Regular parliamentary elections are set to take place on November 30; however this is hardly an opportunity to scrutinize leading political parties because, regardless of the general dissatisfaction with their record, they will be back in the newly elected parliament, albeit minor seat changes.
The leading opposition party has suffered numerous defections, but has remained strong due to its core supporters that rally around PCRM leader Voronin. His father-like figure, down to earth attitude and straight talking style have made him a favorite of the masses. Yet, PCRM’s electoral pool, consisting mainly of less educated rural voters and older Russian speaking urban residents, is shrinking. PCRM’s mixed record in power fails to attract young voters to say the least. Promoting economic stability while cracking down on political dissent has backfired in April 2009. While PCRM’s handling of the riots, though not as bad as some cases in North Africa, Turkey or even Russia, still left a deep scar on its reputation among the youth that have become a key electoral demographic. Policy wise, PCRM has not been courageous enough in pushing some of the key reforms in finance, social security, education, decentralization, oftentimes due to ideological or, even worse, simply electoral reasons. Much like any other party, PCRM has been selective in abiding by its ideology. In fact, the party has implemented some of the most liberal polices like zero tax on reinvested income, introduced fiscal amnesty, opened free economic zones etc. However, the most striking deviation from its ideology is the fact that Voronin’s son managed to become one of the wealthiest people in the country during his father’s two term presidency. Amid abject poverty, that is not something you run on.
One cannot help but be impressed with the fact that a party established less than seven years ago has held the prime minister’s office for the last five of those seven years. Coming to power on a wave of anti-communist sentiment, PLDM and its young, professional team was a breath of fresh air. Yet, as it often happens, exaggerated expectations led to disappointment and frustration. PLDM capitalized on its human resources and genuine pro-European drive, but that proved insufficient in a highly competitive political climate. Several high profile defections have underscored the lack of intra party democracy and, for a group that branded itself as the standard bearer of democratic values, it proved poisonous. Later scandals uncovered group and personal financial interests behind several high profile government decisions. The latter further undermined the party’s credibility among its generally well informed electorate and surely curtailed whatever momentum was left.
Democrats pride themselves on their moderate centrist position and compromise oriented political style. The party has provided more prime ministers and speakers than any other political entity in the country. Its current honorary chairman Dumitru Diacov is one of the most seasoned Moldovan politicians. Their chairman – communist defector Marian Lupu was once a presidential front runner and genuinely inspiring politician, but not anymore. First deputy chairman Vladimir Plahotniuc is the party’s main asset and its main drawback. His financial resources are naturally welcomed, but his stratospheric negative rating is the trade off. Surprisingly enough, all his wealth could not buy him a better image. Yet, he keeps trying by amassing the largest media empire in the country – something that certainly comes in handy during election season. Democrats are, thus, a party of long traditions, but limited achievements.
Liberals are the most passionate group in local politics. It is this emotional affiliation that provides them with a rock solid base, albeit a smaller one than in the case of other leading parties. That is also why liberal voters or the right wing electorate in general has been often taken for granted. These voters rarely scrutinize their leaders as long as the latter keep their part of the bargain by promoting a pro-western (read pro-Romanian) agenda, even if it is in name only. Liberals have risen to prominence thanks to Dorin Chirtoaca’s election as Chisinau mayor. It is, therefore, surprising so see him repeatedly passed over for promotion to party head by his uncle Mihai Ghimpu. For a party that has made a fetish out of promoting the youth, not empowering Chirtoaca is an inconsistency to say the least.
Are any of these parties worth voting for?
Well, luckily, each and every voter has the right/obligation to decide that for themselves. I, for one, am truly puzzled. All of these parties are a far cry from what a political party should be and what it should do. Caught in a daily struggle for maximizing political power, parties seems to have forgot that power is supposed to be a means to achieving public interests and not a goal in itself. Elections are a vivid demonstration that parties have given up on engaging the voters on important issues. Instead, they offer music concerts and other little gifts like bags of rice, flour, and buckwheat. They all seem to rely on the time tested political strategy of “bread and circus.” The sad part is that time and again coming short on “bread,” they see no other alternative than desperately trying to compensate on the “circus” side.