by Karolina Stefańczak, Marie Curie Fellow at the Institute for International Conflict Resolution And Reconstruction, Dublin City University
This paper provides an analysis of the conditions of political parties in Moldova and their projected and actual commitments to democratic governance. It examines the internal dynamic of the five political parties that were elected to the parliament of Moldova in November 2014; providing a cross-party analysis of the nominal ideologies, geopolitical orientations and leadership structures with a gender perspective.
Moldova has a volatile party system; none of political parties that were elected to the 1994 parliament stood for elections in 1998; the only formation that has been continually represented in the legislature since 1998 is the Communist Party. While parliamentary parties in Moldova vary in terms of their age, nominal ideology and geopolitical orientation this paper demonstrates that they have more in common that it may seem at a first glance. All five parties are lead by men and have been associated with the same leader since their establishment or political ‘rebirth’. They are formed around groups of interest rather than around ideas or issues and are being judged and voted for because of their leader rather than a programme, ideology or principles. The main differences between the parties, this paper maintains, are down to their geopolitical leanings and degree of social conservatism.
This paper argues that the nominal commitment to liberal, traditional or left wing values does not explain the quantitative differences in the gender balance of parties’ authorities or the qualitative variations intra-party democratic processes.
When you scratch the surface, nothing is as it seems
Parliamentary political parties in Moldova vary in terms of their age, nominal ideology and geopolitical orientation (Table 1) however they share more similar characteristics than it may superficially appear.
Table 1 Parliamentary political parties of Moldova – an overview
|Name of party||Communist Party of Moldova||Liberal Party||Democratic Party of Moldova||Socialist Party of Moldova||Liberal Democrat Party of Moldova|
|Year of founding||1991 (1999)||1993 (1999)||1997 (2008)||1999 (2012)||2007|
|Nominal ideology||Socialism||Liberalism||Social Democracy||Democratic Socialism||Conservatism|
|International affiliation||European Left||ALDE||PES, Socialist International||n/a||EPP|
|Geopolitical orientation||Pro-European||Pro-European, pro-NATO, pro-Romanian||Pro-European, Pro-Moldovan||Pro-Russian||Pro-European|
|Party leader||Vladimir Voronin||Mihai Ghimpu||Marian Lupu||Igor Dodon||Vlad Filat / Valeriu Streleț (acting)|
Data as of December 2015, compiled using parties’ statutes, websites, e-Democracy portal and based on interviews conducted in November and December 2015 in Chisinau
All the five parties are relatively young, with only two: PCRM and PL older than 20 years; the three: PDM, PSRM and PLDM functioning in the current structure for less than 10 years. All of the parties are still headed by those who established them (PCRM, PL, PLDM) or those who brought them to power after rebranding (PDM, PSRM). Moldovan political parties are not established based on ideological views, but around one man and his allies, as the leader of influential think-tank Arcadie Barbarosie strongly put it ‘There are no real political parties in Moldova. The organizations that call themselves political parties are nothing but businesses that are run by small groups of rich people who invest in the organizations in order to obtain profit.’
The parties portray themselves as left-wing, right-wing or centrists what is not consistent with their key values and the issues they promote. Apparently the PSRM and PCRM are on the left, the PDM is in the left of centre, the PLDM occupies the centre and PL is placed on the right. In reality, the policies the parties endorse do not correspond to the ideology they claim that they belong to. The PL is not at all liberal, but very conservative, as is PSRM and to a great extend the PCRM. According to the think-tank analyst Cristian Ciobanu, the PCRM promoted ‘populist economic liberal policies and in some cases very conservative ideas regarding women, with patriarchal, traditional attitudes on moral issues’, so its communist name is very misleading. As for the nominally pro-Western political parties, the analysis of Barbarosie best captures the opinions expressed by several interlocutors of various political backgrounds: ’The so-called pro-European parties use a pro-European rhetoric just to gain votes, but they don’t act in compliance with the European values and principles of governance. These three parties [PDM, PLDM, PL], as well as other extra-Parliamentary parties that declare themselves pro-European, counted on the votes of the pro-European electorate. Therefore they build their campaign on a pro-European pre-election programme. We should look at what these parties were declaring and how they were actually acting. The leadership of those three ruling parties is quite schizophrenic. While they were telling to the West and to their electorate that they implement the pro-European model of governance and intend to continue the pro-European path for Moldova, they were actually acting in contradiction to the European values and principles. These leaders think of the European Union as of an equivalent of a Soviet Union that they remember well – and behave themselves accordingly. They report to Brussels like they used to report to the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party in Moscow. They pretend they do not understand that European integration is about promoting internal reforms, and not only about foreign policy. This kind of behaviour was also specific for the PCRM that declared itself pro-European during its rule. It’s about the leaderships, but to be fair at the same time these parties’ ordinary members and MPs were really trying to promote the European integration in and of Moldova.’
Those, who know the internal dynamics of the parties from their own experiences, were similarly critical. The former PDM woman MP Elena Burca claimed ‘The pro-European parties are not oriented towards the West, they are oriented towards those who give them more money in a longer period, hence ensuring revenue for their parties. I don’t see true parties in Moldova that are engaged to maintain the pro-European values. Some parties declare that they are oriented towards Russia, others towards West, but actually no one has any direction, except solving their own problems. The parties that are leaning towards Russia are actually oriented towards models that have been used in the past. It’s about health, education and other services guaranteed by the state, when children were fed in kindergartens and schools, when doctors were checking the food quality all day, when everything was for free. The salaries and pensions were enough to cover all expenses. This is the nostalgia for the times that is not coming back. Unfortunately now the idea of democracy is associated with the prostitution, migration, separation of families and crime. And the pro-Western, pro-EU parties that are in the government are doing nothing to prove it wrong.’
As the political parties are not established based on ideological views the programmatic commitments to democratic values or more balanced political representation of men and women and gender equality issues do not come from within the parties. Those internal reforms and policies that actually benefit various underrepresented groups are rather pushed for by the external development partners and are not a result of citizens’ demands. Such political party system makes it also more difficult for women to choose the party that is ideologically more ‘friendly’ and to pursue the agenda of gender equality, as the political labels do not reflect the party’s actual system of values and beliefs.
The environment and condition of the political party system in Moldova does not reflect the narrative presented by the parties’ leaderships. The political parties are rather facades or shells that pretend to be genuine parties. They are weakly institutionalized and do not resemble authentic parties, but rather businesses and groups of interest. These organizations are created around leaders, with some set of general values and geopolitical orientation but not around ideologies. In those circumstances it is difficult to expect that they would fulfil the roles attributed to western parties in relations to the democratic commitments.
In terms of gender equality assurances, it is evident that women as a group don’t have much influence in political parties and in the state, however many individuals have an impact, especially in the organizational management. As the parties in Moldova are very result oriented, where winning the votes is associated with money and power, therefore women are not necessary needed to be equally represented in order for the parties to win.
As the political parties in Moldova are not fully functional, they do not fulfil the roles associated in the West with the parties – especially the representation role. In Moldova they represent business interests, geopolitical orientation, but not specific parts of electorates and group of voters. Therefore representing social classes, minorities or women, as a group of specific needs, problems and interests, is not on the parties agenda.
The interviews quoted in this paper:
Barbarosie, A. (2015) Interview with Arcadie Barbarosie, Executive Director of Institute for Public Policies. 30 November, Chisinau.
Ciobanu, C. (2015) Interview with Cristian Ciobanu, Project Coordinator, Partnership for Development Center. 16 November, Chisinau.
Burca, E. (2015) Interview with Elena Burca, the Head of “Marioara’s House” Violence Against Women Association, former MP. 18 November, Chisinau.
 This research was supported by a Marie Curie Initial Training Network within the 7th European Community Framework Programme (grant no: 316825)
 This study analyses the five political parties that were elected to the parliament on the 30 November 2014 elections under their own banners, these are: the Democratic Party; the Communist Party; the Socialist Party; the Liberal Party and the Liberal Democratic Party. The party that emerged as a results of a split from the PLDM – The European People’s Party is not taken into account, as it did not undergo the electoral verification in the parliamentary contest. The below analysis reflects the situation of December 2015 unless otherwise stated.
 In the brackets the year when the parties adopted current name, statute or were joined by a substantial group of new members.