August was full of political and social events; some of them have shattered the 29th anniversary of Moldova’s independence on August 27. Struggle with unprecedented pandemic crisis and its severe consequences; continuous and tiring political disputes between the Moldovan political forces; everlasting justice reform and fight against corruption; decreasing quality of citizens life; as well expecting the most fiery upcoming November presidential elections are just few major issues which left many open questions ahead concerning further development of Moldova.
(In)dependence from whom? What?
While fighting the COVID-19 with over 36.000 confirmed cases , having the highest rate of infection in Europe per one million people, Moldova woke up in a political, social and economic deepening crisis. The 29th anniversary of Moldova’s independence was celebrated without traditional festivity due to the pandemic restrictions, but with well-secured country’s leadership, protests and opposition march. According to a recent survey, more than 65% of respondents declared that either their incomes are just enough or not enough for basic needs; more than 60% consider the implemented reforms not efficient. Nevertheless, among the positive aspects mentioned are visa free regime with EU countries, signing and implementation of the EU-Moldova Association Agreement.
The forthcoming November presidential elections are the big stake for the existing leading political parties and for citizens too. Obviously, the future elected president of the country might have a major impact on further Moldova’s political course. The Central Electoral Commission (CEC) officially launched the electoral period on August 25, and according to the CEC published list 48 political parties can participate in the upcoming elections. However, there are no candidates officially registered yet. Nevertheless, few political parties announced their candidates for the electoral race, namely, Maia Sandu (PAS – Action and Solidarity Party), Andrei Nastase (Platform DA – Dignity and Truth Platform DA), Octavian Ticu (PUN – National Unity Party), Dorin Chirtoaca (MPU- Political Movement “Union”) and Renato Usatii (PN – Our Party).
The Moldova’s political landscape can surprise us when it is less expected. The return to politics of ex-prime minister and former convicted for abuse of office Vlad Filat elected to run PLDM – Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova raised different opinions and critics among the society. Based on his previous experience in initiating political alliances, Filat offered the opposition parties PAS and Platform DA to create a political bloc and nominate a common candidate for presidential elections. PAS rejected the proposal, arguing they’ve already nominated the candidate, while the Platform DA did not provide a straightforward response. In the end, PLDM nominated Tudor Deliu. The question is if Filat would engage more in politics, how many of Moldovan citizens will support him, forgiving and forgetting about his involvement in one billion dollar theft.
The current Moldovan president Igor Dodon has not yet announced his participation in November elections. However, the answer is clear since his actions and statements are full of electoral content, e.g. declaring about a possible discount on natural gas for consumers starting with September. The electricity provider company “Energocom” also informed about a potential cut rate for electricity for August-December 2020 period.
In the meantime, Dodon was allegedly on vacation in Moscow, affirming that he is offering to be the first person from Moldova to administer the supposed Russian vaccine anti-COVID. This is despite the fact that there is no public scientific data on this vaccine and no approvals by the international scientific community. Even the Moldovan Health Minister avoided making any comments on Russian vaccine. Nevertheless, it is obvious that Dodon’s behavior, pushing hard to please the Russian leadership, is aimed to get support for November presidential elections.
The Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM)’s fate is at stake facing organizational transformation. Recently the party expelled two of its MPs who allegedly had been discordant with party activities for a long time. Despite that, the expelled MPs will continue to support the existing government as independent parliamentarians. Thereupon, several members from five PDM territorial organizations left the party, accusing the leadership of PDM, in particular, ex-prime minister Pavel Filip of splitting the Democratic Party. In return, Filip sustained in an interview that PDM is getting through an important transformation and quality matters more than quantity. Speaking about their candidate for presidential elections, Filip mentioned that the government, parliament and the parliament majority have more weight than the president in a parliamentary republic like Moldova.
“The Central Electoral Commission officially launched the electoral period, and published a list of 48 political parties that can participate in the upcoming elections”
Extreme drought on lands and in pockets
Affected by the pandemic crisis and natural calamities, several farmers from different regions of Moldova have protested for more than a week, blocking the main national routes. Farmers were claiming Government should declare state emergency in agriculture sector and undertake necessary measures, e.g. increase subsidies for damages caused, reschedule farmers’ debt, introduce moratorium on fiscal controls, VAT reimbursement etc. In the end, the Agency for Intervention and Payments for Agriculture agreed on help of 1500 MDL (75 Euro) per hectare for farmers from first group of crops. In addition, a draft of legislative amendments aimed to support farmers, was sent for coordination to International Monetary Fund. Nevertheless, it will take time until Government and Parliament will approve the submitted draft law. Otherwise, farmers would probably come back in October to protest again claiming to fulfill their demands. Notwithstanding that out of total 451 thousand hectares sown, 200 thousand were affected, the authorities ensure that food security is out of risk.
The construction of an important project for Moldova’s economic and energy security perspective, namely, the gas pipeline Iasi-Ungheni-Chisinau (120km length) was finalized. At first stage, the pipeline is to provide gas transportation in a volume of 1.5 billion cubic meters per year. However, the pipeline will have the capacity to provide about 70% of the average Moldova’s consumption including the Transnistrian region, after finalizing in 2021 the investment on the Romanian territory. Stakeholders of the “Victoriabank” commercial bank (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Romanian commercial bank “Banca Transilvania”) voiced their complaints and concerns about the attempts of the prosecutors to investigate money laundry from 2014. In particular, the Prosecutor General seized the property owned by Victoriabank, valued at 1.9 billion MDL, though EBRD and Banca Transilvania became stakeholders at Victoriabank in 2018 while the fraud took place in 2014. In the meantime, the bank representatives declared its openness to cooperate with the Moldovan authorities on the case. According to the financial expert and former minister of finance, Veaceslav Negruta, the Moldovan prosecutors shall provide more information about the case otherwise Victoriabank seizure appears to be an abusive measure on behalf of authorities.
Unbalanced and lack of cohesion on foreign policy issue
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoglu paid a two-day visit to Chisinau. The head of Turkish diplomacy and his Moldovan counterpart Oleg Tulea participated in the first meeting of the Joint Strategic Planning Group, addressing a wide range of bilateral issues including the possibility to organize the Joint Intergovernmental Economic Commission when the epidemiological situation will allow. Turkey is Moldova’s 7th largest trading partner, investing over $400 million in different projects through the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA). Inauguration of the Turkish Consulate in Comrat city, Gagauzia autonomy, is a clear interest to provide support toward Moldovan citizens in particular Gagauzian community.
Contradicting approach of Moldovan authorities to the current developments in Belarus was a debatable issue for local expert community. On the one side, president Dodon hurried up to express his personal congratulations “on behalf of the Moldovan population” to the elected president A.Lukashenko, making abstraction of Belarusian law enforcement violent repression against peaceful protesters. Few days later, Moldovan foreign office published a statement of concern regarding the post electoral situation and violence in Belarus, reiterating the importance of respecting human rights and democratic principles. In fact, different lines of addressing the situation in Belarus reflect lack of cohesion on foreign policy issue between the Moldovan leadership. The public opinion and opposition political leaders suggested that Lukashenko’s pattern might inspire Dodon in the forthcoming presidential elections.
Photo: Opposition protests on Independence Day