continue without severely damaging an already damaged economy. The speaker of the Moldovan parliament, Dumitru Diacov has commented that "if foreign financing ends, we can cover our debts only from the central bank's currency reserves or force the central bank to print money." (Reuters, 3 November 1999) The resulting inflation would do little to improve the economy or the welfare of the Moldovan people.

In speaking to the deputies Diacov added that "whatever government comes in after Sturza, it will be unable to govern the country. [...] Those who are pushing the government to resign want chaos and civil war to rule the country." (Reuters, 4 November 1999). In both respects he may not be wrong. Lucinschi's nominee for premier, Valeriu Bobutac, Moldova's ambassador to Russia, has already been rejected by parliament as a candidate for the position. Rather than succumbing to further presidential power it seems likely that parliament will settle for another short-lived administration. Secondly, the rebel Dnestr region is becoming more susceptible to instability. The enclave of former Soviet supporters are finding themselves isolated as the Russians withdraw their troops to fight in Chechenya. Without the Russian presence ethnic violence and rivalry could become a deciding factor in the future political and economic stability of the ex-Soviet state.

Political turmoil and confusion in Moldova is creating a state hounded by instability and infighting. As a result, the economy is weakening and heading towards further crisis. A power struggle between the President and members of parliament pushing for reform is complicating the situation rendering much of parliamentary activity null and void. The political security and stability of the Moldovan state is further threatened by the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the rebel Dnestr. The unpredictable nature of ethnic rivalries could result in exaggerated tensions and further political and economic confusion.

Catherine Lovatt, 1 December 1999

Archive of Catherine Lovatt's articles on Romania and Moldova.



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