by Mihaela Radu

In the 27 years since Moldova got its independence, the political ground in the country has changed a lot and fluctuated between East and West, between democracy and semi-autocracy, between Pro-European and Pro-Russia forces. However, when in 2009 the Communist party which ruled Moldova for almost eight years lost its power to the Alliance for European Integration, it started to reform the Moldovan government and breathe new life into the economy. After years of negotiations, an Association Agreement with the European Union was finally signed in 2014. Taking the last train to the European Union, Moldova aimed at succeeding in becoming a leader of the Eastern Partnership, obtaining a Liberalisation Agreement for Visas. While these objectives, which were important in the electoral agenda of the ruling parties, have been fulfilled. Meanwhile, the leaders of the Republic of Moldova also chose a path of abuse and intimidation, destroying any hope of democracy.

One of the main figures who did everything in order to destroy the EU path was Vladimir Plahotniuc, an oligarch and one of the richest men in Moldova, and also the leader of a fake Pro-European Democratic Party. While being part of the Alliance for the European Union, over the years he built his influence over the government, police and media. Despite his extensive influence, his control over the justice authorities, substantial financial resources and personal ambition, Plahotniuc is not in a position to govern Moldova alone. The key factor is the marginal public support for him and his party. Only about 1-2% of the public support Plahotniuc and fewer than 5% of voters will vote for his PDM party. In such conditions, he cannot afford to try and seize power in the country and openly reject the democratic model, as this could lead to violent resistance from the public. This scenario is also impossible because of the opinion of the Western partners supporting Moldova financially and politically, and with whom Plahotniuc, as a nominally Pro-European politician, must reckon with. As a result, the oligarch must maintain some semblance of democracy to preserve power, and so he has been forced to work and build a hidden political cartel with Igor Dodon, the former leader of the Socialist Party and current President, and the most popular politician in Moldova with around 50% popular support.  


    After the alliance made between Plahotniuc and Dodon a new, fake government which was unrecognised by Moldovan citizens was voted. Afterwards, massive protests started, and two new opposition parties were created: PAS – Action and Solidarity Party and DA – Dignity and Truth Party. These parties, together with the Liberal Democratic Party started to fight with the current government which claims to maintain a fake pro-EU path.
    In 2016, in November’s presidential elections, the pro-Russian candidate, Igor Dodon, defeated Maia Sandu, who ran on a platform of reform in line with the European path. In the campaign, both Dodon and Sandu prioritised the fight against embedded corruption and the oligarchic system, over geopolitical factors. However, Dodon’s pro-Russian approach won grace to his friend Plahotniuc who officially supported Sandu but whose influential television channels promoted Dodon. Moreover, Dodon was allowed to play dirty in the electoral campaign, cheat, and distribute fake news about Maia Sandu. No accredited institution reacted to these serious violations and the Court declared the presidential race, valid.
    In 2017, the PSRM (Socialist Party) and PD (Democratic Party) parties started their preparations for the next parliamentary elections and decided to vote a law on a mixed electoral system. Despite the Venice Commission advising not to implement the mixed electoral system in the current state of Moldova, the government still proceeded with its plans. Despite the approval of the MPs, opposition parties and civil society protested heavily against the new mixed system, stressing out the violation that was being made. These include the principle that adopting a new electoral system, requires a broad consensus.
    After the Chisinau Appeal Court upheld the decision of a lower court to annul the win of Andrei Năstase in the mayoral elections, who won by 52.57% in the 2nd round, hundreds of people took up to the streets of Chișinău on the 20th and 21st of June, to protest in front of the Capital’s Council building, Chișinău Court, Chișinău Appeal Court and the HQ of the Democratic Party of Moldova. However, the Moldovan Supreme Court maintained the decision to uphold the invalidation of Chisinau’s 3rd June Mayoral elections. The court’s decision was illegal and had to do with the political influence of the Democratic Party over the justice system.
    After, refusing to recognise the voice of the Moldovan citizens, Moldova’s ruling Democratic Party delayed the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for autumn 2018, to early 2019. Moldova lawmakers, voted to re-schedule the next parliamentary elections to 24 February 24 2019, in the last day before the summer recess. Initially, the election should have taken place by the end of November.
    The most controversial law that voted was the fiscal reform package, particularly the Fiscal Amnesty Law. This allows people who obtained illegal money and goods to legalise them by paying a 3% tax to the state. 


It is tough to predict how events will develop in the coming months conclusively. It now seems that one of the more likely scenarios Plahotniuc is considering is an attempt to get the best possible result for the PDM while simultaneously taking action, including administrative moves, to limit the number of votes for the PSRM. The strongest opposition party now is the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) of Maia Sandu, which is currently supported by around 25% of the electorate. In this situation, the oligarch will try, as he has done in the past, to gradually marginalise his coalition partners and, through bribery and threats, bring deputies from other parties over to the PDM. 

For sure, the coming months will be decisive for the shape of Moldovan politics and Plahotniuc himself. The future of the oligarchy and the system it has constructed is currently uncertain and depends equally on the results of the general elections, and the degree of the oligarch’s influence on President Dodon, which is difficult to assess unambiguously. One thing is obvious, if Plahotniuc’s party will succeed to take power for the next four years, Moldova’s democracy will continue on the negative trajectory of the previous years, and the government will be unable to solve the real problems faced by society such as poverty, corruption, migration, unemployment, or the “billion-dollar theft.” 

20 September 2018
This text was published in Bullseye issue 73