Vladimir Nikolaevich, polls show that the PCRM is expected to receive slightly less votes than in the last elections. However, the party is set to remain the largest party in parliament. Your comments on this phenomenon?
Vladimir Voronin: The Communists have been out of power for five years, but we remain not only the most popular party, but also the most recognizable. Our ratings remain the highest [among the other parties] and we have never been in second place. The secret of the popularity of the PCRM is simple: we are politically active all the time, not just during the election campaigns. Our dialogue with the voters never stops.
What percentage of the votes are you hoping for in the elections?
Vladimir Voronin: We are interested not in the vote percentage, but in the number of mandates. More precisely, we need at least 61 mandates. After the elections in 2009, the PCRM needed one more mandate in order to elect the president. At that time we were set to have 62 mandates, but two of them were stolen from us as a result of electoral fraud.
Do you think you will receive the necessary 61 mandates this time? If not, with whom would you be prepared to form a new coalition in the new parliament?
Vladimir Voronin: We are not prepared to build any coalition. We do not have the moral right to do so. How could we allow ourselves to be on the same team with those who seek to deceive?
For instance, the list of the candidates for the [Party of] Socialists includes people who are actually the heads of other parties. Factually this is an [undeclared] election bloc. We had requested the Central Election Commission to clarify the situation, given that these candidates, if they are leaders of parties, would factually be entering a race against their own political formations.
In your view, given Moldova’s national conditions, what should be the minimum vote threshold for parties to enter parliament?
Vladimir Voronin: We have seen varying electoral threshold standards in the past –both four and six percent. But it would be nice if it was similar to that of a country like Turkey, where the minimum threshold for parties to enter the parliament is 10-12 percent.
I support the strict enforcement of laws. If a coalition which selects the governing bodies of the parliament and confirms the post of prime minister cannot be formed, we will have to go through another round of elections.
And if after these elections a coalition cannot be formed, will politicians be forced to participate in an endless election cycle?
Vladimir Voronin: Our politicians are arranged in such a way that they will create problems for themselves. But a deadlock situation is not an inevitability. We have already seen a good precedent, when the government and the opposition found a compromise without the formation of a coalition. In 2005, the Communists won 56 seats; we lacked the five mandates necessary in order to select the president. We held talks with the opposition and came to an agreement. Its representatives received senior positions in a number of important government departments and agencies. This included five of nine officials in the Central Election Commission, positions in the Coordinating Council for Radio and Television, positions at the country’s state television [network], Moldova 1, the country’s Accounting Chamber, and others. The opposition also led several parliamentary committees. The parliament’s vice-speaker was a member of the opposition. I recall how at that time, international observers had praised this decision. Imagine how surprised they must have been that the Communists were setting an example for democracy! It seems to me that such a scenario could be possible following these elections as well.
Your party’s opponents from the left flank have criticized the PCRM for its vague position in relation to the European Union. First the Communists stepped out in favor of abolishing the Association Agreement, then they said that they want to revise the document. How would you comment on this?
Vladimir Voronin: Over the last five years, we have been in opposition, but in that time we have prepared and presented over 160 bills that are vital to the development of the country. Unfortunately, the government did not consider any of them. The opposition cannot be treated this way. We received over 600,000 votes, but the authorities have ignored their interests.
In 2002, following my presidential decree, Moldova officially announced a course of European modernization, to bring its laws into line with EU standards. Over 200 relevant laws were adopted. At that time, we were closer to the EU than the so-called pro-European authorities of today.
Over the course of our time in office, all the parliamentary elections which took place were recognized as democratic. Under the PCRM, not one television channel was closed, not one radio station, not one newspaper, and not one school.
Unfortunately, the present Association Agreement, which was dutifully signed by the present ruling coalition, leaves a number of unanswered questions. We have discussed many of the articles of this document with representatives of the EU, with those who had participated in its creation, and they agreed that it is necessary to discuss a lot of issues which do not satisfy our country’s interests.
Just one example: In 2003 we signed a Basic Agreement with the Russian Federation, where it was stated that Russia recognizes the territorial integrity of our country according to its 1991 borders. Not one EU document, on the other hand, has any mention of recognizing Moldova’s territorial integrity. The Association Agreement similarly makes no mention of this issue. After these elections, we will begin discussions with European officials on the revision of this document.
Could the country’s foreign policy change following elections?
Vladimir Voronin: We will proceed on the basis of our country’s interests. Of course, we are in favor of closer relations with Russia. More than 80 percent of our country’s exports go to the Russian market. Russia has always been our main strategic partner –from the time of Stephen III of Moldova to the achievement of independence.
How can you comment on Moldova’s present friendliness toward NATO? The improvement of relations began during the Communists’ time in office, after all.
Vladimir Voronin: In accordance with the constitution, Moldova is a neutral state, and will not change its position with respect to the question of entry into NATO. We will defend and promote the neutrality of our country on the international level. With regard to cooperation [with NATO], it takes place in accordance with the framework of the Partnership for Peace, with whose help Moldova was able to destroy stocks of pesticides.
How would you characterize the five-year rule of the pro-European coalition?
Vladimir Voronin: In just five years of their leadership, Moldova has collapsed into the [type of economic turmoil it witnessed in the] 90s. The country’s external debt has increased by 40 percent. The national currency was deliberately devalued. Gas prices have increased by 33 percent, electricity prices by 20 percent, and heating by 52 percent. Every year taxes and fees grow, and new taxes have been thought up. Youth programs have been eliminated, the number of unemployed young people is twice the national average. The number of subsidized spaces in universities has been significantly reduced, and the cost of obtaining a university education has doubled. On various pretexts, over 250 schools were closed and 6,000 teachers dismissed. This is our European integration…