The Party of Socialists of Republic of Moldova (PSRM) was founded in 1997 by a group who had defected the year before from the Socialist Party of Moldova established in 1992 after the ban on the Soviet Communist Party.
The founding Congress of PSRM took place on June 29, 1997 in Chisinau. Veronica Abramciuc, a failed presidential candidate, at the time director of the National Relations Department and Eduard Smirnov, then deputy mayor of Chisinau, were elected co-chairpersons of the party. PSRM took part in the parliamentary elections of 1998 and 2001, local elections of 1999 and 2003 as well as 2002 Bashkan elections.
The 5th PSRM Congress of December 2004 added “Patria-Rodina” to its name, only to drop it in 2011, and set the party’s agenda for the parliamentary elections of March 2005, in which the party formed an electoral block with the Socialist Party and, thanks to a number of independent Gagauz candidates on the ticket, it received a staggering 51% of the vote in Gagauzia, yet just under 5% nation wide – not enough to pass the 9% threshold. With the new name, PSMPR ran in the 2005 parliamentary elections and the mayoral election in Chisinau as well as local elections of 2007. PSMPR skipped the three parliamentary elections of 2009-2010, supporting PCRM instead. Yet, in the 2011 local elections the party no longer supported PCRM, but ran independently, though with little success.
On November 4, 2011 Igor Dodon, together with Veronica Abramciuc and Zinaida Greceanii, defected from the Party of Communists and on November 9 declared the intention to join the Party of Socialists, after refusing several offers to lead other political projects, including those of Victor Stepaniuc and Mihail Formuzal. On November 18 the three defectors formed the Socialist parliamentary group. On November 23, Igor Dodon formally joined PSRM and on December 18, during the 10th PSRM Congress, he was elected party president, replacing Veronica Ambramciuc, who became honorary president. Ion Ceban, another Communist defector, later joined the Socialists as well.
Under Dodon’s leadership, Socialists grew exponentially from a virtually unknown party to a leading political force, with the largest faction of 25 seats in parliament. Apart from decisively contributing to the election of Nicolae Timofti as president, during the first months of 2012 the party also promoted a number of controversial issues, including banning unionist demonstrations, federalization of Moldova, taking out ‘sexual orientation’ from the anti-discrimination bill and a referendum on changing the national flag to the historic flag of Stephen the Great – most revered medieval ruler of Moldova.
Initially, PSRM embarked on a populist quest to build an identity separate, but similar to that of the Communists, in a struggle for the vast PCRM electorat. Dodon seems to have shaken off the albatross hanging around his neck following allegations that he was bribed into voting for Timofti. Talk about much of his party money coming from Moscow seems to have had no negative impact on his political fortune either.
PSRM is still in the process of party building. It has welcomed many defectors from PCRM, albeit mostly rank and file members, despite Dodon’s repeated predictions of a massive defection of Communist MPs. Even though the meteoric rise of the Socialists was largely a result of PCRM’s own internal dysfunctions as well as generous and open Russian backing, Dodon managed to establish himself as a credible leader and build an effective organization by using old communist tricks of dividing the electorate along ethnic fault lines, all while showcasing Kremlin’s backing as a badge of honor. Following parliamentary elections of November 2014, which propelled Dodon to national provenience, he is most likely set to win the Chisinau mayoral race this summer and solidify his position as key player on the national political stage.
The youth wing of the party is called the Young Guard and, so far, it acts more like a group of social organizers or an NGO. They are still making a name for themselves by organizing sports and social events for youth as well as doing charity work. However, it has also staged numerous anti-government protests. Head of the youth organisation is Marina Radvan, newly elected member of Parliament.
Note: The Young Guard (Russian: Молодая гвардия, translit. Molodaya gvardiya) was an underground anti-fascist Komsomol organization, in the German-occupied Soviet city of Krasnodon (Ukraine). They were active during the Great Patriotic War until January 1943. They carried out several acts of sabotage and protest before being betrayed to the Germans. Most members of the Young Guard, about 80 people, were tortured and then executed by the Germans. It is also the name of the current youth wing of the ruling United Russia Party – the main political force in Russia led by Vladimir Putin.