Morning in Moldova

Morning in MoldovaMorning in Moldova


Despre politica moldoveneasca in limba Engleza.
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The Monkeys in the Middle
Moldova's voters must be feeling a deep sense of betrayal.  They voted for a continuation of the European integration project and in return have ended up with a cabal of three parties - PCRM, PD and PLDM - dedicated to self enrichment.These three parties kept the Liberals out of government, and then expect the liberals to support the government proposed.  They made sure that the prosecutor general remained under political influence, thus ensuring that none of their corrupt leaders should ever be troubled by the court system.  They have continued to retransmit vile Russian propaganda about the war with Ukraine through media outlets they themselves control.  And now they have ensured the elimination from power of Iurie Leanca, the best prime minister Moldova has had in its short post-communist history.I could bury my head in my hands and weep at this awful turn of events, but that would be defeatist.Instead, maybe, just maybe, there is an opportunity to turn this thing around.  What we now have in Moldova is a situation in which the political spectrum is re-defining themselves.  On the left we have Dodon and his rabid socialists (+Usatii and his mob), determined to represent Russia rather than their constituents.  They're bad news, but at least you know where they're coming from.  On the right we have Ghimpu and the liberals, who, notwithstanding their idiosyncrasies, have kept the faith and done everything inn their power to keep Moldova on its European course.It's the middle that's the problem, populated with self serving monkeys like Voronin, Plahotniuc, Diacov and Filat.  These folks aren't pro-Russian or pro-European, they're just pro-themselves.  Together they represent a bigger threat to Moldova's aspirations than even the ignorant hordes of Dodon and Usatii.  A plan needs to be developed to eliminate them from political power, or at least to massively diminish their influence.Here's the plan:Leanca should form a new centrist party, going after the votes of the PD and the PLDM.  If he can take 5-6 PLDM MPs with him, he and the Liberals together can force a fresh election by refusing to support any government proposed by the middle.Ghimpu should kick himself upstairs as 'honorary leader', allowing Chirtoaca to win a few more seats for the Liberals in the snap election.Europe should come to the party, using her influence to overcome the spin on the middle's TV channels.  Indicting Plahotniuc over some of his commercial schemes (many of which have European elements) would be a start.  Auditing the use of EU funds would also be a good idea.  Euopean political parties should fund the campaigns of the Liberals and Leanca's new party.  etc. etc.Perhaps under these conditions Moldova's pro-European electorate could swing behind the Liberals and Leanca, allowing Moldova to clean up her act (judicially speaking) and resume her European course? 
Carrot and Stick
Good can yet come of the downing of MH17.  The deaths of 298 people at the hands of Russian-commanded, financed and armed terrorists do not have to be in vain.  In order for this to happen, the leaders of the West, and in particular Europe, need to rise above their usual approach of muddling through and show some true leadership for once.The missile attack has brought home to the world the fact that Putin is not just Eastern Europe's problem (and who cares about them anyway...).  In fact, he presents a threat to all nations.  As well as the threat to civilian aircraft, he also has his sights on territorial expansion to, and perhaps across, NATO borders to the west.  He has been and is corrupting Western European politicians, to the point where it is unclear where the foreign policy of certain Western European capitals is being written.Russia is on the back foot now, however.  She can no longer claim that the "separatists" (actually GRU-commanded militia) are somehow independent from her or are acting to "defend their families" .  The focus of the World is once again on Eastern Ukraine.There's a big chance here for the West.  By offering Putin a graceful way out, the West could secure a cleaning-up of the map of Europe, with the massive security benefits that will accrue from it.  By "cleaning up" I mean the removal of Russian forces & proxies not only from the Donbass, but also from other European territories illegally occupied by Russia - Crimea, Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.A "carrot" needs to be devised which Putin could show to his people as some form of success and to cover the losses of these forward military positions.  Elements of this carrot could includeThe insertion of international peacekeepers to replace departing Russian troops and provide any protection the local population may think it needs.Providing a form of autonomy (including language rights) to the implicated regions (NB without giving the regions a veto over national political issues)Bringing Russia back into the G8 and other international bodiesA promise to allow visa free entry to Europe once technical requirements had been met.The possibility of a free trade deal with the EUetc.Given the domestic political situation in Russia, however, such a carrot on its own may be insufficient to move Putin off his current belligerent course.  He needs to understand that there is a very big stick out there which will be used if he doesn't quickly withdraw all Russian forces to behind Russia's internationally accepted borders.  The stick could include elements such asRapid NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine, including the deployment of significant forces on their territories.Tough sectoral sanctions which would put the Russian economy into a depression.Publication of Putin's assets held around the world (this measure alone could lead to the Russian population rising up against him, once they realise how much he has stolen)Squeezing Transnistria out of existence (with political will this is possible)In order to seize this historic opportunity we need, however, to see real leadership, a quality that is in deparate short supply among modern politicians.  Where is the Churchill, the Lincoln or the Mandela of our time?  Is Euromuddle all that we have to rely on?  Will we leave Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as the only voice seriously holding the Russians to account?Who will stand up for Europe and seize the opportunity this day presents?
Everything but
So what should the West do about Russia's invasion of Ukraine?It's clear that direct military intervention would be very dangerous, given that Russia is armed to the teeth and has nukes.  That doesn't mean, however, that the West should sit on its hands, as it did with respect to Georgia in 2008.  In Vladimir Putin the world faces an acute threat to its security.  He must be humiliated sufficiently that his own people decide to get rid of him.Here's some things that should be done:1.  NATO troops should secure the hinterland of Ukraine, allowing the Ukrainian Army to deploy on the front line.  NATO airpower should be moved from Afghanistan to the Black Sea.  This will dissuade Moscow from further adventures (e.g. trying to create enclaves in the East or around Odessa).2.  With NATO troops in place, Transnistria should be squeezed out of existence (e.g. by sealing the border).  This will eliminate the threat to Ukraine's back.3.  Stiff sanctions should be placed on Russia.  These should target the leadership (e.g. through travel bans and banking restrictions).  They should also target Russia's oil and gas exports and inwards investment.  Russia needs to be starved of the wherewithal to keep its military machine running.  I appreciate that this will hurt the Russian people, but I don't see an alternative.4.  Russian propaganda broadcasts need to be blocked in the Black Sea region.  I know that sounds like clamping down on free speech, however we are in an emergency situation here, and it is important that citizens aren't fed a diet of lies and mis-information.5.  Russian membership in international organisations (WTO, G8 etc.) should be suspended where there are grounds to do this (e.g. WTO suspension is likely justified by Russia's frequent politicised bans on its neighbours' produce)6.  FIFA should move the 2018 world cup to another host.  If they fail to do this, democratic nations should boycott it and organise an alternative tournament elsewhere.  Putin should not preside over another major international sporting event.7.  Efforts to diversify energy sources in Europe (e.g. renewables, shale, pipelines from the Caspian & North Africa) should be redoubled.If you have other ideas, please enter them as comments.
Security Guarantees Given to Ukraine
As part of a deal for Ukraine to relinquish the nuclear weapons it had inherited from the Soviet Union, certain security guarantees were given to Ukraine under the 5 December 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances.  According to Wikipedia:Russia, the UK and the USA undertake to respect Ukraine's borders in accordance with the principles of the 1975 CSCE Final Act, to abstain from the use or threat of force against Ukraine, to support Ukraine where an attempt is made to place pressure on it by economic coercion, and to bring any incident of aggression by a nuclear power before the UN Security Council.Following recent events in Ukraine and more specifically in the Crimea,  the UK and the USA are now obliged to bring Russia's threats of force, economic coercion and incidents of aggression to the UN Security Council.
A guide for Russian commentators on Euromaidan.
This is a nazi:

This is a terrorist:

These are Euromaidan protesters:

Hopefully now you'll be able to tell the difference.
Stopping Putin
It's got to stop.In Georgia he invaded on a flimsy pretext and attacked a constitutional, democratic government, grabbing territory and installing massive, menacing military capability in Abkhazia & South Ossetia.In the north Caucasus he props up the nasty little regime of Ramzan Kadyrov and has foreigners skiing on the graves of Circassians killed in a 19th century genocide.He is trying to destabilise Moldova and derail its European accession plans by generating discontent among the Gagauz, by having his Transnistrian puppet make mischief, and apparently by trying to bribe members of the pro-Europe governing coalition to switch sides.In Syria, he is arming and defending the regime of Bashar al-Assad, creating and feeding the bogeyman of Al-Qaeda to deflect the West from taking more decisive action against the mad and genocidal Syrian government.Now in Ukraine, he pays Yanushenko 2 billion euros, who then begins a bloody, Tienanmen-style crackdown on the pro-civilisation protesters in the Maidan, possibly initiating a civil war that will have terrible consequences for the region as a whole.The international community needs to realise (and quickly) that Russia has started a new cold war.  Unlike the first cold war, this one is not declared.  Unlike the first cold war, the West has few defences in place, having been lulled into a false sense of security.  Unlike the first cold war, there is no stale-mate along an iron curtain, but instead a series of creeping advances by Putin's forces (be they military, diplomatic or economic).The tendency of western leaders is to avoid conflict and seek peaceful, negotiated outcomes.  While laudable, that is what Putin is counting on.  Take a mile, then surrender a few inches to appease international opinion.  Then take another mile, cede a few inches.  Then repeat, again and again.Putin needs to be stopped.  He needs to be publicly humiliated so that the Russian people will see him for what he is.  Losing Ukraine to the civilised World would do the trick, I think.
The sun breaks through
After 2 years of messing around, can it be that common sense is about to enter stage left?  Can we dare to hope for an outcome to Moldova's interminable presidential selection process that would be good for her people rather than her politicians?The source of my (extremely guarded and cautious) optimism is the self-nomination for the post of President of the political analyst Oazu Nantoi.Nantoi is perhaps the only true centre-left politician in the country.  Unlike the "communists", "socialists", "social democrats" and others who fly the red flag, he doesn't use social-democracy to advance his own economic interests, nor to entrench Russia's position in the region.  His concern is for the people of Moldova, and their interests.I am not a social democrat.  I must, however recognise that a majority of Moldovans are left-of centre and hence it would be appropriate for the President to be representative of them.  Nantoi, in this context, is perfect - he is a man who positions himself bang in the middle of the economic views of his countrymen.The President also needs to be well-versed in foreign and security policy.  As the commander-in-chief he or she must lead the defence and promotion of Moldova's borders and its national interests.  Here again Oazu Nantoi ticks the boxes.  An expert on the Transnistrian conflict (and possessing very specific plans for its resolution), Nantoi harbours no illusions about the malevolent activities of the Russian Federation on Moldovan territory.  Neither, however, does he countenance the idea of reintegration with Romania.  He is the ultimate protector of the Moldovan state.On hearing of Nantoi's candidacy, the Communists quickly made a counter proposal of Leonid Talmaci, a former Central Bank Governor.  This (presumably on Moscow's orders) was equally quickly supported by Dodon's Socialists.Talmaci, however doesn't tick the boxes.  He may well be a solid professional in the finance domain.  He is not, however, a leader of national stature, and is too close to the Communists to be a President of all Moldovans.  He would be manipulable.Nantoi, however, has the potential to be a game-changing President for the Republic of Moldova.  Some Media outlets have already compared him to the late Czech leader, Vaclav Havel, a man who led his country out of the backwardness of communism and into European democracy.  Let's hope Moldova's deputies have the common sense to choose the same course, for all our sakes.
A Royal Proposition
What two things do the following countries have in common?Denmark, Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, JapanFirstly, they are some of the world's leading liberal democracies.  Economically strong, they offer their citizens opportunities which people from many other countries can only dream of.Secondly, they are all constitutional monarchies.  Their head of state is a hereditary royal who for the most part has a symbolic role (real power resting with the parliament and the government), but who also has just enough in the way of 'reserve powers' to keep the politicians honest.The countries in the list above fall into two broad classes:  There are the 'kingdoms' - the Scandinavian countries, the UK and Japan - where the monarch is actually based in the country concerned.  The other class is the 'dominions' - Canada, Australia & New Zealand - whose head of state (Queen Elizabeth II) is not resident and who exercises her function through a Governor General.At this point I need to confess to being a (constitutional) monarchist.  Not because I believe that any person has a divine right to rule, simply because one of their distant ancestors had a bigger club than the other men in the village.  Not because I'm a fan of stuffiness and formality.  Not because I want to live in a fairytale world of princes, princesses, dragons and castles.No.  I'm a constitutional monarchist for one very simple reason.  It works.Constitutional monarchy delivers better results for citizens by separating the head of state from the political process.  Because the monarch doesn't have to seek re-election every four years, they are able to take a much longer-term view of events in the nation, and one which is more independent of the events of the day.  The reserve powers that they possess are insufficient to allow them to exercise power in their own name, but scary enough to keep elected politicians from usurping power.So what are these reserve powers I keep mentioning?  Some of them are 'hard powers' such as the right to dissolve parliament in certain circumstances.  For example, in 1974, Australia's Governor General dissolved parliament when it became evident that it was incapable of passing a budget.  Just as important are the Monarch's soft powers, for example the bully-pulpit through which a modicum of moral leadership can be exercised.  An example of this would be the speeches of encouragement of King George V to his people during World War II.Where am I going with this?  Look at Moldova's history as an independent state.  There have been many failed attempts to elect a president.  Of the three successful attempts, at least two resulted in the election of men more concerned with amassing fortunes than with the well-being of citizens.  The country has spent the last two years in continual constitutional limbo.  In short, the Moldovan Republic is dysfunctional.Maybe it's time to give constitutional monarchy a shot?  Here's how I would do it:Re-write the section of the constitution dealing with the Presidency such that it now deals with the Monarchy.  The monarchy would be passed from one generation to another by non-sexist primogeniture.Limit the 'hard' reserve powers of the monarchy to dissolution of parliament in certain extreme cases (e.g. impossibility to form a government, impossibility to pass a budget, gross breaches of the constitution)Modify the process of forming a government such that the monarch doesn't have the power to sack a government approved by parliament (this is a serious problem with the current constitution)Write a provision into the constitution requiring a referendum every twenty years in which the population will be asked whether they want to retain the monarchy.  This keep the monarchy ultimately accountable to the people (without overly politicising it).Keep them humble by offering relatively modest accommodation (e.g. the current presidential quarters) and by limiting pomp and ceremony to levels appropriate for a small and relatively poor country.  The "bicycling" monarchies of northern Europe should be the model in this regard.The final question is, of course, where to find a monarch?  There seem to be three options:Dig back into the distant past of the principality of Moldova and try to find a legitimate heir to the 'domnitori' of old.  While fraught with dangers, this option is the most likely to find favour with the rusophone left.Do what Romania did in the 19th century and invite a foreigner to take the throne.  The best option in this case would be a member of one of the existing constitutional monarchies, as they would have a good understanding of how the institution functions.  There could be collateral security and trade benefits if Moldova was linked by blood to, say, the British monarchy.The most obvious solution, however, is to (re)instate Romania's royal family.  They do, after all, have a legitimate claim to be the head of state on the territory of the Republic of Moldova, having been illegally dispossessed by Stalin's 1940 occupation of Basarabia.The Rusophone left would obviously have issues with the final option, however in my mind they could be talked around.  First of all, the establishment of a monarchy would give a powerful boost to the development of a true, modern Moldovan identity, separate from the historic Romanian & Soviet identities.  Secondly, the reinstatement of the Romanian monarchy within constitutional arrangements inherited from the Soviet Union could be a powerful symbol of the two sides of Moldovan society coming back together.  Thirdly, were the monarch to be proactive in engaging the rusophone community (e.g. by learning their language), this could also go a long way towards diffusing opposition.  (The image comes to mind of Nelson Mandela bridging the gap between black and white in South Africa simply by wearing a Springbok rugby jersey...)So.  Long live the (humble, constitutional, conciliatory, democratic, bicycling, almost-but-not-quite powerless) king!
#occupythis
Scenes of protest by predominantly young people in the developed world continue to cross our television screens.  The causes are mixed and the aims are varied, but there is a common thread: a sense that the dream is over, and that this generation will be the first since the industrial revolution whose prospects in life will be worse than those of their parents.I don't buy a lot of the garbage that is being touted.  There is no alternative to capitalism, and communism, in particular, is as dead an end as it was when the Soviet Union fell apart.  On the other hand, I do believe that we should strive for a society in which all people are born with equality of opportunity, and our current version of capitalism is patently not delivering on that.One of the themes of the #occupy movement is that they represent the 99% of [insert your nationality here] that the system does not seem to be working for.  I'm not going to go into the statistics here, but it is evident that in many countries the gap between rich and poor has been widening, that median incomes are struggling to keep pace with inflation and that most of the rewards from economic growth go to the top 1%.Why is that?  Are the top 1% that much smarter, more innovative or harder-working than the rest of us?  I'm sure that, for a few individuals, this may in fact be the case.  For the majority of the 1 percenters, however, I think there's another factor at play.That factor is the self-perpetuating management elite.  These are the folks who are in control of our 'corporate capitalist' model.  It should be the shareholders, but due to weaknesses in company law, it's not.  The elite grant themselves high salaries, share options, golden handcuffs, golden parachutes and all kinds of other goodies.  These are justified by 'the need to retain top talent'.The elite perpetuates itself through defensive measures (e.g. sitting on each other's boards, using wealth to reinforce positions) and generationally (by sending the kids to the best schools and then placing them in positions from which they will have privileged access to senior management positions later in their careers).The problem with this system is that it robs the 99% of opportunity, which is, I believe, what the protests are really about.Here's my proposal.  Tax income over $300,000 per annum at 70% and income over $500,000 at 100%.  Basically don't let anyone earn more than $500,000 a year.  I contend thatThe 'retention of talent' argument is a falsehood.  I believe that in any corporation you can find someone earning a few hundred thousand who is just as capable of running the outfit as the colossally overpaid incumbent.  It will be cheaper for the company and the boss will once again be part of the team rather than some omnipotent, omniscient but invisible God-like creature.Placing an income cap on top management will force them to seek self-realisation in ways other than building their bank accounts.  This will express itself in scientific, cultural, artistic and other forms of achievement, which will have a positive effect for society as a whole.Anybody who says they can't live on $500,000 has issues.  On that sort of income you can live in a very nice house, fly first class, keep a yacht etc.  There is absolutely no need to earn more.Most importantly, the income cap will undermine the self-perpetuation of the elite, in part by attacking the obscene wealth that keeps it in power, in part by bringing the 1% and the 99% closer together, not just financially but in terms of lifestyle and opportunity as well.Some will be shocked at this proposal.  It appears to be a socialist-inspired 'soak the rich' approach, far from what a self-professed liberal as myself should be proposing.If the higher tax rates were to kick in at, say, $100,000, this criticism would probably be fair.  Innovation and hard work would be seriously discouraged and we would end up in a utopian society where we were all equally poor (think Minsk).  With threshold levels of $300,000 and $500,000, there is still plenty of room for initiative and for fulfilling the [enter your nationality] dream.At least for the 99%.
The growth dogma
As we all know, the rich world has a debt problem. It's been living beyond its means for some time now, a situation exposed in so many ways by the 2008 financial crisis. Governmment finances in particular are in disarray, as they have been forced to bail out their banks, are receiving less in tax and paying more in benefits. Without drastic action, government blance sheets can only deteriorate further as demographic change (primarily aging populations).The obvious solution is to- cut Government spending, as some countries have done. Economists and capital markets, however, fret that spending cuts are contractionary and will increase debt-to-GDP ratios by shrinking economies. In general, they are looking for short-term measures to boost growth, arguing that a larger economy is better able to support its debt.Prima facie, the economists are right. This view encompasses some dangerous thinking, however.Firstly, it rests on the idea that economies can continue to grow indefinitely, and that there is no limit to the size of a country's GDP. That's a fallacy. The Earth has limited resources (some of which are in the process of being exhausted) and that necessarily puts a cap on average living standards. It is ultimately a zero sum game (at least in respect of primary and secondary output).Secondly, countries are running into productivity limits. If your enterprises already employ the best and most efficient practices, then there is no way you can make your labour and capital inputs more productive. This is the situation many western economies find themselves in and explains why developing economies tend to grow faster than developed ones.Thirdly, the targeting of GDP growth by governments is undemocratic. The 'rewards of growth may go to only a small section of the population. The current recovery, for example, is mainly focused on growth in corporate profits; unemployment levels grew rapidly during the recession, and now seem stuck at permanently higher levels. The GDP measure is not directly concerned with the aspirations of the people to have a well-paid & interesting job, access to quality education & healthcare etc. These aspirations are what governments should be focussing on and measuring themselves against.Fourthly, the targeting of growth can lead to some poor policy decisions. Possibly the prime example of this was the debt-fuelled phoney growth of the recent past. So long as governments can borrow and central banks can print money, the generation of phoney, short-term growth remains an option, even if it exacerbates balance sheet weakness or undermines the currency.The answer I think, is for Governments to measure themselves against targets that really matter to voters. The UN's human development index (HDI), though far from perfect, may be the best current example of a single- figure measure that could be adopted. As well as pure economic elements, it includes items such as the literacy rate, numbers of doctors per capita, respect for human rights etc.It may be best to consider GDP not so much as a measure of an economy's success, but rather (in part at least) as a measure of a country's annual call on the earth's resources. The goal of good government would then be the maximisation of its HDI subject to the constraint of maintaining or even reducing GDP.It can be done, but it will require policy prescriptions very different from those designed to produce short-term reflation. I have some idea what those policy prescriptions should look like, but I think I'll address those in another post. It suffices to say that moving away from GDP targeting will welp the West move away from an economic model based on importing and consuming and towards one based on things of more fundamental importance. This, in turn, will allow the mountains of debt, both public and private, to begin to be reduced.
Reset, or just good old-fashioned appeasement?
There's been quite a lot of comment in the international press recently about the efficacy or otherwise of the Obama administration's "reset" of relations with Russia.Fans of the reset claim the following gains for the US:1.  A Russian abstention from a UN security council resolution authorising sanctions against Iran for continuing its nuclear weapons program.2.  The right of passage through Russia for NATO personnel & equipment headed for Afghanistan.3.  A treaty reducing the number of nuclear weapons held by the two countries.Let's take each of these in turn.1.  The sanctions on Iran have proved to be ineffective and the nuclear weapons programme is proceeding unabated.  Russia continues to support the Iranians to the fullest extent it can.  No gain to the US.2.  NATO success in Afghanistan is as important to Russia as it is  to the US.  Afghanistan is a major source of drugs flowing into Russia and its fall to the Taliban would generate Muslim insurgencies in Central Asia and in possibly Russia itself.  It's in Russia's interests to cooperate and this should not be seen as a "win" for the US.3.  Russia needed to reduce the number of nuclear weapons it was maintaining, as many of them were old, insecure and would have required a substantial investment to upgrade.  Furthermore, by moving down to equal numbers of weapons on bothe sides, Russia will gain in a relative sense, as the US currently has superiority.  No US win here either.In summary, US gains form the reset are, well, zero.Russian gains, on the other hand, are substantial:A. The US has turned a blind eye to Russia's gross abuses in Georgia.  These are too numerous to go into here.B.  The US has imposed an informal arms embargo on Georgia.C.  NATO has backtracked on membership plans for Georgia and Ukraine.D.  The US is championing Russia's entry into the World Trade OrganisationE.  The Administration is attempting to thwart the passage of the Magnitsky Act.F.  The achievement of parity in nuclear weapons capabilities, as noted above.Now don't get me wrong; there are some good things about the reset.  It's a good thing for nations to talk with, rather than yell at, each other.  The concept of trying to make progress on issues where progress is possible is useful, as is, in some cases, the idea of de-linking certain topics from others.All that notwithstanding, there is a major problem with how the reset has unfolded. It is that the US has been comprehensively out-negotiated by Russia.
Some more equal
Moldova's constitution demands equal treatment for all citizens.  Moldovan law, however, segregates citizens into two differnt groups, and gives one group an additional right compared to the other group.Those who became citizens by birth in Moldova, or by the fact of their residence in the country at independence, have the right to hold the citizenships of other countries as well as Moldova.On the other hand, those who become Moldovan citizens by naturalisation are required to give up all other citizenships.This differential treatment of citizens is unfair and unconstitutional.  Parliament should act to make the rules on multiple citizenship the same for all.
June 22nd
June 22nd 1941 was a very special day for two reasons:It marked the entry of the Soviet Union into the war against Germany, andIt market the liberation of Basarabia from Soviet occupationIt was interesting to read the various blog posts about the day.  On the one hand, the pro-Romanians celebrated the famous order of Romanian conducator Ion Antonescu "Romanian soldiers, cross the Prut!" while deploring the deportations, famine and shootings effected by the Soviet occupiers.  On the other hand, the pro-Russians celebrated the glorious victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany, commemorated the millions who died and deplored the progroms organised by Antonescu against Jews and Rroma.It's a measure of the polarisation of Moldovan society that these positions are seemingly diametrically opposed and irreconcilable.  I, however, would like to prove that they are not.First of all, we need to accept that both sides are partially right.  It's right to celebrate the victory over fascism and it's right to celebrate Basarabia's liberation.  It's right to draw attention to human rights abuses on both the Soviet and Romanian sides.  It's right to remember those who died no matter whose uniform they were wearing.Second, we need to stop demonising historical figures and turning them into caricatures.  Antonescu, for example, has a complex legacy.  The setting up of the concentration camps in Transnistria and the extermination of 400,000 Jews and Roma is obviously a horrific stain on his reputation.  On the other hand, he was a gifted and courageous military figure who loved his country.  His dismantling of Romania's democracy and adherence to fascism was unforgivable, but was not out of step with the general mood of the times.  Similarly, when discussing Stalin, we need to think both of his barbarity and cruelty and of his achievements in building the Soviet economy and defeating HitlerThirdly, we need to fill in the historical blanks which are being selectively forgotten by the two sides.  On the pro-Romanian side this is fairly simple.  The pogroms need to be accepted as a black and putred spot on Romania's & Antonescu's reputation, and apologised for.  On the pro-Russian side, there is more work to be done as the official Russian version of history is more distorted:We need to recognise that the "Great Patriotic War" never existed.  It was a World War involving multiple nations, and Russia entered the war in September 1939 when it joined with Nazi Germany to partition Poland.We need to recognise that the Soviet Union had no legitimate claim to Basarabia, and that the June 28 1940 occupation was illegal.  This, in turn, gave Romania the right to recover the territory by military means, and to chase the aggressor all the way back to its capital, just as the Soviet Union did to Germany three years' later.The repression of the people of Basarabia by the Soviet Union needs to be recognised and apologised for.  The evidence (thousands of KGB files) is irrefutable.We cannot have reconciliation until we first have truth.
Benighted Botanica
It's the gateway to Chisinau, the first district you enter as you approach the city from the airport, from Tiraspol.  It's the largest and most populous sector of Chisinau, housing over 26% of the city's residents.  In Soviet times it was the place to be, a modern, go-ahead sort of place near to the fresh air and greenery of the Botanical Gardens after which it takes its name.In 2011 however, the sector of Botanica has another claim to notoriety - the highest proportion of Communist voters in Chisinau and one of the highest nationwide.  Consider the following results:Mayoral Vote, First Round, 5th June 2011Chisinau (Total):  Dodon 166,232 (48.07%), Chirtoaca 160,827 (46.51%)Sector Botanica:  Dodon  43,768 (58.53%), Chirtoaca 27,856 (37.25%)At first glance, it seems odd that residents on the leading sector of the most well-informed city in Moldova should continue voting for a party which has been so thoroughly discredited, which has stolen massively from the state's coffer's, abused its citizens human rights and which no thinking person should support.There are a couple of reasons, however, why the good folk of Botanica continue to turn out for the chardonnay socialists of the PCRM.  The first is history: Botanica was mostly built up during Soviet rule to house incoming migrants from Russia and other Soviet republics.  The population is therefore largely Rusophone; it's very noticeable how little Romanian you hear spoken on the street and in the shops in this part of Chisinau.  Rusophones obviously see the Rusophilic Dodon as representing their interests better than the almost-unionist Chirtoaca.The second reason is that Botanica is a district somewhat down on its luck.  Shops on the main street, Bd. Dacia, find it hard to turn a profit and hence turnover of retail tenants is high and space is frequently empty.  The fountains that once watered a gracious avenue have been silent for decades.  The population is aging rapidly and dependent on the miserly pensions they receive from the state.  And, stupidly, they in general prefer the propaganda of NIT to the information furnished by other TV channels.So what is to be done?  We need a better result out of Botanica in the second round on June 19th so that Chirtoaca can win a resounding victory and Moldova's pro-European course preserved.  Of course, there's no magic bullet, but here's a few ideas:Mount a "Switch off NIT" campaign.  One very significant matter that has been overlooked due to the contest in Chisinau is the fact that the communist vote outside of the cities is slowly collapsing (from around 40% at the elections in 2007 to around 30% in 2011).  One of the major reasons for this is that Moldova 1 (the countryside's main source of information) is no longer a propaganda channel for the communists.  Get people to switch off NIT, even for a week, and you'll see a noticeable improvement.Make the case that a pro-European course will be good even for Russian-speakers.  Many of these folk have serious misconceptions about NATO, the EU and Romania, having never had the opportunity to travel to the west.  These misconceptions need to be corrected, and quickly.  Russian speakers need to understand that EU entry will bring new opportunities, rising living standards and protection of legitimate minority rights.Offer a plan for the rejuvenation of Botanica.  Bring shops, restaurants and other businesses back to the district.  Fix the fountains and switch them on at least a few days a year.  Fill the worst potholes in the side roads.  Mount some free concerts for senior citizens, sponsored by the city or the AIE parties directly.Deliver of copy of the Cojocaru Commission's report on the postwar Soviet Occupation to each household.  People need to know the truth about the forebears of today's communists and the horrors they committed.  This could make them think twice about voting Dodon.The AIE parties need to show absolute unity and refrain from criticising each other until the election.  This may bring to the polls a group of AIE supporters who didn't vote in round one as a protest against the in-fighting within the ruling coalition. 
Democratic Federalism
Amidst the tension related to the Chisinau mayoral election, another important movement is taking place behind the scenes.  Germany and Russia are trying to organise a solution to the Transnistrian conflict.According to Vlad Socor, what they are proposing is a re-run of the Kozak memorandum.  Moldova would have a bi-cameral parliament, the upper chamber of which could be used by Russia (through their Transnistrian and Gagauz proxies) to block any legislation they didn't like and to slow, if not stop Moldova's process of integration into the European Union.  Transnistria would also have the right to secede should Moldova lose its statehood (i.e. reunify with Romania), and Russia's illegally disposed troops would be legitimised.Let's be clear.  The problem is not with federalism, which works well for Germany, Canada, Australia and even small countries like Switzerland.  The problem is the wierd and wacky form of federalism that Russia is trying to force on Moldova (and which Germany doesn't seem to fully understand).  My challenge to the Russians would be to implement this form of government in Russia first and see if it works:Allow Russian oblasts to secede if they see a threat to Russian statehood or democracy (bye-bye Kaliningrad, the North Caucasus and the Far East)Give Chechnya a veto over all decisions taken by the Duma or the Federation CouncilLet Turkey protect muslims in the North Caucasus by stationing its troops there.This form of federalism is clearly nonsense and must be rejected by the Moldovan state.  What might be worth trying, however, is to propose a democratic form of federalism which the Germans (and not only the Germans) would recognise and support.  This sort of federalism would be based on the following principles:The legitimate rights of minorities (e.g. to their own language and culture) would be respected.The legitimate right of the majority to rule their own country would also be respected.Moldova's neutrality would be de facto as well as de jure.Each region would have sufficient voting power to promote its interests.No region would have a veto in its own right.The right of secession would be available in the event of Moldova losing statehood.I'm not particularly fond of no. 6 (as it plays to an essentially racist romanophobia), but I can't see a solution being accepted without it.How would you build a federation based on these principles?The state should have multiple provinces, not just three (Transnistria, Gagauzia and the Rest).  As far as possible the populations of each province should be roughly equal, and there should be a geographical or cultural reason for the grouping.  Maybe a return to the old counties would be the way to go?Moldova should retain its unicameral system for reasons of cost and simplicity.  Each county should have three seats plus one seat for every 50,000 of population.  Gagauzia (popn 187,000) would get 7, Transnistria (popn 500,000) would get 13 while Chisinau (popn 700,000) would get 17.Half the seats in each county would be electorate-based, with the other half coming from party lists to ensure proportionality (i.e. German style MMP).As well as being its representatives in the national parliament, a county's deputies would also form the ruling council for the county.  Motions would normally be passed by a simple majority of members, however any motion which is not supported by a majority of the deputies from at least half of the counties would be vetoed.Russian troops would be obliged to leave Transnistria, in recognition of the fact that the population of Transnistria is under no threat, and in accordance with Moldova's constitutional neutrality.Counties would have the right to secede if and only if Moldova loses statehood or falls into dictatorship.Moldova would have a single national language (Romanian), but each county could choose a second official language.  Many counties would choose Russian, but some could go with Ukrainian and Gagauzia should of course promote its own language.Now that's a system which the Germans would be very comfortable with, and which the Russians would find it hard to argue against.  Moldova should stop being led by the nose and instead propose its own creative and just solutions to the Transnistrian impasse. 
Let my people go!
Article 13(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states thatEveryone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.During the cold war this article was breached regularly by Warsaw Pact countries, the symbol of which was the Berlin Wall, constructed to stop the people of East Germany from escaping to freedom.  Even in our day, some countries deny their residents the right to leave.  You're probably thinking of the likes of North Korea, Cuba etc.  Unfortunately Moldova is also in the list of those who are serial breachers of the right to leave.I'm not talking about citizens, who have the right to come and go as they please.  I'm talking about Moldova's permanent residents - citizens of other countries who have made their home in Moldova.  They're not a big group and hence they don't have much of a voice, which is why I am choosing to raise this issue on their behalf.Permanent residents are subject to annex no. 2 of Government decision 376 of 6 June 1995.  Point 11 of the annex requires people in this category to obtain an 'entry-exit visa' in order to leave the country.  In other words, the Moldovan Government gets to decide whether or not a permanent resident can leave the country. This is a clear breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as quoted above (and note that Article 4 (2) of Moldova's constitution says that the UDHR takes precedence over national law).Some will of course say that entry-exit visas are required to control crime.  What if a permanent resident committed a crime and he/she was able to leave the country?  This argument is, of course, a nonsense, as judges and border guards have the power to issue injunctions to stop suspects crossing borders whether or not they have visas, and regardless of their status relative to the Moldovan state (citizens, residents or visitors).Entry-exit visas serve no useful purpose.  They are a relic of the old Soviet control mentality and a breach of fundamental human rights.  They must go, and soon.By the way, as well as removing the visa requirement, there are a couple of other oddities in this order that need to be addressed:There is currently no mechanism by which a permanent resident can renounce their status.  Sometimes people who are resident emigrate, and they need to be able to cancel their residence with a minimum of fuss.In a normal country, the authorities wouldn't batt an eyelid at the expiry of a permit.  It would simply be taken as an implicit request by the holder to discontinue their residence.  In Moldova, however, a resident who doesn't renew his/her permit commits an offence under the law, and that's stupid.The good news is that decisions of Government such as this one can be replaced / updated very easily, without having to go through a parliamentary process.  There is therefore no excuse for leaving Decision 376 of 6.6.1995 unamended.
All tied up in ribbons
The St. George Ribbon is a piece of orange and black tape, sometimes accompanied by a rosette which has a hammer and sickle at the centre, circled by the words "Patriotic War", written in Russian.  It celebrates the Soviet Union's victory over fascism in the great patriotic war of 1941-45.  All well and good, except that 1.  The St. George ribbon was actually a symbol of Tarist Russia, and has nothing to do with the war.2.  The inclusion of the hammer and sickle is deeply offensive to those whose families suffered at the hands of Soviet Communists in the late 1940s and after.3.  It wasn't a patriotic war.  It wasn't all about Russia and it wasn't all about the Soviet Union.  Many nations were involved, fighting on many fronts (inlcuding the Atlantic, the Pacific, North Africa, East Asia, Western Europe & Eastern Europe).  And the Soviet Union arrived late, having initially been allied with Nazi Germany.4.  For Eastern Europeans, the end of the war didn't mean the end of oppression.  Communism took the place of fascism, and the outcomes were equally bad.It's clear that we need a new Second World War narrative, one around which all Moldovans can unite.  I suggest a focus on two ideas:  (1) celebration of the defeat of the axis powers by allied forces (i.e. not just by the Soviet Union) , and (2) commemoration of the sacrifice of all who fell serving their countries.We also need a new symbol.  I propose a red and blue ribbon.  Why?  Because1.  These colours can be found in the national flags of most of the allied countries (US, UK, Russia, France, Australia etc.), as well as in the flags of Moldova and Romania.2.  The colours are also representative of the capitalist and communist worlds that came together to defeat Nazism.3.  Furthermore, red can be taken to represent the blood spilled by those who fought, while blue could represent the nobility of the individuals who made the highest sacrifice.There could also be a rosette if necessary.  This could simply say "Remembering those who fell in the service of their country".  This is a message that all can adhere to, and which doesn't carry any nasty imperialist undertones.It won't be easy to introduce this approach, as the orange and black is already quite entrenched.  With strong support from Government, however, it should be possible to promote a way of commemorating the war which is faithful to historical truth and unites most, if not all, of the disparate strands of Moldovan society
McCainescu-Feingoldciuc
You may be wondering why I haven't written a post for several months.  In part, it was due to being very busy doing other things, but in part it was also due to my disappointment at realising that all of Moldova's parliamentary parties had become hostages to business interests.  I don't understand or necessarily agree with Mihai Godea's reasons for leaving the PLDM, but he hit the nail on the head when he said that Moldova's economy was being run by the three Vlads - Voronin, Filat and Plahotniuc.There are four parties in parliament, and it has long been apparent that three of them were representing business interests rather than the people who voted for them.  The last straw, however, came when the Liberal Party (my 'last great hope') turned out to also be financed by Plahotniuc and was turning a blind eye to the excessive concentration of media assets in his hands.The problem with this is that the three Vlads effectively get a lot more votes than Mrs Popa in Apartment 27.  They use their money to influence (manipulate?) citizens into casting their votes in the appropriate direction, rather than allowing voters to develop their own opinions based on quality information.  This isn't right, as the Moldovan constitution protects the right to an equal vote. If parties are in-hoc to someone for finance, they do not have the freedom to promote the policies that emanate from their core values, and which are designed to serve all the people of Moldova.  Instead, they must serve the interests of the money which got them into parliament (or local councils, as the case may be).As in many other countries there is an urgent need to restore power to the people by breaking the dependency of political parties on the sponsorship of corporations and wealthy individuals. I'm not so naive that I think the link can be broken completely, however that's no excuse for not trying.Parties incur their major costs during election campaigns, and most of this expense relates to the purchase of publicity.  This is where the focus should beSome ideas that need to be considered:1.  Ban all forms of publicity which treat subjects superficially.  This would include posters, television sound-bites, radio jingles, flyers with little content, television commercials shorter than, say, five minutes.  As well as increasing the quality of debate, this would also reduce campaign costs.2.  Ban all contributions from corporate entities, and limit the amount that individuals are allowed to contribute to a sum that is reasonable for someone on a middle income.  Police this rule, and don't let companies and rich folks channel contributions through individuals.3.  Provide financing to political parties out of the state budget.  In a sense this is a terrible idea (why give my hard-earned taxes to those rascals?), however it should be looked on as being the cost of maintaining a healthy(ish) political system.  Parliamentary parties would receive a certain fixed amount, regardless of the number of seats they hold, in order to promote pluralism.  Extra-parliamentary parties and individuals would receive lower amounts.  All expenditure would be thoroughly audited.PS:  Other ideas welcome.
From the Ridiculous to the Sublime
One of the reasons I am fascinated by Eastern Europe, and Moldova in particular is that the machinations of the institutions of state, which are normally used to grind down the citizenry, occasionally and involuntarily throw out decisions which, though absurd, work to the benefit of the ordinary person.One such decision came out of the Constitutional Court yesterday.  The Communist Party had taken a case to the Court asking it to set a definite term within which a new President must be elected.  In this way, the Communists were seeking to limit the possibility of two rogue deputies supporting the election of AIE candidate Marian Lupu.  The aim of the Communists was to force new elections where they figured they could win back some seats.  Such new elections would of course cost money, prolong Moldova's instability, deter investment and defer plans for European integration.As you know, I'm not a great fan of the Constitutional Court.  Many of their decisions have little to do with the text of the constitution and seem to have been designed to keep the communists in power.  That said, yesterday's decision was brilliant.When I read the headline for the first time, it seemed like a cop-out - "the court is not able to rule on this matter, which is within the jurisdiction of Parliament".   The funny thing is, this time they're right.  Article 90 of the constitution says that presidential elections have to take place within two months of the position becoming vacant.  What the court ruled yesterday is that the transfer of the interim presidency from Ghimpu to Lupu did not constitute a "vacancy".  There are two reasons for this.  Firstly, another article in the constitution describes the circumstances in which the function can become vacant, and election of a new speaker of parliament is not one of them.  Furthermore, Ghimpu did not occupy the office of President; he merely fulfilled its functions.The bottom line is that we have reached a point in Moldova's constitutional processes where the constitution no longer covers the situation it has created.  There are no instructions on when the next presidential election should be held, and (without constitutional or legislative change) there never will be.  Likewise, there is no imperative to dissolve Parliament, as the only reason for dissolving Parliament is a failed presidential election (which now doesn't need to be held).That means that the current parliament can continue intact for its intended four year term, and Marian Lupu (or whoever else Parliament decides to elect as speaker) can be interim president throughout the four year term.  Even after elections in 2014, there still won't be any need to elect a new President.  There will just be a new parliament, a new speaker and a new interim President, but the latest "vacancy" will still be Voronin's resignation in 2009.  In theory then, yesterday's decision may have effectively abolished the Presidency.  It's now just something the speaker does in his or her spare time.The holes in the constitution appear to have left the country in a pretty ridiculous situation, yet the outcome is sublime.  By taking this case to the Constitutional Court, the Communists have made a monumental mistake.  Had they left things ambiguous, the Alliance might have been sufficiently worried that they would have played safe and held the Presidential election within the two month period that the Communists wanted.  The PCRM would have got its election and may even have performed quite well off the back of price rises and AIE-voter apathy.Now, however, the AIE can govern peacefully for four years, electing a President (or not) at a time of their choosing and in the manner they choose.  If the opposition don't want to play ball and either (a) delegate two deputies or (b) amend the constitution in parliament, it's not a problem - the governing alliance just won't hold an election.Stability has descended on Moldova, and, in a sense, the constitutional crisis is over.  The country is now open for business and can sail full steam ahead for Europe.  All we need is for the AIE to hang together, focus on the needs of the population and try not to steal too much. 
On cooperation and friendship
To a western mind, co-operation entails working closely together towards a common goal in a win-win relationship.In the post-soviet space, however, co-operation can mean something very different, i.e. an unwitting, almost un-noticeable transfer of resources from one party to another.  The resource doesn't have to be money, it could be property, brands, image or a negotiating position.  Whatever, one party normally ends up being done over by the other.In some respects, it's the same with the 2001 "Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and Moldova", which should be a win-win but is actually one-way traffic.  This treaty is up for renewal in 2011, and both Marian Lupu and Igor Botan have stated that it should be automatically renewed as is (we don't want to upset you-know-who, do we?).At first glance the Treaty s a very innocuous affair, full of high-minded appeals to protection of human rights and promotion of democracy etc., making reference to various international bodies and treaties.  Most of the clauses are of the nature "The parties will collaborate in domain X in accordance with a subsequent treaty Y to be agreed between the parties".Point by PointA deeper read of the treaty reveals some areas of wording which are clearly to Moldova's detriment, however:Russia is categorised as a 'mediator & guarantor' with respect to the Transnistrian conflict.  Russia is neither of these things; she is a participant in the conflict and the sooner that is recognised, the sooner the conflict will be resolved.  Furthermore, use of the term 'guarantor' implies that Russia has the right to intervene militarily if she deems that the combatant parties have breached peace accords.  As we have seen in 2008, that's a very dangerous right to be giving a polity such as Russia.Article 1 mentions the 'right of peoples to self-determination', without providing any context.  Who has the right to self determination?  Moldovan citizens as a whole?  The Gagauz or the people of Transnistria?  Everyone whose name begins with P?  The Lungu family in apartment 12?  Unless clear bounds are provided, it is very dangerous to include such a 'right' in the Treaty.Similarly, Article 10 provides for direct contact between Russian and Moldovan local governments.  This is seemingly harmless, but isn't.  Moscow City and other local administrations have provided substantial support to Transnistrian and Gagauz separatists over the years, undercutting Moldova's attempts to restore constitutional authority.  This clause should be adapted such that all contacts are channelled through the central institutions in Chisinau.Article 12 requires the parties to support each other's attempts to enter international economic and financial groupings.  This is silly.  Why should Moldova support Russia's entry into the WTO, for example, when Russia persists with its intermittent trade embargoes and gas wars?Article 20 is the the most sensitive, as it refers to the language issue.  It gives citizens of both countries living on each other's territories the right to use of their maternal language, and to choice of the language they use education, study & creativity, in accordance with 'international standards'.  It imposes on Moldova an obligation to offer schooling in Russian in the Moldovan public education system, while imposing on Russia the far weaker obligation to allow schooling in Moldovan (but not in the Russian public system).  Let's be straight here:  In the interests of national unity, all primary and secondary schooling should take place in the national language, with other languages being simply subjects taught. The fact that, 20 years after independence, a substantial fraction of Moldova's children are schooled 100% in a foreign language is a national disgrace.  Article 20 should make reference only to the Copenhagen convention on minority rights.  Si punctum.Article 27 is also problematic, as it requires the sides to deepen their participation in the Commonwealth of Independent States.  Due to its constitutional neutrality, Moldova's participation is as deep as it can be.  Furthermore, as Moldova gets closer to the EU, it will necessarily have to weaken its role within the CIS (and may have to withdraw altogether within the 10-year term of the treaty).  This article should be deleted.ObservanceAside from the wording issues mentioned above, the main problem with the treaty is that Russia simply doesn't observe its provisions.  Let me give you some examples:Article 1 commits the two sides to respecting inviolability of borders, territorial integrity and to non-interference in each other's internal affairs.  That presumably is why the 14th Army is parked illegally in Transnistria, why Russia carved off bits of Georgia and why Nariskin came to Chisinau in the hopes of forcing a coalition convenient to Moscow.Article 5 goes further "The sides condemn separatism in all its forms and commit to not supporting separatist movements".  Which is why Russia pays pensions to residents of Transnistria and supports the regime militarily through the presence of the 14th Army and other means.In Article 8 we read "The sides will not take discriminatory measures in their economic relations".   Except for Onisenco's periodic bans on Moldovan wines, vegetables, meat...Other PointsSome parts of the Treaty can be a little bit one sided simply by virtue of the relative sizes of the two nations.  For example, Article 19 commits each nation to holding cultural events relating to the other's language and culture.  The problem here is that, because of the Moldova's small size, the program of Russian cultural events to be run has a very high impact on the local population.  The equivalent Moldovan cultural events run in Russia each year pass by almost unnoticed.  A degree of asymmetry needs to be introduced such that the relative impact on each country is similar.While I believe it is a good thing for Moldova to have healthy relations with Russia in a number of domains, the Treaty is so comprehensive that it imposes an almost suffocating relationship.  It is not healthy for a small, fragile democracy such as Moldova to be in a bear hug with a large, imperialistic and authoritarian state such as Russia.  Consideration should be given to reducing the scope of the Treaty to make the relationship manageable. ConclusionsRussia and Moldova should seek to renew the treaty, but in a different formWording detrimental to Moldova should be amended, as should wording that produces asymmetrical impacts on the two countries.Some weaker and less useful articles should be removed, to reduce the overbearing intensity of the relationshipThe treaty should be signed for one-year only, and renewed annually only if the parties are in full observance of its provisionsPS:  In case you missed it, point four means that Russia should get out of Transnistria!
Go directly to the PLDM. Do not pass the PCRM. Do not collect $10m.
Today Vlad Filat presented the PLDM's ideas for (re)formation of a coalition involving his party as well as Mihai Ghimpu's PL and  Marian Lupu's PD.  The offer consisted of two aspects:A sharing out of top functions as follows - President - Lupu, Speaker - Ghimpu & Premier - FilatA long list of principles, values and objectives - continuation of democratic reforms, acceleration of the liberalisation of the economy and the elimination of monopolies, implementation of structural reforms to develop business, development of an efficient social protection system, increasing access to medical care, consolidation of trust between the two banks of the Nistru, recommencement of 5+2 negotiations, assurance of conditions in which political pluralism can flourish, press freedom, freedom of expression, strategic partnerships with EU, Romania, Ukraine & Russia, collaboration with China and Japan.The immediate reaction of the Liberals was that they liked the content, but didn't like Filat communicating with them by press conference.  Personally I think that's a bit churlish.  In fact, the PLDM's transparency shines like a beacon compared to the shady dealings between the PCRM and PD at the Russian embassy (and to which the free press wasn't invited).The reaction of the Democrats was that (a) they wanted to talk about principles and values, not about positions, and (b) the communists had made them a more generous offer.  Regarding principles and values, they obviously weren't listening.  Regarding the 'more generous offer' of the communists, perhaps they would like to explain how it would be correct for a party which one 15% of the seats to aspire to more than one of the top three posts in the state.  Remember it was only yesterday that the Democrats said their aim was to stop power being concentrated in the hands of a single party...Frankly, the Lib-Dem's offer could be the basis of a very sound coalition.  The sharing out of functions is more than fair to the two smaller parties, and there is little on the PLDM's list of aspirations that either the PL or the PD could quibble with.There are some refinements that would strengthen the offer:Marian Lupu should temporarily occupy the post of Speaker until elected as President.  This would avoid the possibility of him ending up without a major role, as happened in the first Alliance.  Ghimpu should be vice-speaker for the time being.The distribution of jobs, authorities and responsibilities within parliament and government should be made clear.  What role can be found for Plahotniuc, for example, that would satiate his ego without undermining the government?The Alliance should have a common secretariat to improve communication and elaborate policy.With these refinements, the PLDM's offer is evidently the best possible outcome for the people of Moldova.  Ghimpu should stop quibbling and sign up.  Lupu should stop grandstanding and dump the Communists in favour of a better future for all Moldovans.
Holy Macaroni!
Baddies hatching a diabolical plan to end life as we know it in Moldova?  In league with wiki-Batman and wiki-Robin? I sure hope not.

Source:  Arena

Source:  Veronica O'Connell (Veripwolf)
Major Surgery?
Let's assume (as many do) that Russia will never withdraw from Transnistria.  Let's also assume that the European Union will never accept as a member a country with unresolved territorial disputes.Under these two assumptions, there appears to be no way forward for Moldova except to cut its losses and jettison Transnistria.It's a thought that is horrifying to many Moldovans and a solution which would be terribly unjust.  It would dishonour the sacrifice of those who fought and died in 1991 trying to keep the country together.  It would abandon hundreds of thousands of citizens to a highly uncertain fate.Maybe, however, there's a way forward which takes into account the interests of the various parties:The EU wants to see an end to the unrecognised Transnistrian political entity.  (They would also like to see the 14th Army go home, but that would contravene one of our assumptions)Russia wants to maintain is forward military presence in South-Eastern Europe.  She also wants to have secure routes for gas delivery to points further west.Ukraine is always interested in grabbing a bit of territory, but would probably prefer that it didn't come complete with thousands of Moldovan villagers.Moldova needs to consolidate itself as a majority Romanian state and minimise its territorial losses.If you study an ethnic map of Transnistria, you will notice that the northern third (around Ribnita) is overwhelmingly Ukrainian.  The middle third (around Dubasari) is Moldovan while the southern third (around Tiraspol) and the right-bank Tighina enclave are a mix of Russians, Ukrainians and Moldovans.  Were Moldova to reintegrate the northern and southern portions of Transnistria, it would create more problems than it would solve, unsettling an already delicate ethnic balance.So here's what Moldova could propose:Ceding the northern and southern portions of Transnistria to UkraineRecovering Dubasari and Tighina, both ancient Romanian cities with significant Moldovan populations.As partial compensation for the cession in (1), accepting two Moldovan-majority raions from Ukraine - Novoseltsiy in the north and the river-port of Reni in the south.Ukraine would formally offer basing rights to Russia in and around TiraspolMoldova would renounce its neutrality and invite in NATO forces to balance the Russians on the other side of the NistruThe Tiraspol regime would be bought off and given villas in Soci.The Nistru (except for one little bump around Dubasari) would become the recognised border between EU and Russian spheres of influence.  I'm not a fan of 'spheres' and it's obviously not a perfect solution, but it would meet the major objectives of all players, and bring resolution.I'd be interested in your comments.
Another half-full glass
No matter what you think about the stupidity of the 40% of Moldovans who voted for the Communists, there is one aspect which should make every Moldovan very very proud.It's the way the election was conducted:real pluralism of opinions and optionsa mainly free media (NIT and omg.md excepted)a high voter turnoutcommitment from overseas voters, who had to endure long, cold queuesintelligent voting (in the sense of ignoring side-shows)Now that Georgia has left the organisation and Ukraine has back-pedalled on a number of freedoms, Moldova is now clearly the leading democracy in the Commonwealth of Independent States.Even the Russians are noticing; a team of journalists in Chisinau for the elections were amazed at the vigorous debates, the freedom with which people expressed their opinions and the desire of Moldovans to cast a vote and make a difference.  All very very different to how things are back home.  Russian speakers can find the relevant article here.Take a bow, Moldova!(Then get quickly back to thinking about how to stop the Democrats going into a miserable coalition with the Communists)
A glass half full
It seemed too good to be true, and it was.The exit polls published late on Sunday night showed a collapse in the communist vote, to as low as 26%. It seemed that Moldovans had finally woken up to the true nature of the party to which they had entrusted their government. Was this the national re-awakening we had been hoping for? Were the Moldovan people finally taking responsibility for their own future?Prima facie, the answer is no. The polls were out by a country mile and 40% of the electorate turned out and masochistically asked the Communists to once again destroy the country's future. To non-communists this was incomprehensible - how could anyone vote for the communists knowing of their lies and crimes? The situation reminded me of the 1996 election in Russia, when I asked a Russian friend why anybody would vote for Zhirinovsky. His reply: "Only an idiot would vote for Zhirinovsky. We have a lot of idiots."Take a closer look at the results, however, and the picture improves somewhat.At 39.3%, fewer than 2 in 5 Moldovans now support the communists. They can no longer claim to speak for the country.They have lost seven percentage points of support and six seats. That's a stinging rebuke of all of the boycotts and other nonsense that they have been peddling.For the first time this century the Communists have been beaten in several raions by another partyThe communists are in a secular decline.  It's slower than we would like, but at this rate they'll decline to 15% or so by the next scheduled election in four years' time.Russian fascists such as Selin and Klimenko have been shown to have next to zero support. They speak for no-one.The electorate showed wisdom in ignoring the side-shows and focussing their votes on the four main parties.The 'liberal vote' (PL +PLDM + AMN + MAE + PNL) has broken the 40% barrier and stands at 43%, well in excess of the 39.3% won by the communists.It's highly likely that, after a whole lot of pompous grandstanding from the Democrats, the AIE will be reformed, this time with a comfortable majority in parliament.So there you have it; a glass half full and a good result under the circumstances.PS:  At the time of writing there are a couple of rumours circulating.The first has the PD going into coalition with the PCRM.  Lupu would be president, Dodon prime minister and Muntean speaker.  This would of course be a disaster, and would signal an end to Moldova's hopes of becoming a normal country.  Happily I don't think this idea has legs as Moldova is dependent on international financing, which would dry up under a communist government.The second, more, credible rumour has Vlad Pafotniuc negotiatng the defection of several communist deputies to the Democrat Party, in order to facilitate the election of a President.

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