Thursday, June 4, 2009

Third Time a Charm in Moldova?

Yesterday, the Moldovan parliament failed to appoint a president for the second time. By one vote. The immediate result of these failures to approve acting Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanii of the Communist Party as president will be a new election 45 days after the compulsory dissolution of parliament.

The last election was immediately followed by opposition protests that quickly turned violent despite OSCE monitors' reports that the election was free and fair. Although the outgoing president Voronin has accused Romania of supporting and funding the opposition and the protests, no proof has been profered.

Russia is keenly interested in the outcome of the power struggle in Moldova as it has a firm hold on what is essentially a criminal regime in the breakaway region of Transdniestria. Transdniester is on the left bank of the Dniester. It proclaimed its status as a republic in September 1990 and declared its independence in August 1991, at the same time as Moldova. It is supported by the present Russian government much as Russia supports South Ossetia and Abkhazia - although unlike the latter two regions, Russia has never recognized the independence of Transdniestria. That may be next.

Russian foreign policy in Europe is to prevent any further rollback of its influence and to extend that influence where possible. If Romania succeeds in pulling Moldova out of Russia's sphere of influence, then Transdniestria becomes untenable; but it is unlikely that it will ever rejoin Moldova and will continue as transit center for illegal arms, human trafficking and drugs.

Despite vast sums of money spent by the EU, World Bank, the Swiss and USAID, Moldova remains outside Europe. As the Czech Ambassador Pyotr Kupr said recently, he is doing his best to bring Moldova closer to Europe. He has been only modestly successful. "People are interested in foreigners when it comes to making a profit. They do not think like Europeans. There is no civil society, no independent mass media... There is only so much one can do on the micro level."

The fact that there is has been little to no success in developing civil society or an independent media in Moldova after so many years and so much money expended by international organizations is evidence that the development community is either doing something terribly wrong or the Moldovan people don't care. Or both. So why are the aid agencies continuing with the very same programs they have funded over the past 15 years?

A new election may end the control of the only democratically elected Communist government in Europe and begin to turn wheels of change. How much capital will Romania and Russia be willing to expend to either fulfill this result or oppose it?

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