With Ukraine moving away from the EU, Moldova could become eastern Europe's new golden child. But the Moldovan parliament has failed once again to select a new president.
Distant Moldova could be warming up to the EU
Moldova's parliament failed to select a new president on Friday, after interim President Marian Lupu, the only candidate, won by a tally of 58 to three, falling short of the 61 votes required. The opposition Communist party boycotted the vote. It's yet another blow to repeated attempts to elect a head of state.
It's all a question of mathematics. The governing coalition, the "Alliance of European Integration," has 59 seats. The missing two votes could have come from the Communist opposition, but they refused to support a government candidate and instead called for new elections.
Since 2009 the tiny former Soviet state on the eastern border of the European Union has only had an acting president. Two failed parliamentary elections were followed by failed presidential elections. Three coalition parties have installed three acting presidents.
Lupu was the only candidate in the presidential election
A new ballot to choose a president of Moldova will be held in January. If that vote fails, parliament will have to be dissolved for the third time in a row and new elections will be announced.
Possible move toward Europe
These developments in Moldova, often referred to as "Europe's poorest country," are being closely watched in the European Union.
"What the EU and Germany are asking from the coalition in Chisinau is this: 'See that you use this opportunity to agree on a good candidate,'" said Manfred Grund, a member of the German parliament from the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and head of the German-Moldovan Forum.
Tymoshenko's jailing could impede Ukraine's EU hopes
Moldova's current pro-West government aspires to some day join the EU. If Lupu had been successfully elected this time, it could have been a step towards further European integration, according to experts like Holger Dix, the director of the Moldovan and Romanian branch of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which has ties to Germany's CDU party.
"If the government has a long-term outlook, then there will be further steps taken toward Europe," said Dix.
With the debt crisis currently occupying EU leadership, however, now is "a very bad time to come out as a candidate for EU membership," according to Dix.
Indeed, German CDU parliamentarian Manfred Grund doubts Moldova will be able to beat its neighbor Ukraine on the way into the EU, as Ukraine - in contrast to Moldova - has laid out a strategic goal and is in the process of concluding negotiations on a free-trade zone.
However, the recent jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has threatened to become a stumbling block to Kyiv's bid, with Europe strongly objecting to what it's called "politically motivated justice."
Transnistria remains potential obstacle
Transnistria could be a future stumbling block
In Moldova, on the other hand, there are currently no such developments that could strain relations with the EU. The government in Chisinau does, however, have a persistent problem. Transnistria, a breakaway province on Moldova's eastern border, has rejected all bids to return to Moldova since spliting off in an armed conflict in 1992.
Klaus Bochmann, who leads the Moldova Institute in Leipzig, said that Transnistria could potentially block any efforts by Moldova to enter the EU, because it represents a factor of instability.
"Europe is not going to take on such a problem case voluntarily; that 'problem' will first have to solve itself," Bochmann said.
Author: Roman Goncharernko / dl, glb, Joanna Impey (AP, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler