Even though it is still winter outside, the degree of political heat in the Republic of Moldova is getting higher and higher. On January 25 Moldova saw the start of the race for parliamentary elections set for February 24, 2019. Opponents started their campaigns with grand promises. Romania’s Presidency in the Council of the European Union provides a chance for Moldova to set its European dialogue in motion as a result of close relations with its “trans-fluvial brother”. And at the end of the month the unrecognized Transnistrian government surprised Chisinau with launching their very own “diplomatic office” in Moscow.
The ice has broken!
On January 25 the Republic of Moldova saw the start of the election race. The Central Election Commission of Moldova registered 9 candidates in the national district including 8 political parties and one bloc. There are three main candidates for the seats in the parliament.
The democrats launched their campaign right next to their own headquarters. Andrian Candu gave an election speech stating that the Democratic party, unlike other rivaling parties, is a party of actions rather than words, and has completed many projects demonstrating its efficiency.
The Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) launched their campaign near L’Arc de Triomphe in Chisinau where Ion Ceban stated that “These 10 years saw some Maia Sandus, Pavel Filips and many others coming to power through the parties of Filat, Ghimpu or Plahotniuc. It is them who should be blamed for the mess in the country”.
“ACUM” bloc including the Party of Action and Solidarity and Dignity and Truth Platform Party “DA” presented their candidates and election pledges in front of the Parliament building. “We will come to create justice. Together, united for our country, we will fight for our families, for the future of our country”, stated Maia Sandu, the leader of the PAC party.
In the meantime, the third Report on the monitoring of coming parliamentary elections, drawn up by Promo-LEX Association, reveals a series of worrying trends, in particular, intimidation of international observers by state bodies – Police and Information and Security Service of the Republic of Moldova. Also the report mentions early start (up to January 25) of electoral campaigns and PR activities of some politicians, misuse of administrative resources and offering of electoral gifts, defective reporting of expenditure by initiative groups, as well as other cases related to non-observance of some legal provisions by the public administration.
A double-edged sword
Starting January 1, 2019, the Russian Federation suspended import charges on some products from the Republic of Moldova including fresh and canned fruit and vegetables as well as wines. Interestingly enough, the decision taken prior to the elections is only valid until June 30, 2019. Moreover, it is rather problematic to take advantage of the suspended charges within this period for Moldovan suppliers as the main channel for transporting Moldovan goods into Russia is by transit via Ukraine. And Russia simultaneously introduced a ban on importing “goods originating from or delivered from Ukraine or goods transported via the territory of Ukraine”. Following the information on problems with Moldovan goods crossing the border between Ukraine and Russia, the government in Chisinau recommended economic agents to avoid delivering supplies to Russia.
Given this context, economic experts believe that suspending charges had less to do with economic reasons but much more with political ones in order to support the president of the country Igor Dodon with the parliamentary elections coming soon. Moreover, Dodon himself stated that such a decision was possible following his meeting with President of Russia Vladimir Putin. However, according to experts, it would be more beneficial to Moldova if the Russian Federation changed its rhetoric and avoided using economic blackmail aiming to influence domestic processes inside the Republic of Moldova.
On January 1 the law on oil product market, adopted by the Parliament in November 2018, entered into force. From now on the National Energy Regulatory Agency will no longer establish price ceiling for oil products as prices will be regulated by companies supplying fuel and they will be based on fuel supply costs and up to 10 % rate of profit standard.
A brother in need
Starting January 1 2019 Romania holds a six-month rotating Presidency of Council of the European Union. For the Republic of Moldova it means an opportunity to be promoted in terms of European integration process largely thanks to its “brotherly” relations with Romania. In this context the Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova Pavel Filip congratulated the Prime Minister of Romania Viorica Dăncilă and expressed his hope that during Romania’s Presidency in the Council of Europe the Republic of Moldova will make progress in its relations with the EU and strengthen its position within the Eastern Partnership.
Pavel Filip also expressed his hopes for Romania’s success in implementing the Presidency of the Council of the European Union and also expressed his confidence that it is an excellent opportunity both for promoting the European agenda of the Republic of Moldova and for deepening bilateral cooperation.
Towards the end of the month, on January 22, Transnistria opened a diplomatic office in Moscow. According to the Transnistrian leader Vadim Krasnoselsky, this office will function as a diplomatic institution while Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs qualified this event as an opening of a Foundation for social and cultural ties named “Transnistria” and aimed at promoting direct social and economic “relations” between Moscow and Tiraspol. Moldova’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded that the Russian Federation respects the country’s territorial integrity and explains the status and format of this “foundation” as its opening leads to deterioration in relations between Moldova and Russia.