It will be harder for Moldova to join the EU that it was for neighbouring Romania, but Moldovan society has already made its preferences clear.
27th May 2011,
Moldova remains in a state of political upheaval initiated by the inability of the Communists to win the constitutionally required 61 seats to elect a President in the April 2009 parliamentary elections. The two years since then have seen several additional early votes – the last in November – but while the three-party coalition that forms the ruling Alliance for European Integration (AIE) has gained a few more MP’s each time, they still have only 59, and so are unable to elect one of their number to the presidency.
Marian Lupu (former Communist rising star and now leader of the breakaway Democratic Party) has filled the role of acting President since December. He looks set to do so for some months to come, especially since the constitutional court decided in February that it was not necessary for the government to hold a vote to appoint a new President within two months of the resignation of the last one (and did not provide an alternate time frame).
And yet a new set of elections early next year remains a possibility: Two rounds of municipal polls are due on 5th and 19th June. If the AIE, and especially Vlad Filat’s Liberal Democrats perform well (as expected), and the Communists lose control of one of the larger cities currently under their sway, then Filat may decide to have another crack at the top job.
In the meantime, it looks unlikely that either of his two AIE partners (Lupu’s Democrats or Mihai Ghimpu’s Liberals) will seek to block his path to power by cutting a deal with the Communists: They would almost certainly be seen as traitors to the cause of Moldova’s European integration (supported by about 70% of the population), and would suffer badly at the next election.
However, this might change if the fallout from the local polls provoke a challenge to Vladimir Voronin’s leadership of the Communists. If Igor Dodon, their mayoral candidate in Chisinau does well, while the Party’s vote in the rest of Moldova declines, then the young, centrist Dodon may make a bid to take control of the Party from the septuagenarian Voronin. This in turn would make the Communists a much more acceptable prospect for a possible deal with one or more of the AIE coalition partners.
But whether the current coalition continues, or the Liberal Democrats, or (less likely) a new coalition including Lupu and Dodon comes out on top, it seems implausible the EU’s generous financial support to Moldova will dry up any time soon: Corruption remains a serious problem with has still not been properly addressed, but in terms of progress towards democratization, media freedom and civil society, as well as prospects for co-operation with the EU on issues such as border controls and visa regularization, Moldova’s prospects are notably better than those of fellow EU Eastern Partnership members Belarus or Ukraine. This is not likely to change, given the demographic situation as expressed in the last three parliamentary elections (older Communist voters are dying off, and are not being replaced by many younger ones).
On this basis, the political and sociological foundation for Moldova’s continued EU orientation will remain in place. This is a positive development which, combined with increased free trade, and ongoing remittances from the EU, will do much to propel already robust economic growth (6.9% last year) and lead to the continued entrenchment of Moldova’s remarkably vibrant democracy. However, given enlargement fatigue and economic malaise, as well as the ongoing Transnistria issue, while the EU may be able to provide some additional incentives over the next few years, it looks like Moldova’s path to membership may still take several decades.