Moldova Weekly is a new endeavor by sic!: a balanced and comprehensive roundup of the most important stories and developments of the week, presented in English to international audiences interested in what's happening in our lovely country.

Who’s the traitor?

Last week’s debacle at the Constitutional Court continued on Monday, when Vladimir Țurcan was elected chairman of the Court. A Socialist MP until last Friday, Țurcan was already a controversial appointment to the CC. His election as chairman came as a shock to many, given that the ACUM bloc, consisting of PAS and PDA, was supposed to have three judges (out of six) they ”could trust”, but Țurcan was elected with four votes. Prime Minister Maia Sandu asked the judges to tell the public who they voted for, while the minister of justice suggested the vote should be redone. Angry PAS MPs spoke about betrayal.

Two constitutional judges, Liuba Șova and Nicolae Roșca, publicly declared they did not vote for Țurcan. Domnica Manole, a known friend of PDA leader Andrei Năstase, first said the Law forbade her to reveal her vote and that she regretted her colleagues’ statements. The next day however, she abruptly changed her mind, assured everyone she didn’t vote for Țurcan and even asked the Court to cancel the result, a demand which was rejected. Needless to say, PAS and the media weren’t convinced and Manole is widely regarded as the judge who broke the balance and voted for Țurcan. Politicians such as ex-Speaker Andrian Candu and former mayor of Bălți Renato Usatîi told Maia Sandu that her ally Andrei Năstase was negotiating behind her back with President Dodon’s Socialists.

Meet the Rothschilds (or not)

News broke on Tuesday that Nat Rothschild, an heir of the famous banking family, bought 95% of Avia Invest, the company to whom the government leased the Chișinău International Airport in 2013 for 49 years. Initially, Avia Invest was owned by two Russian companies, but ended up in Ilan Șor’s hands, famous for his role in the ”theft of the billion”. Șor escaped abroad after the new government came into power. The Airport and Avia Invest are now the subject of multiple investigations: smuggling schemes, Șor’s illegal exit from the country and even the lease contract itself.

This is why President Igor Dodon and Minister of the Interior Andrei Năstase demanded the transaction to be cancelled. Economy Minister Vadim Brînzan however told the press the government had no levers to stop it. After a meeting of the High Security Council, Igor Dodon announced that the ownership of Avia Invest had not actually changed and said the lease should be cancelled as soon as possible. His demands for urgency were echoed by MP Igor Munteanu (ACUM/PDA), who repeatedly asked the Prosecutor General’s Office and the National Anticorruption Center to investigate how the Airport was leased in 2013 and how it came to be in Șor’s possession.

A motherland’s embrace

Ilan Șor finally seems to have been located. Victor Țentiu, head of Interpol’s Moldova office, says Ilan Șor is in Israel, his country of birth. Israel allows multiple citizenships, but does not extradite its own citizens, so it might be a safe haven for the runaway businessman. Last week, the Moldovan Parliament stripped him of his MP immunity. Țentiu says that Șor’s file has been processed in the Interpol network and he will be detained wherever and whenever he tries to cross an international border.

Private Minister

Minister of Defence Pavel Voicu was scolded during the Cabinet meeting by Prime Minister Maia Sandu. She was unhappy that the visit of Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu was not coordinated with the government and told Voicu that the visit would be a private one, Shoygu could not bring a delegation and no treaties or agreements would be signed. Sandu also asked Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu to summon the Moldovan ambassador in Moscow for explanations.

Voicu, who is one of the two members of the Cabinet picked by the Socialists, later told the press that his Russian counterpart had been invited by President Dodon, which is why the visit was coordinated by the President's Office, not the government. Shoygu is meant to attend Dodon’s festivities celebrating 75 years since the ”liberation of Moldova from Fascist occupation”.

The RM cocktail

These celebrations are again a matter of controversy this year. While indeed many people celebrate the end of the Fascist occupation, for many others this meant only the beginning of Soviet occupation. The Nazi deportations and executions were followed by Soviet forced collectivization, political repressions and deportations to Siberia. Maia Sandu and her Cabinet tried to take a more neutral stance and declared August 23 a Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian regimes. The date also commemorates the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact between Nazi Germany and Stalin’s USSR, which gave the latter the green light to annex Basarabia.

Although at the beginning of the ACUM-PSRM alliance both parties agreed to avoid geopolitical issues that divide society, President Dodon knows what his voters want from him. He ignored the government’s Day of Remembrance on Friday, attending ”liberation festivities” in Gagauzia, and is organizing a concert in center of Chișinău on Saturday.

Electoral prelude

Valeriu Munteanu, former Liberal MP and minister of the environment, announced he would run for mayor of Chișinău in the upcoming elections. His newly created party, the Union Save Basarabia (USB), advocates Moldova’s reunification with Romania. Munteanu ridiculed ACUM and PSRM’s intention to avoid geopolitical debates and to talk about „flowers and sidewalk borders” in the local elections. He is adamant that mayoral elections in the capital should be a thoroughly geopolitical affair.

Meanwhile, PDA leader Andrei Năstase is still trying to keep it a secret that he will run again. He won the municipal elections last summer, but the results were cancelled in court. Earlier this week, his ACUM bloc colleague Mihai Popșoi (PAS) told the press that Năstase intends to run again and the bloc would support him. Năstase replied that Popșoi doesn’t make his agenda or the agenda of any other PDA members. Popșoi’s party boss Maia Sandu also denied the information, saying that PAS had not yet taken a decision regarding its participation in the local elections.

Determined suicide

Businessman Iurii Luncașu was found dead last weekend. He was a close friend of self-exiled oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc. According to his driver, Luncașu shot himself in the head. It just so happens that last year the driver’s son murdered the son of political pundit Anatol Țăranu. The police and prosecutors are investigating three scenarios: suicide, being pushed to suicide and murder. Luncașu’s last note was ”The small white house I bought in 2017, I was an investor”, referencing a luxury building in the heart of the city.

Plahotniuc took to Facebook to pay his respects. Meanwhile, Luncașu’s family revealed he had been suffering from multiple sclerosis for years. They fear that the press reports and investigations about Luncașu worsened his mental state and drove him to suicide. The family hired a lawyer to investigate this possibility.

Fair roads

The money from the Good Roads 2 program will be recalculated and redistributed to districts on a per capita basis. Gheorghe Curmei, head of the State Roads Administration, said 950 million lei have been alloted this year, of which 280 will go to pay last year’s debts. The total budget of the project is estimated at 1.75 billion lei and Curmei says additional funds need to be found, otherwise the scale of the project will have to be reduced.

Drivers will be glad to hear that the Minister of the Interior Andrei Năstase issued an order to traffic patrols, requiring them to come out of the bushes and stop ”ambushing” drivers. Patrols will now have to stay in visible places and be forbidden to stop any cars without clear legal reasons.