June is already becoming a symbolic month for Moldovan politics. The country witnessed its first full year since the collapse of Vladimir Plahotniuc’s regime and the withdrawal of the Democratic Party from power. Quite ironically, with no clear and definite resolution to the governance issue in Moldova since then, a complete restructuring of the country’s politics is in the talks yet again. As of now, there are too many political moves and unknown variables to understand a pattern or predict an outcome. It is evident, however, that the government is not handling the health crisis, those in power struggle to remain in power, and the opposition is unable to agree on an alternative.
Unclear and Unexpected Maneuvers
It appears that political struggles have overtaken the delivery of public policies at a time where COVID-19 surges among the population and medical personnel. People are now left to their own devices and responsibility, since, according to Prime-minister Chicu, the country can no longer afford a complete prohibition of the mobility and economic activity in the country.
Meanwhile, the Moldovan Parliament adopted a Declaration condemning party defectors and political corruption, drafted by the Democratic Party (PDM), which has had to suffer the most from the practice lately. Soon after, another Democrat MP and signatory of the Declaration, left the faction and joined the Pro Moldova group, cementing thus the Parliamentary crisis on a brim. With no majority from the Socialist and the Democratic Parties to support the Chicu Government, the Dignity and Truth Platform Party (DA) has been actively pushing for government dismissal and taking full responsibility for a new one to address the domestic crisis. The Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) is open to support the Platform’s new Government, but not alongside the controversial Pro Moldova and Sor Party, thus placing its hope on the votes from PDM. As there are no guaranteed and unconditional votes for a new government if the incumbent one is dismissed, PAS considers early parliamentary elections as the only option for regaining the functionality of the governance process. This position stirred open and harsh criticism from DA, despite the support for early elections from Donald Tusk, too. The Constitutional Court has yet to determine whether such an option is viable, given the upcoming presidential elections. While tensions between the two former partners are on the rise, the Sor Party, and especially Pro Moldova are gaining traction.
President Dodon has, therefore, reinvented his approach and is now trying to maintain his positions and fight the remains of the oligarchic system, an immediate threat to the status quo. Recent controversial decisions of the judiciary have been quite suggestive: the suspension of sentence execution in the case of a businessman convicted for involvement in the 1 billion dollars bank fraud, known to have competed with Plahotniuc and the extradition request for Plahotniuc. The Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office has also found no elements of a criminal offence during the investigations regarding the video showing Dodon, Plahotniuc and his adviser, and a bag, presumably with money. Even more so, President Dodon seems to want to ‘mend’ the ties with the Socialists’ former coalition partners. He called for talks and joint actions from the anti-oligarchic parties: PAS and Platform DA, alongside PSRM and PDM, to address the Parliamentary crisis. Otherwise, if the situation worsens, they will be just as accountable for chaos in the governance process. Presidential elections and control over state institutions are, after all, at stake in the upcoming months. This period has also been marked by the adoption of the Law on NGCOs, which prohibits NGOs from funding political parties and participating in electoral campaigns on their behalf. Dodon and Chicu criticized the Law, but it was a key condition to the disbursement of the second tranche of 30 million EUR from the EU.
“Political struggles have overtaken the delivery of public policies at a time of COVID-19”
The Struggles of Restarting a Severed Economy
Being too late for pre-emptive economic measures in the light of the pandemic and too expensive to keep the economy under lockdown, Moldovan authorities are now facing the crisis as it is. According to the Extraordinary National Committee for Public Health, all economic activities will be resumed throughout the country, with only small exceptions, starting with July 1, despite the state of emergency in public health being extended until July 15. The authorities are working on measures to ensure both the productivity of the sector and the safety of their activity. This is not too reassuring, given the experience of the HoReCa sector (hotels, restaurants and cafes) with the vague regulations drafted by the Committee. Such businesses have officially reopened on June 15, but many are unable to work in full sway, fearing unduly fines and abusive practices from control bodies, given the unclear instructions for the sector.
Paying wages, pensions and allowances in due time and not operating tax increases for the business environment, as announced by the Government, will most likely put it under strain. The authorities already have to allocate funds for the pandemic-related issues. Initially critical of the Law on NGCOs, Prime-minister Chicu is now hopeful of the 30 million EUR from the EU. Meanwhile, President Dodon announced that Moldova and Russia will resume negotiations on the 200 million EUR loan, previously declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.
Apart from this, small changes should be under way for the energy sector and agriculture in the country. The World Bank will fund a project that aims to improve the efficiency of the centralized heating system, while a loan from Japan will support the Moldovan farmers in purchasing high-performance agricultural equipment.
Lower Priorities, but Significant Issues
Major foreign policies are currently on a standby or, at least, secondary, amid the political and pandemic crisis in midst of the country’s domestic affairs. The instability, however, gives off several warning signs.
Thomas Mayr Harting, the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office visited Moldova in the wake of tensions between Chisinau and Tiraspol. The parties discussed the restrictions on entering and leaving the Transnistrian region, the illegal checkpoints installed by Tiraspol, and access to medical services, among others, in hopes to de-escalate the issue. Even more controversial, however, has been President Dodon’s participation at the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, alongside a substantial contingent of the National Army, in spite of health restrictions and regulations. Symbolic or not for our country’s current foreign policy is the presence of Dodon at the event, as per Vladimir Putin’s invitation, while the country marked 30 years since the adoption of the Declaration of Sovereignty.
Moldova’s political choices and domestic issues do not go unnoticed by its foreign partners. In a meeting with Oleg Tulea, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his counterparts from EU and EaP countries, the European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, pointed out that the EaP countries’ support for Moldova substantially depends on whether the authorities can deliver or not.
Photo: In Moldova, on June 18, the Pro Moldova party was officially registered. This was announced at a press conference on June 22 by party head Andrian Candu.