Red wedding

Moldova recorded 1598 new cases between July 10 and 16, slightly more than the previous week. The overall number of infections has passed the 20,000 mark, with a death rate of 3.3%.

What authorities do not talk about is the high percentage of positive results among the tested population. For example, on Thursday Romania announced a record of 777 new cases from 19,097 tested people, that is 4% of the tested had the virus. On the same day, Moldova announced 224 new infections after carrying out 1280 tests, which means that 17.5% people were infected among the tested group.

More worrying news came from scientists abroad, with new studies indicating that Covid-19 immunity could last only a few months and that the virus might indeed be airborne after all.

After a Covid-19 patient was found dead in the restroom of a Chișinău hospital, doctors warn that some patients might show psycho-emotional instability after 13-14 days of disease, with symptoms varying from severe depression to irrational aggressiveness.

As more countries include Moldova in a high risk zone and cancel flights, President Dodon has asked the government to allow weddings with up to 50 guests .

No confidence without confidence

PDA has formally put forward a no confidence motion against the Chicu Cabinet in the Parliament. They say the government has proven itself incompetent and unable to deal with the Covid crisis, has violated the law and abused its powers to promote group interests. The creators of the motion are also unhappy with the executive’s erratic foreign policy, unfriendly attitude towards the media and the stagnation of the judiciary reform.

The document was also signed by PAS MPs and Octavian Țîcu, an unaffiliated MP, formerly a member of PDA’s parliamentary group. PDA now has 10 days to find the votes to take down the government. Pro Moldova MPs have announced they would support the motion ”without hesitation”.

Previously, PAS leader Maia Sandu was uncertain about the no confidence motion and said that the move could succeed only with the help of PDM. Otherwise, she feared, the opposition would need the votes of the toxic Șor Party which could put off the country’s foreign partners. Sandu did meet with PDM leader Pavel Filip, but the Democrats say they will not vote together with the Șor Party and Pro Moldova, who splintered from PDM only recently.

The Socialists have accused Sandu of falling into “the oligarch’s trap”, claiming that the no confidence motion was orchestrated by Vlad Plahotniuc. President Dodon doesn’t think the opposition will be able to put forward a joint candidate for prime minister and, even if it does, Dodon insists he will not appoint a cabinet of “turncoats”.

One thousand and one pages

EU Ambassador Peter Michalko said that the amendments proposed last week to the Electoral Code are not in agreement with the recommendations of the Venice Commission. He urged the governing alliance to organize genuine consultations with civil society and find broad political consensus for such important changes. However, PAS MP Sergiu Litvinenco complains that the Socialists have completely ignored all of the civil society’s proposals.

The opposition is equally unhappy with the changes to the Customs Code and the Tax Code. PAS MP Dumitru Alaiba said the proposed amendments that were introduced only very recently have over 1000 pages and that the PSRM-PDM majority planned to vote without even reading the document. His colleague Radu Marian also warned that PDM’s Eugeniu Nichiforciuc sneaked in some provisions that would allow him to legalize his tobacco products schemes.

After the Finance Minister Sergiu Pușcuță himself admitted his ministry had not examined the proposed Tax Code amendments, the Parliament delayed the vote until the next meeting. If the reform passes, the Tax Inspectorate will take on the duties and powers of the former economic police.

The new Customs Code was adopted despite opposition criticisms. Minister Pușcuță says the document is harmonizing Moldovan law with EU directives, but PDA deputy leader Igor Munteanu claims that residents of Free Economic Zones will be driven out by excessive customs inspections.

Let the race begin

PAS has formally announced that Maia Sandu will run for president in the upcoming election. Just a few days earlier, she was speaking about the role of the president and how it could break the vicious circle of Moldovan politics. The center-right segment is already pretty crowded. Former mayor of Chișinău Dorin Chirtoacă is representing the Unification Movement, Octavian Țîcu is the candidate of the National Unity Party, while Sandu’s former ally Andrei Năstase is also in the race. PDA deputy leader Alexandr Slusari suggested Năstase could drop out if he becomes prime minister.

On the left, President Dodon says he will not run as the candidate of the Socialists because the head of the state is not allowed to be a party member. This has not stopped Dodon from being the informal leader of PSRM, but he fears that his opponents might complain to the Constitutional Court if he runs as PSRM’s candidate and that he might be disqualified.

The trojan phone

Earlier this month, prosecutors searched the former PDM headquarters and arrested the party’s former IT chief Mihai Cucoș. Newsmaker found out more details about this case. It seems Cucoș previously represented Plahotniuc’s Finpar Invest and also registered the website for Insidown, an offshore company involved in the bank fraud.

PDM veteran Dumitru Diacov said Cucoș was working for Plahotniuc personally, not for the party. Diacov also confirmed that the former party boss gave all those from his entourage phones with a special app for internal communication, which means Plahotniuc might have a trove with all the conversations carried out through these phones.

The 36+1 format

PDM’s Alexandru Jizdan, as head of the parliamentary defense committee, has requested the Supreme Security Council to meet to discuss the 37 illegal checkpoints installed by the separatist regime of Tiraspol. Jizdan also said he would create a work group of experts and officials to support the government in solving this problem.

President Dodon agreed and said the Council would meet next week. He also spoke on the phone with separatist leader Vadim Krasnoselski, who told him that the checkpoints were meant exclusively to stop the spread of the virus. PAS MPs are skeptical and think the checkpoints will not be removed after the pandemic is over. They accused President Dodon of selling himself to the separatists in exchange for votes from Transnistria.

The tent of discord

Removing these checkpoints is also one of the demands of the veterans of the ‘92 war on the Nistru, who took to the streets in protest. They also ask for free medical insurance, a retirement age of no more than 55 years and for the resignation of the government.

The peaceful protest turned violent after the police stopped the veterans from installing a tent by using electric shocks and tear gas. Nine protesters were taken to the police station for hearings while two others ended up in the hospital.

After being ousted from the square outside the Parliament building, the veterans protested outside the MInistry of the Interior against the use of force by the police and demanded the resignation of Minister Pavel Voicu.

The police have been criticized both by the opposition and by Amnesty International for the unwarranted use of force and for limiting the right to assembly. The Ministry of the Interior says it had to intervene because the veterans were violent and were disregarding anti-Covid public health rules.

President Dodon praised the police and said that compared to their American counterparts the Moldovan officers were kind as lambs. He also declared that the protest was used to push Maia Sandu to sign PDA’s no confidence motion against the government.

The veterans gathered again to protest on Sunday, July 19.

Unemployment on the rise

The number of registered unemployed persons has doubled and reached 35,000 in July, according to data obtained by Newsmaker from the National Agency for Employment. The total figure is obviously much higher as not everyone registers with the Agency. We have previously published an analysis which showed that the government’s economic support measures actually made it easier for companies to fire their employees during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration has revealed the results of a survey among the Moldovan diaspora. According to the study, about 150,000 Moldovans will return home in 2020, which will increase the official unemployment rate to 8.5%. On the bright side, about a quarter of them plan to invest their savings from abroad into a local business.

Judging the judges

The Parliament passed in the first reading an amendment that would make it easier for the government to obtain damages from judges whose rulings got Moldova in trouble at the ECHR.

At the same time, some of these judges are going to court to demand higher pensions. For example, Tamara Chișcă-Donev wants her pension to be raised from €700 to €1000. Moldova lost 14 cases at the ECHR because of rulings taken by judicial panels in which Chișcă-Donev was a member.

Also this week, the Parliament’s legal committee voted against Viorica Puică’s bid to become a judge at the Supreme Justice Court. The Socialist and Democrat MPs in the committee did not explain their decision. Puică has previously spoken out about the problems within the Moldovan judiciary.

More news, in one sentence

◾ After pensioners had to line up outside social assistance offices for chance to get their pensions raised, the government proposed a bill that would allow such requests to be submitted online.

◾ Former Russian banker Oleg Kuzmin confessed to his involvement in the Laundromat and, according to the investigation, he was close with the likes of Vlad Plahotniuc and Veaceslav Platon.

◾ The Public Property Agency will put Metalferos, until recently a scrap metal monopoly, up for privatization this August, at a price of about €45 million.

◾ Vlad Plahotniuc’s wife Oxana Childescu is fighting in offshore trials for the ownership of a yacht and a property in Spain.

◾ The investigative newspaper Ziarul de Gardă found Socialist MP Corneliu Furculiță at his undeclared home in Durlești, but he told the journalists that the house was a ‘family investment’, that the building was still unfinished and this wasn’t where he usually lived, despite the neighbors’ claims to the contrary.

◾ Igor Dodon declared that the government had put on hold the sale of the former National Stadium’s land to the US Embassy, which wants to build a new HQ there.

◾ The families of two of the seven Turkish teachers kidnapped by Moldovan authorities and sent into the hands of the Erdoğan regime reached an agreement to withdraw their ECHR complains in exchange for €25,000 in damages each.

◾ The Ministry of Education has presented seven scenarios to resume schooling in September, varying from fully online classes to students physically going back to school.

◾ After buying the Moldovan assets of the electric utility Gas Natural Fenosa at an official price of only €23 million and rebranding them into Premier Energy, EMMA Capital has announced a first-year profit of nearly €90 million from its Moldovan business.

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