Two-term former President
Chairman, Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova
Vladimir Voronin is the longstanding head of The Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM). Europe’s first democratically-elected Communist leader, Voronin and his party ruled Moldova from 2001-2009 and are now the country’s primary opposition party, controlling 42 of 101 seats.
At the age of 73—born in 1941—Voronin is a somewhat archetypal, aged communist leader. He was raised by his mother, his father having died while fighting against the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia in 1940. He holds several degrees – including in economics, political science, engineering, and law.
From 1961 to 1991, Voronin served in numerous administrative roles within various branches of the Soviet government and Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Simultaneously, he studied at several academies, including the Academy of Social Sciences (graduated in 1983) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs Academy (graduated in 1991). Voronin became Minister of Internal Affairs in 1988, from whence he strongly opposed the protests that advocated independence from the Soviet Union.
For more than two years after Moldova’s independence (declared August 1991), the communist party was banned. In 1993, however, Voronin helped create a new communist party, the PCRM, and was elected its leader shortly thereafter. After unsuccessful bids for the presidency and the post of prime minister, Voronin was elected President by parliamentary vote shortly after the 2001 elections. He served in this post for two terms, and through the controversial parliamentary elections of April 2009, during which he used the state police forces to quell protest activity. He resigned the presidency following the victory of the AEI coalition in the July 2009 elections.
During his presidential tenure, Voronin attempted to strike a balance between Moldova’s foreign policy interests in the East and West. He pursued cooperation with the EU, but western-oriented objectives were undermined by his emphasis on good relations with Russia (which included, among other stances, opposition to NATO).
Furthermore, Voronin typically took a hardline stance on the Transnistrian conflict, refusing to negotiate with the de facto military regime in power there. Although resolving the conflict was a major stated goal of his administration, and while his administration originally accepted a Russian-brokered settlement in 2003, he soon backtracked on the deal and branded the Transnistrian government “a transnational criminal group” and called for an economic blockade of the territory. This resulted in considerably worsened relations between the two adversaries.
Although his party has consistently placed first in the polls as Moldova’s most popular single political party, the PCRM has not held a supermajority in parliament since 2005. After 2009, Voronin failed to form a coalition to retain his position as president, sparking the constitutional crisis in which his party used its position as the dominant opposition to blockade any candidacy other than one made by itself.
The crisis significantly weakened the PCRM, costing it some support in the polls and the membership of several influential politicians including those that left the party specifically to support Timofti’s independent candidacy as well as influential members such as politician Marian Lupu and business magnate Vladimir Plahotniuc.
Voronin’s presidency has come under scrutiny for the wealth amassed by his son, Oleg Voronin, during that time. While no tangible links between President Voronin and his son’s fortune have been produced, the possibility of nepotistic corruption has provoked the ire of many voters in Moldova. Voronin and his supporters insist that charges have been fabricated to defame him and harass his son.
Voronin remains a member of parliament and the head of PCRM. Should the ruling coalition falter or flag in the time remaining before 2014 elections, Voronin could return to the Presidency.