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The 1990 Elections


Statue of Stephen the Great (1457-1504), the Moldovan king who fought the Ottoman Empire
Courtesy Paul E. Michelson


Newly renovated Ciuflea Orthodox church, Chisinau
Courtesy Ernest H. Latham, Jr.

The first democratic elections for the Supreme Soviet were held in February and March 1990. Delegates were elected for terms of four years in 380 single-member electoral districts (by early 1993 this number had decreased to 332 following removals and resignations). Electoral rules called for candidates to be nominated by electoral districts rather than by "social organizations," as had been the practice previously. Meetings of work collectives of 100 persons and residents' meetings of fifty or more persons were empowered to nominate candidates.

In order to be elected, candidates had to receive more than 50 percent of the votes cast in an electoral district. When there was no victor in the first round of elections, the two candidates with the highest number of votes competed against each other in a second round.

In 1990 the republic was divided by the secession of separatist regions and by the outbreak of widespread fighting in Transnistria. At the same time, economic crisis loomed, a result of the collapse of the economic institutions of the Soviet Union. The Moldovan government pursued reforms to address this crisis, but progress toward a market economy was slow, partly as a result of the government's preoccupation with the conflicts among the ethnic groups and partly because of resistance to reform on the part of those with vested interests in the communist system.

In contrast to the artificial quiescence that characterized previous contests, the 1990 elections saw considerable controversy. While national CPM officials, including then-First Secretary Petru Lucinschi, promoted open access to the political process, local communist officials in many areas used traditional means to retain power. Reformers complained that local electoral commissions were controlled by "enemies of restructuring" and that the administrative apparatus was being used to subvert the nominating process.

Just as important in determining the outcome of the election as bureaucratic resistance, however, was the Popular Front's organizational weakness in many localities outside the capital, especially in comparison with the local strength of the CPM's rural party apparatus. Despite these difficulties, Popular Frontapproved candidates were on the ballot in 219 out of Moldova's 380 electoral districts by the February 25 election date. Meanwhile, the CPM, enjoying a rebound in popularity and effectiveness under Lucinschi's direction, accounted for 86 percent of all candidates.

A high degree of cooperation between the Popular Front and reformers within the CPM hierarchy was also evident during the early transition period. On February 11, 1990, the Popular Front, with the support of government authorities, had organized a "Republic's Voters Meeting" in Chisinau. This was attended by more than 100,000 people and was addressed by Lucinschi and other high-level communist officials.

Among the candidates supported by the Popular Front one could find the names of ranking CPM members such as Mircea Snegur. A Central Committee secretary since 1985, Snegur was appointed chairman of the Presidium of the Moldavian Supreme Soviet by the staunchly antireform CPM leader Simion Grossu in July 1989. By early 1990, however, Snegur had realigned himself with the Popular Front and its political program.

The results of the first round of elections in February confirmed the main trends that had appeared during the nominating process. Competitive races were held in 373 of the 380 districts, and turnout was 84 percent of the electorate. In the 140 contests decided without a runoff, reformers claimed victory for fiftynine of the candidates, although 115 of the total elected were CPM members (some of whom were supported by the Popular Front). As during the nominating phase, reformers alleged that significant violations of the election law had occurred, despite the Central Electoral Commission's finding of no major infractions.

The second round of elections, held on March 10, 1990, filled the bulk of positions in the republic's Supreme Soviet and had a decisive impact on the country's political life. A fall in turnout for the second round, to 75 percent of the electorate, appears to have hurt the performance of the Popular Front, which won in only forty-two out of 237 districts, a considerably weaker showing than in the February contest. With the conclusion of the runoff, 305 of the deputies to the new Supreme Soviet were CPM members; 101 of the Supreme Soviet deputies were selected from the list supported by the Popular Front. With the support of deputies sympathetic to its views, however, the Popular Front could control more than half of the votes in the new Supreme Soviet.

Data as of June 1995

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