Moldova-22. Symbol periods and politicians: Snegur, Lucinschi, Voronin, Filat

The Republic of Moldova reached the 22nd year of independence. The IPN Agency decided to present the accomplishments and failures in the country’s development in a number of articles. Representatives of the current government, experts, former and current politicians stated their views on the steps taken by Moldova after August 27, 1991.

Article No. 16 of the IPN series “Moldova-22. Steps forward and steps backward”, on the occasion of the Independence Day

The recent history of the independent Moldova can be divided into several periods, depending on the social-political processes that marked them. For their part, these periods led to the appearance of several political personalities who represented them and also shaped them to a certain extent. The creation of history and the creation of personalities are interdependent whenever and wherever, and Moldova d wasn’t an exception.

According to the interdependence criterion, we can speak about the “period of Snegur”, the “period of Lucinschi”, the “period of Voronin”, and the “period of Filat”, with all the reserves concerning the convenience of such a division in the recent history of Moldova.

These periods derive naturally from each other, each next one incorporating the characteristic features of the previous ones, booth positive and negative. But each of them represented a new, even if difficult stage in the development of our country and its population. Each of the four national leaders has their own merits and responsibilities for how things went in their “period”. However, each of the residents of this country, which is not yet established as a nation and a state, has such merits and responsibilities. The merits and responsibilities are first of all ours, of those who called the parties and leaders to the government and who put our fates in their hands, who tolerated them probably more or less than necessary. Anyway, conventionally speaking, the full name of every period contains the name of the leader who ruled then plus the name of each of us. For example, the “period of Mircea Snegur + citizen…” Only this way can we better understand what happened in the 22 years of independence and in each of these periods separately.

Period of Mircea Snegur + (1990-1996)

It was the most sentimental, most beautiful, most optimistic as well as most dangerous, most chaotic and most unsuccessful period if considering the chances taken then. These adjectives also apply to the style of government of President Snegur. He had the courage, common sense and the people’s wisdom in his political behavior, but also had insufficient political training and intuition to cope with the challenges generated by the collapse of the Soviet empire and the rearrangement of things.

He had the capacity to channel the energy of the national liberation movement into a peaceful and constructive course, but had also the precaution, which later became weakness, not to use the potential of this energy for quickly and radically transforming the new country. The fact that Moldova for a period went alongside the ex-Soviet Baltic Countries, sometimes ahead of them, in implementing reforms, is Snegur’s merit. But he is also to blame for the slowdown and then the stagnation or reorientation of reforms.

He was able to manage the difficult situation provoked by the Nistru war, caused by forces from outside, but was unable to win it as it was impossible to defeat those forces. But he probably wouldn’t have wanted to win it if he had been asked to sacrifice more lives for this. That’s why he preferred humiliation to unfair peace, instead of an unfair war.

He gave land to the peasants who were dispossessed of it by the Soviet regime. But, as the Land Program wasn’t well-planned, in turned into what its opponents called it – a Grave. There were buried many of the hopes of the fanners, but a part of them achieved success, even if in a small number and with too many efforts and with unmet expectations.

He intuitively inclined the balance to the West and the western values, but was unable to cut the umbilical cord that connected him and his country to the Eastern area.

He promoted the first democratic Constitution that included yet many of the vacillations of Moldovan society and its first President.

Period of Petru Lucinschi + (1997 – 2001)

He was the most agile Moldovan politician for his period. It seems that he didn’t oppose being named “smecherilovici” (a combination between the quality of being shrewd and his patronymic in Russian style “Chirilovici” – a.n.). He skillfully used the state of reflux of the national renaissance movement and the first waves of disappointment in order to come to power. He replaced the sentimental approach with another one based on ration and pragmatism. He understood that nationalism was no longer functional, but proposed nothing instead as a unification idea of the same strength and value.

He had a lot of political experience and managed to reach the highest spheres of the then Soviet regime. But his political intuition and experience didn’t help him much as the rules of the political game no longer worked in the relations inside the country and outside it. His multiple and influential relations in Moscow didn’t help him solve the Transnistrian dispute. He made concessions, hoping that concessions will be made to him too, but it didn’t happen so.

He had a general reconciliatory message that was supported by society, unlike other representatives of the then political class who at that time continued to live with the empty illusion that they had many supporters and armies of sympathizers behind. But he didn’t manage to gather too many people around his consensual message either because not even Petru Lucinschi was sincere or because time was needed for society and the political class to accumulate the critical mass needed to start integrationist, edificatory and consensual processes. It wasn’t the blame or the merit of the second head of state as this critical mass hasn’t been formed yet.

At external level, he promoted the policy of the ‘tame calf feeding itself from two cows’. But he and Moldova remained the ‘artificial milk’ in the best case.

Meanwhile, the country, lacking landmarks and mobilizing ideas, continued to sink. The salaries and pensions were paid with delays of several months or were offered in the form of galoshes, which are rubber shoes worn over normal shoes in wet weather. In that period, the people wearing galoshes on the bear feet, including in very cold weather, increased. It was the period of world and regional economic and financial crises

It was the most difficult period. Pentru Lucinschi came to govern Moldova either too early or too late, or any leader would have had a similar political fate in that period.

Period of Vladimir Voronin + (2001-2009)

The first two periods called after the next. Thus, Mircea Snegur and Petru called after Vladimir Voronin.

He was the eldest politician who had been in power for the longest period among Moldova’s Presidents. The turbulent times needed an authoritarian leader and he came. He came to manage a mechanism based on his authority and strict discipline – the Communist Party (PCRM). It is for the first time in the modern history of Moldova and in the history of the world that a Communist Party came to power by democratic elections, without revolution and bloodshed. It is greatly the merit of Vladimir Voronin, his political principles and charisma. But democracy was partially affected in the period.

With the PCRM in power, Vladimir Voronin managed to change the unusual purpose of the galoshes. The pensions and salaries were paid in cash and even increased. Many people were and continue to be satisfied by that change. But an ordinary calculation done by a pensioner several years ago shows that the pension rose by about 50 lei (slightly over €3) in each of the eight years of Communist government. That pensioner now receives about €40 a month, which is much under the subsistence level. Many people have similar revenues; many do not have at least such incomes. The exodus of Moldovans abroad in search for a job reached significant levels during the Communist rule.

The merit of Moldova’s third President is that he ensured a rather long period of stability after years of political and social turmoil. But it was the stability of the moor. Vladimir Voronin enjoyed the comfort of a stable government, partially with a constitutional parliamentary majority, which allowed destroying mountains, but he didn’t do so.

Despite his powerful character, Vladimir Voronin oscillated in his options most of all while in power. He was rather malleable and liberal inside the country during his first term in office, but became tough and intransigent in the second term. “Who is not with us, is against us,” seems to have been his slogan at the end of term. The political opposition was either subordinated, or destroyed. The press had more chances of survival if it obeyed the regime. The destruction of the media holding of the Chisinau City Hall is a relevant example.

Vladimir Voronin has the incontestable merit of contributing to the reopening and reconstruction of churches. Something like this was done before and after him. But he also involved the Orthodox Church, which is a majority one in Moldova, in his political games. The Church liked that unordinary role and continues to politically play individually or discretely together with its supporters.

At foreign level, he also oscillated between the firm option in favor of the East, respectively the Russia-Belarus Union, and the West, respectively the European Union. Voronin’s merit consists in the fact that he took the first and many steps afterward towards coming closer to the EU, but they weren’t continued and thus didn’t produce results. His tenure ended in the expected way, by promoting the ideology of “Moldovenism”, which is called ‘primitive’ by his opponents and means ‘not together with the first and the second”, but rather ‘together with the first and the second’. The absence of advance means stagnation in the best case, but is usually means involution and regression.

Vladimir Voronin remains incontestably the most powerful political character in the Moldovan contemporary society.  But the third President’s first appearance in public, in a TV program, after the tragic events of April 7, 2009 was rather appalling. He is a human being and the most powerful politician…

Period of Vlad Filat + (2009 - present)

Snegur, Lucinschi, Voronin and the April 7 events required the appearance of Vlad Filat. In fact, they required the appearance of a coalition government that was represented mainly by Vlad Filat, who held the post of Prime Minister on behalf of the post-Communist government coalition for over three years. He managed the party with the largest number of seats in Parliament and was the most active high-ranking politician. He probably sometimes was too active and too focused on his own political person. He actually continues to represent the democratic coalition even if he no longer holds a senior state post. This is because he continues to be the leader of the greatest party in the coalition and because he continues to be very active and, maybe, is focused less on the own political person.

The appearance of the government coalition was required because the people are tired of the ‘stability of the moor’ that does not offer prospects, the unanimity of positions and opinions. They wanted more democracy, justice and transparency in governance as well as less corruption.

Vlad Filat has the merit of creating in a record time a new party that would meet at least apparently these expectations and that gained the people’s trust also in a record time. It’s true that he created it together with other important personalities. A part of them left him and this shows that the new national leader experiences communication related problems. He then faced such problems with the collation partners and this affected his capacity to fulfill his obligations and to meet the people’s expectations. But the disagreements inside coalition governments are rather natural not only for Moldova. They represent a mechanism for reciprocally controlling the coalition partners. On the other hand, a political agreement is not possible with any partner. For sure it is not possible with those who behave in the government as in the opposition.

He is blamed for taking authoritative decisions and for not taking important decisions, for indecisiveness and lack of character. But maybe he is a normal politician with doubts and concerns?  

He had the courage, or maybe the non-wisdom to provoke an unprecedented political crisis that cost him the post of Premier and could have cost us all the European prospect. The announced goal was to remove the serious disfunctionality from the state institutions. His opponents say that he aimed to diminish the influence or to remove his political and economic opponents, especially one of them. Some accuse him of starting this conflict, while others of not having the courage to go till the end. However, they go till the end in sports, not yet in politics. They look for consensus in modern politics and Filat found it together with the coalition partners, even if not all them. He was accused of playing with the main political rivals – the Communists – in order to achieve his goals and of affecting the democratic processes in the country and was event wintered by the Europe partners in this respect. His supporters say he ultimately fooled the Communists as they didn’t obtain early elections. He also managed to maintain the country’s European integration chance. Anyway, after this ‘small war’ there is relative peace in the coalition, which allies us all to deal with out businesses.

Unlike others who kept the posts, or without posts, he has the courage to openly meet the people, paying day- and week-long visits to settlements. It’s not hard to guess what the people whose expectations weren’t met are now concerned about. The opponents say that Filat started the election campaign, but they don’t say what hinders them from doing the same. Isn’t it an indirect sign that Vlad Filat does his homework on communication? 

The period came with a lot of media outlets that continue to increase in number. However, good outlets are not so many as many of the media organizations are biased and manipulating. However, ‘many and diverse’ represent an unprecedented start for good media.

The probably only incontestable merit of Vlad Filat is that he had set a clear European integration course. He did a lot to make himselt understood in this respect by important heads of state and governments. European high-ranking officials say they are his friends. But, while he was in power, he was unable to come as close to the country’s people and make them supporters of his ideas as the people are not yet clearly decided as to the European integration. Whom would they chose in the next elections? Whom did Snegur, Lucinschi, Voronin and Filat prepare the red carpet? What periods will we have at the next anniversaries of the independence?

Valeriu Vasilică, IPN
August, 2013

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