Today is the first meeting of the newly elected Parliament. It is the 20th legislature in Moldova’s history, formally counted from 1940, which is rather odd. Normally, it should be Moldova’s 8th legislature, counted from Independence Day and the adoption of the current Constitution. However, in the current political climate, this is indeed the least of anybody’s concern, maybe except for the Liberal Party, which tried and failed to change the formal count in 2012.
The new set of lawmakers is not at all remarkable in any particular way. Precisely, only 61 are actually new, while 40 are incumbents. About a third of those 61 have been elected to Parliament at some point before. These numbers are interesting to ponder on and compare with previous parliaments or other countries. First, I would like to consider the indicator that is talked about the most, albeit generally in vain – women representation. There are only 21 women elected to the new parliament. Still, that is an improvement from 19 in the previous one. Ironically, Liberals are the worst at promoting women, while Communists are the best. In fact, we can see that right wing parties have a slightly worse record in promoting women compared to their left wing competitors. These numbers are a far cry from the modest one third quota advocated by civil society and light years away from the more equitable 50-50 representation, not even achieved by Nordic countries – averaging 42% . To put things in perspective, women hold 18.7% of seats in the US Congress (20% in the Senate and 18.4% in the House), while the global average for singe or lower house is 22.2%. Thus, sadly only the Communists are above this benchmark.
Green – more women; Yellow – average; Red – less women.
Things are even worse when we look at rural vs. urban representation. Hardly a surprise, Moldova is the most rural country in Europe – 57.8% of Moldovans live in villages. However, 94 of the 101 newly elected lawmakers live in towns and 78 of them in the capital. To make things worse, three of the seven ‘rural’ legislators come from central Moldova and only two from the north and the south. Even though the vast majority of MPs were born and raised in villages, they have since lost touch with rural life, which may be one explanation behind the medieval conditions in many Moldovan villages.
The other highly promoted indicator is youth participation in government. Youth are a key political demographic for parties right of center, namely liberal democrats and liberals. Yet, they appear to disenfranchise their electoral pools, as all three center right parties rank average in terms of youth representation, with Liberals doing especially badly, while Socialists lead the charge in promoting the youth, at least that is what the numbers indicate. Communists, with no young fellow faction members, have finally ‘accepted’ their gerontocratic label. No wonder their youth wing – Komsomol, sided with Tkaciuk and the other rebels recently expelled from the party. It is interesting that three quarters of the Democrat faction are of middle age. Liberal democrats are average across all age groups.
Green – more youth; Yellow – average; Red – more seniors.
The two youngest members of Parliament are Socialist Marina Radvan (23) and Liberal Democrat Mihaela Spatari (25). I cannot avoid mentioning the scandal that Radvan was dragged into when someone posted several photos of her on Facebook, presenting the would-be lawmaker in amusing, yet somewhat shameful circumstances. One side of the debate accuses her of ignorance and irresponsibility given her public profile (even though the photos were made before she became a politician, I believe), while her supporters said the pictures were doctored. I, for one, am conflicted about the situation. Despite not having the full picture, I would strongly suspect that this avalanche of personal attacks and humiliation would have been avoided had she: 1. Not taken those incriminating photos 2. Kept better track of who has access to those photos and 3. Not become a politician. Personally, I have a problem with all these conditions. Yes, she made a mistake, but it was blown out of proportion and employed in a series of vicious politically motivated attacks, which is simply wrong on so many ethical levels.
The second youngest legislators, I have the pleasure of knowing personally. Mihaela is truly impressive in her drive to empower the youth. To my mind, she is probably one of the most professional and engaged youth leaders in the country. I am sure she will make a good name for herself in Parliament by not only being the voice of her party’s youth organization, but also the embodiment of all intelligent, enthusiastic and ambitious young Moldovans. It is important that all of those young lawmakers as well as the more senior once find their own voice first and learn to stand up for their opinion, particularly when it goes against the party bosses. Unfortunately, the outgoing parliament has failed on so many occasions to protect the public interest that there is little hope of this legislature being any different, but it is not hopeless. Mihaela, and hopefully Marina too, are a small wave in a much awaited tide of change.
Note 1: These numbers are likely to change as certain lawmakers will refuse their mandates in favor of their current jobs, while some will take executive positions in the government.
Note 2: Association for Participatory Democracy is the source for most input data in this article. The team there does a great job of providing political junkies like myself with valuable quantitative and qualitative material!