‘Red’ dish of Communist revenge

Analysis: The unprecedented activism of parties in the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia could push the voters towards an unexpected decision: either to ignore the elections or to bring the political fragmentation in the region to an end by supporting the former ‘political monopolists’.

The Gagauz political palette was always different owing to its special clarity. Before each of the elections, one could say with enough precision who the favorite was and who the outsider was. For example, before the parliamentary elections of 2001, there was no doubt that most of the residents of the region will vote for the Communist Party (PCRM). It was also clear that the Communists’ candidate will lose the local elections for governor of 2006. The behavior in the current parliamentary elections is yet unpredictable.

Unfulfilled hopes

At the beginning of this year, many analysts acknowledged that the governor of Gagauzia Mihail Formuzal has all the chances to pass from the regional ‘political division’ into the national one. A referendum on the external development course of Moldova was held in Gagauzia on February 2 with his active involvement. These actions were regarded as a prelude to the participation in the parliamentary elections of the Party of Regions founded by the governor. In the referendum, more than 98% of the participants voted for the entry into the Customs Union. The referendum led to the worsening of the relations with Chisinau and contributed to the mobilization of the Gagauz voters around the idea of integration into the Customs Union. It seemed that the success in the elections was guaranteed if the party campaigned with the slogan “For the Customs Union”. However, things are more complicated. The Party of Regions didn’t manage to secure the support of many local activists and even remained without some of the members who held important posts in the party. In other words, the potential gained at the start of this year is now rather feeble.

Under the shadow of ‘investors’

In fact, the strategy for transforming the success of February 2 into a success on November 30 failed owing to the intervention of Igor Dodon’s Party of Socialists in this political game. Namely this party supported first the idea of the referendum in Gagauzia and then assumed the role of advocate of the slogan “For the Customs Union” in the Moldovan politics. It’s now hard to say exactly if these actions by the Socialists represented a decisive argument for the Kremlin to stake on this party, not on the political project of Formuzal, or the stake was identified earlier and the exploitation of the theme of the Customs Union is part of a strategy worked out by the Russian ‘investors’.

Anyway, the Socialists are expected to receive a considerable piece of the political cake, not without the support of the Gagaus voters.

The Democratic Comrat

The Democratic Party (PDM) also contributes to the political fragmentation of the voters in Gagauzia. After the team of the mayor of Comrat Nicolai Dudoglo joined the team of the Democrats, the PDM occupied an important place in the Gagauz politics, which it earlier could not claim. Today the Democrats are the most active in the region. They hold forums and meetings with the population and campaign through the mass media. However, we cannot say that the inhabitants of Gagauzia show the same interest in the PDM. The ambiguous reputation of the representatives of the party’s administration, the Democrats’ traditional dual approach regarded as lack of scrupulousness and the local popularity of Nicolai Dudoglo, limited to the borders of Comrat and several villages in the district, do not allow the Democrats to transform their potential into popularity.

Respect and criticize

Since 2010, when the first local office of the Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM) was opened in Comrat, the Liberal-Democrats have gained small, but stable electoral support in Gagauzia. The Gagauz colleagues of Vlad Filat, as the representatives of other parties of the ruling coalition in Gagauzia, had to cope with a predictable negative attitude to the country’s administration and its pro-European aspirations. However, the tenacity with which the local team of the PLDM promotes the European objectives allowed the party not only to strengthen its position among the few supporters of the pro-European course in the Gagauz society, but also to gain the respect of many ideological opponents. |

The PLDM’s activities in Gagauzia and its participation in the political processes there helped increase the party’s popular approval rating to a rather high level compared with 2009.

Phantom of revenge

A separate place in this political mosaic is taken by the Communist Party. It’s hard to say what role the PCRM plays in Gagauzia. Many leaders of the primary organizations of the PCRM defected to other parties. The Communists are poorly represented now in the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia and head none of the commissions. There is no Communist among the members of the region’s executive power. On the other hand, the detachment from the instruments of power was used by the team of the PCRM as an opportunity to criticize all the other political players. A series of conflicts happened in Gagauzia over the last few years, ranging from verbal attacks to clashes. The Communists didn’t hurry to take someone’s side, monitoring only the situation and harshly criticizing everyone equally.

The ‘both are worse’ strategy of the Communists can produce results. Most of the Gagauz voters do not accept the parties of the government coalition, but are disappointed by the lack of unity of the pro-Russian parties. The tiredness of the Gagauz people is evident and is due to the too many political organizations in a region that was earlier free from the active presence of the Moldovan parties.

If the PCRM manages to wisely use its trump cards and profits from the political disorientation of the Gagauz people, the voter turnout in the November 30 elections in Gagauzia will be either unusually low or most of the votes will be given to the PCRM. Those who will take part in the elections, will be tempted to choose the ‘red’ dish from the party menu, not because it is tastier, but because its bitter taste was forgotten, while the other dishes didn’t impress them. It will be yet seen if the support of the Gagauz people becomes a basis for taking revenge at national level.

Veaceslav Craciun, for IPN

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