Language issue causes rifts in ruling Alliance in Moldova
In the last couple of weeks, the members of the ruling Alliance for European Integration (AEI) have been speaking publicly about a couple of topics related to the complicated language issue in the country.
First, there is the question of whether the AEI's attempts at constitutional reform should target Article 13 in the Constitution, which says that the official language in the country is "Moldovan." Although even members of the Party of Communists, who are the main promoters of the existence of a "Moldovan" language, have acknowleged the fact that Moldovan and Romanian are virtually the same, the possible switch to Romanian is seen as a symbolic move that could consolidate ties between Chisinau and Bucharest.
Recently, influential Communist M.P. Mark Tcaciuk, who is considered to be a close ally of Party of Communists head Vladimir Voronin's, said that changing the language to Romanian could be a step toward the country's unification with Romania. Such statements make the Russian-speaking minority in the country very nervous and may serve as an electoral mobilization tool which could generate Communist votes in the early legislative elections.
Even the ruling Alliance seems to lack consensus on this question. While the Liberal Democrats, the Liberals, the Moldova Noastra [Our Moldova] Alliance, and the Actiunea Europeana [European Action] Movement seem to agree that the language should be called Romanian, the Democratic Party is trying to come up with what it sees as a compromise solution to the problem.
Democratic Party head Marian Lupu said a few days ago that Moldovan should be kept in the Constitution, but that it could be mentioned in parantheses that it is the same as Romanian. Mr. Lupu said that this proposal would appease a part of Moldovan society who is afraid than any concession to the promoters of Romanian in the country would weaken the country's sovereignty.
The second language-related issue also seems to have pitted the Democrats against the rest of the Alliance. Most movie theaters in the country show films that are dubbed in Russian. Many Moldovans have been frustrated about this situation for years, but recent Facebook groups and civil society activists have become more vocal about their desire to see films that are either dubbed or subtitled in Romanian. The new Alliance is also more receptive toward these requests, and Culture Minister Boris Focsa has essentially said that, a few months from now, movie theaters will have to show films with Romanian subtitles or dub them in this language(especially for children).
Movie theater operators have complained that this measure would lead to financial losses and have said that the rights of minorities that do not speak Romanian will not be respected if they have to release films in Romanian.
The Democratic Party came out with a statement yesterday saying that releasing films dubbed in Russian is "not a crime" and has urged for this issue not to be politicized. Once again, the Democrats seem to take a more "centrist" approach to the language issue.
This makes sense from an electoral standpoint. The Democratic Party is trying to become the dominant party on the center-left, which it cannot do if it fails to attract a big chunk of the Communist electorate. This would be difficult to do with a pro-Romanian message, since the Communist electorate tends to be more pro-Russian and more suspicious of Romania.
The other four parties in the Alliance also have a good reason to have the position that they do. Their electorate is more pro-Romanian.
Whatever the case may be, the language issue could very well be a bone of contention that may weaken the Alliance at a crucial period for its existence. Thus far, the ruling coalition has done relatively well at hiding its disagreements. It remains to be seen if the five parties will continue to be unified in the face of an issue that is extremely polarizing.
If divisions appear, a Party of Communists that is still strong and well-organized could take advantage of the Alliance's weaknesses and do well in the polls.Imedia