Moldova Weekly #26: From Lisbon to Vladivostok, divide and investigate, PASsive aggressive
From Lisbon to Vladivostok
President Igor Dodon attended last week’s meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, where he spoke about his desire to see a united Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok, essentially acting as a spokesman for Vladimir Putin. He explained that being European doesn’t mean loyalty to a political structure, but to European values. Which values he had in mind isn’t clear, given that he had previously labeled liberalism, tolerance and gender equality as “false teachings”.
Regarding Moldova, Igor Dodon promised to carry out the reform of the judiciary, fight corruption and unite society with a… May 9 parade. The issue is divisive in Moldova as for many people the victory against Nazism only meant the beginning of Soviet occupation. The president himself is firmly in the camp of the Soviety victory celebrators and spoke out against marking May 9 as the more neutral Europe Day.
As expected, President Dodon did not miss the opportunity to plead for an international treaty recognizing Moldova’s status as a neutral country. While some see this measure as superfluous, as the Constitution already has a provision regarding neutrality, former foreign minister Nicu Popescu thinks an international treaty would allow Russia to legally pull the brakes on Moldova’s relationship with the EU and the US.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Chicu has become the first Moldovan head of government to attend the meeting of the High Council of the Eurasian Economic Union in Almaty, reflecting the president’s sway over the Cabinet and his Vladivostokian aspirations.
President and CEO
At home, President Dodon was asked about his endless stream of indications, demands and instructions for the prime minister and the other members of the Cabinet. In response, he explained that Chicu & Co had been put forward by himself, not by a parliamentary majority, and as such is normal for him to have more influence over the government. Igor Dodon sees no excess of power, but merely a harmonic collaboration between himself and Prime Minister Chicu.
With such explanations out of the way, the president announced the government’s plan to repair over 300 km of national roads. Some tenders have already been started, others are in preparation. Part of the money should come from the Russian loan, the agreement on which Prime Minister Chicu hopes to finalize soon. Igor Dodon also said the government would carry on with the purchase of 168 ambulances, disregarding the previous health minister’s criticism of their poor quality. The president also warned fuel companies to properly adjust prices to international changes, otherwise the government could reimpose price caps.
Finally, PM Chicu said the government would act on Dodon’s initiative to privatize Metalferos, a state-owned scrap metal monopoly. The company has previously been embroiled in various money-laundering and party financing scandals. It was often seen as a cashcow for the ruling parties. PAS has spoken out against the privatization on grounds that the first step should be dismantling the monopoly - a private monopoly would still be a monopoly.
The prime minister appointed the president’s lawyer Ghenadie Țepordei as head of the Agency of Public Property (APP), a step seen by some as meant to facilitate the privatization of Metalferos.
Igor Dodon denied that the Democrats attend the Monday morning planning meetings between the president, the speaker and the prime minister, as PDM veteran Dumitru Diacov had claimed. Instead, Dodon suggested the meetings with the Democrats take place in the evening, implying they have little to no role in the planning and decision-making process, which takes place in the morning. Speaking about a formal alliance between PSRM and PDM, the president advised the Socialists to wait for the Democrats to reform themselves internally, essentially greenlighting a formal coalition down the line.
New APP chief Ghenadie Țepordei’s final act as presidential lawyer may have been a letter to Ziarul de Gardă, asking the newspaper to retract some of the information published in the investigation into President Dodon’s exotic holidays and publish an apology. Otherwise, the president would take the journalists to court. ZdG didn’t budge and instead published a list of questions for Igor Dodon to answer, about his luxury holidays.
Meanwhile, one of the president’s former friends, who appears together with Dodon in some of the published photos, claims his family in Moldova is being harrassed because of his statements for Ziarul de Gardă.
Divide and investigate
Prosecutor General Alexandr Stoianoglo said the investigation into the Socialists’ alleged offshore funding via Bahamas and the one about the recording where President Dodon claims PSRM is financed from Russia had been illegally merged into one by the suspended chief anticorruption prosecutor Viorel Morari. The two cases are absolutely unrelated, says Stoianoglo, and will be investigated separately. He also refused to look into President Dodon’s luxurious holidays in recent years, saying it’s a job for the National Integrity Agency.
As for Morari, currently under preventive arrest, he now has a third charge against him – tampering with an investigation. His lawyer claims this extra accusation is only meant to force the judge to prolong Morari’s temporary arrest. Morari is charged with manipulating evidence in the banking fraud investigation in order to protect Vlad Plahotniuc and jail his rival Veaceslav Platon.
PG Stoianoglo announced Plahotniuc’s face is finally appearing on the police’s wanted posters and that an official request was submitted and received by the Interpol to issue an international wanted warrant against Plahotniuc.
The dispute between PAS leadership and Grigore Cobzac goes on. The latter was excluded from the party, together with the head of the Hîncești district branch, after refusing to withdraw from the election in favor of PAS candidate Olesea Stamate. Party leader Maia Sandu said Cobzac had initially refused to run in the Hîncești constituency, where he finished second last time around, and the party nominated former justice minister Olesea Stamate. It came as a surprise to everyone when the local branch of the party announced they would support Grigore Cobzac as an independent candidate. The party then revoked his membership, while Cobzac complained about the lack of internal democracy within PAS.
The contest for one MP left vacant in Hîncești district has become unexpectedly dramatic. Besides Cobzac and Stamate, former mayor of Chișinău Dorin Chirtoacă will run on behalf of a coalition of small pro-Romanian parties, another pro-Romanian party, PUN, withdrew its candidate to throw its support behind Cobzac, while the Socialists and the Democrats are strong in Hîncești as well.