Moldova Weekly #22: Holiday poll, Turkish delight, back in BASSness
The results of a new public opinion poll show that President Dodon remains the country’s most trusted politician (37.3% of respondents more or less trust him), followed by former Prime MInister Maia Sandu (30.3%) and Chișinău’s new Socialist mayor Ion Ceban (25.1%). Things are not all rosy for Igor Dodon. Only 23.56% of polled people said they would vote for the Socialist candidate in the presidential elections, while 27.6% would vote for the Party of Socialists in a parliamentary election. It’s up for debate whether this means the president’s rating is going down or the Socialists as a party have grown beyond their informal leader.
Maia Sandu and her Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) have nearly identical ratings – 17.55% and 17.5%. Only the Democrats would join PSRM and PAS in the Parliament, with 7.4% of the voting intention.
Maia Sandu and Pavel Filip’s Cabinets are seen as the best in recent years, while those led by Valeriu Streleț, Chiril Gaburici and Iurie Leancă are the most disliked.
Around 70% of Moldovans think the country has good relations with the EU, Romania and Russia. 59.3% would vote in favor of joining the EU, while Vladimir Putin remains the most trusted foreign leader with a rating of 55.6%.
After a meeting with Igor Dodon, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan thanked Moldova for helping him fight against Fethullah Gülen and his followers, which Ankara labels as a terrorist organization. More precisely, Erdoğan thanked Moldova for delivering him seven Turkish teachers working in Gülen-affiliated Moldo-Turkish schools in September 2018. All of them are now in jail.
At the time, the extradition caused quite a stir, as the teachers were deported hastily with disregard for both Moldovan and international rules and procedures. Some politicians spoke about a deal between Dodon and Erdoğan, who had agreed to finance the renovation of the Presidential Palace in Chisinau. After the PSRM-ACUM alliance, the blame shifted towards the Democrats, who were in power at the time and a parliamentary inquiry was started. Later, prosecutors opened a criminal investigation, which stalled after the change of government.
President Dodon had promised to talk to Erdoğan about it, but kept silent while the Turkish leader expressed his delight with Moldova’s cooperation against Gülen. Erdoğan also reiterated his expectation that the Moldo-Turkish schools will be transferred under the administration of Turkish government foundation. This prompted Moldovan opposition MPs to ask the Ministry of Education for clarifications on the future of these schools.
Back in BASSness
Last summer, PAS MPs published papers showing that BASS Systems won most of the public tenders for IT goods and services, being paid hundreds of millions of lei for products that didn’t always work as intended. Later, the company’s assets were frozen by anticorruption prosecutors as part of an investigation into fugitive oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc’s riches.
However, after the Chicu Cabinet replaced Maia Sandu’s government, the Council of Competition greenlighted S&T AG’s purchase of BASS Systems. Moreover, the company has started to win public tenders again, with 5 million lei (€260,000) worth of contracts just in December.
And there might be way more money coming BASS’s way. Prime Minister Chicu held a meeting regarding the implementation of e-government technologies in Moldova. He promised e-transformation of public services is a priority for his Cabinet. Back in 2018, with the backing of the World Bank, Moldova started a $20 million e-government program that will run until 2023. One wonders how much of this money will end up in BASS coffers.
A load of garbage
Chișinău municipal authorities have reached an agreement with the Țînțăreni town hall, a village in a neighboring district that hosts the capital’s main landfill. The locals have frequently protested because of the pollution and diseases spread by the landfill. Ion Ceban reached a 10 million lei deal (€520,000) with the Țînțăreni administration, promising to help renovate the local football stadium and allot 3 million lei for a health center.
The problem of garbage has the attention of central authorities as well. The government announced plans to create an agency for waste collection and processing, as soon as it can find some funding and assistance from abroad. The agency would first be tested as a pilot project in one region, then expand nationwide.
PAS MP Dumitru Alaiba linked the government’s plan to a new garbage-processing business owned jointly by President Dodon’s brother Alexandru and controversial millionaire Igor Chaika, son of Russia’s Prosecutor General. Alaiba fears the government’s plan will include a public-private partnership with Dodon and Chaika’s company, which could transform Moldova into a “big landfill”.
Chaika has also recently become the majority shareholder of the company that owns the PSRM-affiliated TV channel Primul în Moldova.
The spring of justice
Justice Minister Fadei Nagacevschi announced he sent to the Council of Europe three documents regarding the reform of the judiciary: a general strategy, an action plan to implement it and the draft bill on the evaluation of judges. The papers have also been published on the Ministry’s website ( english version available).
The new concept proposes the evaluation of judges by a committee that includes civil society and academic experts. Foreign experts would be part of the committee that selects and appoints the members of the evaluation committee. Judges who receive a negative assessment will be fired. Supreme Court Judges would be appointed until they reach retirement age (65 years), without the current 5 year probationary term. The 10 years of experience as a judge requirement will be removed to open the CSJ for other legal professionals. Judges’ immunity will be reduced to strictly ”functional immunity”. Some of these changes require the amendment of the Constitution.
Nagacevschi says a team of European experts will come to Moldova to help finalize the reform plan. He expects the three documents to be submitted to the Parliament next spring.
Top 9 lies of the year
We rounded up the year with top 9 lies from politicians and officials: 1) ACUM’s promise they would not ally with the Socialists, 2) the Constitutional Court’s ridiculous decision that the month has 30 days, which led to a week with two parallel governments, 3) the reasons for taking down Maia Sandu’s Cabinet, 4) Ion Chicu’s ”we don’t need foreign money” mantra, 5) PSRM’s insistence they are no allied with PDM, 6) the Chicu Cabinet’s alleged political independence and technocracy, 7) Fadei Nagacevschi’s desire for radical reforms, 8) Igor Dodon’s conformity with the Constitution, and 9) passing around responsibility for freeing Vlad Filat. We explain each case succinctly – why it is important and why it is a lie: Top 9 lies of 2019