Last month the Moldovan society witnessed a series of controversial movements on behalf of the decision makers that left many open questions and debates inside the country and beyond.
Spectacular Political Clashes During the Pandemic Crisis
Despite the whole world is concerned about how to effectively combat the ongoing pandemic crisis and its severe consequences, the President of the Republic Moldova Igor Dodon is carrying out a number of visits outside of Chisinau, obstructing any precautious rules and measures. According to him wearing a face mask is not mandatory, even though he is paying visits to families with children and elders. However, his careless behavior is strongly criticized by most of the society as irresponsible and endangering people. In the meantime, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is increasing, by May 31 there are 8098 out of which 1564 are medical staff, and 294 deaths, double compared to the previous month. Obviously, Igor Dodon is making use of the pandemic crisis building his political image for the presidential election planned for November 1st 2020. At the same time, the Constitutional Court is examining the possibility to hold at once the presidential and snap parliamentary elections in accordance with law, which the parliamentary opposition supports.
Meanwhile, the infodemic issue is another concern for Moldovan society, despite authorities have information from the official and reliable sources only. However, the misinformation and conspiracy theories are spread by some church representatives. The Moldovan Christian Orthodox Church on May 19 called on the country’s leadership to ensure that a potential anti-coronavirus vaccination will be voluntary, claiming conspiracy by a “world anti-Christ system” that will allegedly insert microchips into humans to control them via 5G technology. This statement triggered immediate critics on behalf of society, high officials including the Prime-minister Ion Chicu, stating the importance of education. Meanwhile, the President Dodon had a biased response to this case. Nevertheless, this issue is of a high concern, with the church interfering in the politics and promoting fake news.
Fighting against infodemic and pandemic crisis represents just one part of the hidden Moldovan political iceberg. The parliament majority of the Democratic and Socialist parties is becoming more fragile with 52 mandates out of 101 as a number of Democrats left the party and joined the “Pro Moldova” parliamentary group, created by the ex-Speaker and former Democrat Andrian Candu. The later one launched an appeal to the parliamentary opposition to create an “anti-governmental bloc” aimed at bringing down the current Moldovan leadership including the President Dodon, warning him to be prepared for upcoming surprises. And the surprise came out soon enough with a video record published by the MP Iurie Renita on May 18, exposing the controversial oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc who is offering a bag (allegedly with money) to the President Dodon. Nevertheless, the compromising video cannot be used as a proof to initiate a criminal case against Igor Dodon, according to the Prosecutor General Alexander Stoianoglo, as it requires necessary expertise on video’s authenticity. Dodon claims that video is a revenge of the oligarchy that lost the power in June 2019. However, the President managed to draw away the society’s attention while visiting his potential electorate around the country, strengthening his positions for the presidential elections.
“The parliament majority of the Democratic and Socialist parties is becoming more fragile with 52 mandates out of 101 as a number of Democrats left the party and joined the “Pro Moldova” parliamentary group”
The Uncertain Finality of the EU Macro Financial Assistance
On May 7, the Constitutional Court (CC) annulled the controversial Russian credit agreement for 200 million Euro, declaring it unconstitutional and contrary to the interests of the Republic of Moldova. The President Dodon classified the CC’s decision as “cynical and against its own citizens”, exaggerating the consequences of annulling the Russian credit, e.g. cuts of pension and salaries. However, the real purpose of the credit was indeed unclear.
In the meantime, the famous bank theft investigation reappeared in the center of attention. Prosecutor General Alexander Stoianoglo on May 18, announced that Vladimir Plahotniuc is the one of the main beneficiaries of the billion dollar theft. On May 22, the Moldovan judges issued an arrest warrant for V. Plahotniuc (in his absence) for involvement in the bank fraud. According to the expert and ex-minister of finance, Veaceslav Negruta, the bank theft case will remain a top issue impacting the budget, as long as the financial burden is on the shoulders of taxpayers, that is until 2041 according to the law adopted in 2016 during the Filip Government. That explains the urgent need of money recovery, as well the full transparency in investigation and prosecution processes.
In tough times of weak economy affected by the pandemic crisis, the Council of Europe Development Bank approved a loan of 70 million Euro for Moldova, aimed to support the health system and small and medium enterprises, affected by COVID-19. Therefore, the Moldovan authorities have to start the negotiation process in this regard.
On the other hand, the disbursement of the second financial tranche of 30 million Euro approved last year, within the EU financial program worth up 100 million Euro, still has an uncertain finality with the Socialist MPs hindering the process. The Deputy Speaker Mihai Popsoi urged the immediate Parliament convention, since the institution is in quarantine from May 22. In spite of the presumed excuses of the Socialists that there’s a risk of infection after the four confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Parliament, the draft law regulating the activity of the civil society organizations is a real reason for their concern. And the President Dodon is threatening that even if passed he won’t promulgate this law, considering the importance of so-called charity foundations during the electoral campaigns. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party announced that they will ensure the necessary Parliament majority for adopting laws which are the EU preconditions in order to access the second tranche, including the abrogation of the law on citizenship by investment, the adoption of an action plan for the reform of justice and the reform of the Superior Council of Magistracy. At the same time, it is not clear if the Moldovan leadership have any chances to access the third tranche worth 40 million Euro, the deadline for which is in July 2020.
A Failed Foreign Policy towards Partners
The Moldova’s foreign relationships with its traditional development partners have visibly suffered either because of the hidden interests of small political groups, or the lack of political maturity on behalf of the current Moldovan leadership. The latest example is the Facebook dispute between the Prime-Minister Ion Chicu and the Romanian Member of European Parliament, Siegfried Muresan. The later one criticized the Chicu Government that “failed in the COVID-19 crisis management because it failed in the reform implementation”. Nothing surprising at first sight, at least for Moldovan society. However, the Prime-minister Ion Chicu offered an inappropriate response, describing Romania as the most corrupted state in Europe and pointing out that only in Suceava district of Romania the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is half of what is registered in the entire Moldova. The fevered reactions came both from Bucharest and Chisinau sides, most of them condemning Chicu’s declaration. It stirred up the Romanian foreign office to publish a reaction, considering Chicu’s statements derogatory and unacceptable.
That happened after the Romanian government approved the unconditional support for Moldova on April 30 by sending a mission with 42 medical staff, for two weeks aimed to help the Moldovan medical staff in fighting the pandemic crisis. Also, on May 7, 20 trucks with medical aid from Bucharest arrived to Chisinau, kindly welcomed by the Moldovan society, but unfriendly by the Moldovan leadership. Deliberately or not, the Moldovan Government decided to keep those trucks away from the city center. Therefore, the welcome ceremony occurred under a bridge at the outskirts of Chisinau, which generated a wave of criticism from the opposition, civil society and internet users.