Liberal Party                    (20,000 members)               

Liberal Party[1] (PL) is the legal successor of the Reform Party (PR). PR was founded in September 1993 as a center-right, Christian Democratic Party. The first PR Congress took place in 1999. The Second Congress was held on April 24, 2005, where it was decided to change the name of the Reform Party to Liberal Party, while Mihai Ghimpu remained chairman.

After the rebranding, PL became a  right wing liberal party, promoting youth into politics; ensuring respect for national sovereignty, independence, unity and integrity of Moldova; advocating Transnistrian settlement and withdrawal of Russian army and munitions from Moldova; Moldovan integration into Euro-Atlantic structures; respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

PL (PR) participated in the 1994, 1998 and 2001 parliamentary elections without reaching the threshold. PL skipped the 2005 elections, but participated in the two parliamentary elections of 2009, gaining 15 seats each time. As a result of 2010 election, PL got 12 seats and recreated the Alliance for European Integration.

Year 2005 was PL’s turning point. It capitalized on the general dissatisfaction Christina Democratic Party supporters had with the party’s decision to vote for Voronin as President and de facto accede to power with their arch enemy – communists. PL took over the pro-Romanian and pro western rhetoric and soon became the flagship of this current, since the largest opposition party Alliance Our Moldova was full of former communist bureaucrats, not very credible in advocating pro-western ideals. Therefore, PL’s constituency is the strongly pro-Romanian part of the pro-western electorate. These are either old people disenfranchised by the soviet regime, many of them rural intellectuals (teachers, librarians, doctors etc), or the young generation that strongly believes in unification with Romania and admires Dorin Chirtoaca.

The 2005 early mayoral election in Chisinau was another decisive moment for PL. When the seat of Chisinau mayor became vacant as a result of Serafim Urechean choosing to become MP, the completely unknown, 27 year old vice president of PL Dorin Chirtoaca came third in the race with 7% of the vote. Due to low turnout, new elections took place in November when Chirtoaca got 25%, coming second, as well as in December, but this time with 35.6%. Finally, the 2007 local elections were a crucial moment for PL. Well known by then, Chirtoaca received 24% in the first round and 61% in the second round, finally becoming mayor. He was re-elected in June 2011 after a neck and neck race with PCRM’s Igor Dodon, whom he defeated in the second round by 1.2% (4424 votes), but lost the majority in the City Council, only to regain control after the defection of two PCRM councilors.

PL has not had have much of an ideology or human resources compared to the other major parties. It rests largely on the figure of Chirtoaca as the embodiment of the new young/non-communist leader. There were even talks in the party of him replacing his uncle Mihai Ghimpu, as Chirtoaca headed PL’s ticket for Parliamentary elections twice in 2009. It seems older liberals were not that convinced about the merits of empowering the younger generation.

In March 2011, European Action Movement Party, headed by Veaceslav Untila, unconditionally merged with PL. A bolstered PL eventually employed a strategy of dissociating itself from the ruling coalition. Together with the Democrats they tried to lay the blame for government’s failures on Filat in order to break his momentum and increase their own ratings.  PL has been craving for more influence over the law enforcement, despite the fact that they controlled the Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Defense Ministry.  Ghimpu publicly requested PL be given the position of Prosecutor General.  Filat was quick to remind Ghimpu of their common goal of depoliticizing the law enforcement, thus making Ghimpu look goofy at least and power hungry at most.

Animosities have faded away in the face of a possible PCRM resurgence following the coalition’s repeated failures at electing the president.  PL dissociated itself again, this time alone, from the process of selecting/vetting potential presidential candidates.  In fact, it was them who invalidated Veronica Bacalu’s (IMF Economist) proposed candidacy due to her alleged links to former President Lucinschi as well as limited knowledge about her positions on issues dear to PL’s heart like language, history and foreign policy.

After the presidential election saga came to an end, Liberals continued their strategy of self-victimization about their limited say and few important positions in government.  They were still looking for ways to undermine Filat’s self promoted image of a successful leader/public manager. At the same time, they concentrated on the relative successes of their poster child – Chirtoaca.  Yet, when “huntigate” struck, PL sided with the Democrats, as some liberals were also involved in the scandal.  Ultimately, it was the liberals who suffered most from the PLDM-PD bout, as seven of the twelve liberal members of parliament defected to form a new political entity that would support Filat’s second bid for prime minister in the face of Ghimpu’s strong opposition. Thus, the liberal offshoot became the Liberals Reformist Party that, along with PLDM and PD, formed the Pro-European Coalition in May 2013, ending the six months long political crisis.

Liberals retracted into opposition criticizing most governmental policies, sometimes ironically in tune with PCRM. Yet, PL continued to support the pro-EU integration legislation. Still, PL has not been very consistent in advocating liberal values (often promoting leftist economic policies, defending internet piracy, speaking against the anti-discrimination law), but very consistent in promoting stronger ties with Romania and the West, including the UE and NATO.

[1] Note: Do not confuse the Liberal Party – the successor of the Reform Party with the Liberal Party, led by Veaceslav Untila, which existed from March 24, 2002 to July 19, 2003, and merged with the Alliance Our Moldova.

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