President Dodon’s Five Double Faces
This is a translated and slightly adapted version of an article originally published in Romanian on October 2.
Igor Dodon is a politician with a penchant for inconsistency. Before Dodon-the-Socialist went to Moscow to tell everybody how bad the Association Agreement with the EU was for Moldova, Dodon-the-Communist, as a minister of economy under Vladimir Voronin, was a staunch supporter of the Agreement. Today as President, Igor Dodon seems to be playing several sets of double game simultaneously. One recent example is how he lashed out at a particular group of foreigners in Moldova over a minor street brawl. But let’s break them down a little bit, one at a time.
1. A ‘non-partisan’ President
Presidents are required by the Moldovan law to act as “impartial arbiters”, with the implication that they must suspend membership in their respective political parties. When Igor Dodon won the 2016 presidential election, he passed on the leadership of the Socialist Party (PSRM) to Zinaida Greceanîi, at least officially, and promised to be “a President of everybody, regardless of anyone’s political preferences.” In practice however, Mr. Dodon has completely disregarded the spirit of the rule, as he openly admits to being “the informal leader of the Socialists.” During negotiations for a coalition with ACUM, it was he who presented the Socialists’ terms, saying that “we are ready to create a parliamentary majority with a functional, not just minority government, with the bloc ACUM only.”. More recently, he participated in a ceremony to officially launch the PSRM local election campaign.
However, this formalistic approach to party affiliation allows Mr. Dodon to disavow any Parliament or Government action whenever he finds it convenient for his reputation and chances of re-election next year. And Ion Ceban – the party’s chief ideologist and arguably the next most influential Socialist after Dodon and Greceanîi – can run for Chisinau mayor with a supposedly non-political program, despite his PSRM nomination being announced by the “non-partisan” President.
2. All we need is a formal agreement
The same “non-partisan” President publicly insisted on many occasions that signing an official PSRM-ACUM agreement was the only way for the coalition to continue to exist. That everything must be formalized and become transparent. Aside from that, Mr. Dodon’s role in the controversial election of Socialist MP Vladimir Țurcan as Constitutional Court chair is unclear, but what we do know is that he welcomed it, while shrugging off any criticism. Even if the coalition partners, especially PAS, denounced backroom maneuvering, the President didn't bother to find out or offer details about how a senior PSRM member became the presiding judge of a clearly overpowered, kingmaker-kingbreaker court. A formal and transparent agreement is all that matters, sure thing, but what happens behind the curtains is none of anybody’s business.
3. No geopolitics
Igor Dodon is trying to build a reputation of a neutral and balanced President, a friend of everyone who takes what is best from both the East and the West. While he flies to Moscow so often he could have a regular flight opened just for him, Igor Dodon nevertheless insists he wants to leave geopolitics aside, because it’s so divisive of course.
At odds with this professed “balanced” rhetoric, however, Mr. Dodon missed a recent opportunity to recognize a reconciliatory move by the Government, which declared August 23 to be the Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian regimes. Instead, the very next day, the President sponsored a concert in Chisinau’s main plaza to mark the anniversary of Moldova’s liberation from fascist occupation by the Soviets, who are now seen by many as the occupation power. Like his Russian allies, Mr. Dodon and his Socialists are keen to capitalize on their base’s nostalgia for the Soviet past. Not divisive in the slightest.
More recently, his speech at the UN General Assembly, apart from being evasive about the withdrawal or Russian troops from Transnistria, stood out by echoing a concept that some regard as Vladimir Putin’s pet geopolitical project – a Greater Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok. No doubt a balanced approach, in the Kremlin’s view maybe.
4. Gender equality
Igor Dodon also spoke at the UN about gender equality and women’s empowerment. However, he caveated his statement with the reminder that a woman’s primary role is to be a mother and a family’s nucleus. Even so, this is a significant improvement on the Igor Dodon who last year hosted the World Congress of Families, a gathering of sexist and homphobic conservatives, or on the Dodon who used to call “liberalism, tolerance, gender equality [...] false teachings” that were being imposed upon Moldova.
The President also boasted at the UN that, in Moldova, Parliament, the Government and the Gagauz autonomy were being headed by women. But he seems to forget that, despite being the largest parliamentary group, the Socialists allocated fewer MP seats for women than, say, ACUM or PDM. Proportionally, even the Shor Party fares better in this respect. He also forgot his throwing blatantly sexist remarks towards his female opponent, the current PM Maia Sandu, in the presidential race.
5. Moldovan hospitality
The selling point of Moldovans being genuinely hospitable is one of the most fancied in our country. The less glamorous truth was laid bare during the 2016 presidential election, when PSRM and PDM media worked hand in hand to spread a conspiracy about how Igor Dodon’s main rival, Maia Sandu, struck a secret deal with Europe to take in 30,000 Syrian refugees if she won. Assisted by this xenophobic bugbear, Igor Dodon eventually emerged victorious in the runoff to become President. Later he befriended the Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who generously repaired the Presidential Palace. Mr. Dodon’s tolerance was recently cut short, however, by a street fight between a Chisinau woman on one side and a group of female students on the other. In a country where people get killed or mauled in booze-induced crimes or in horrible car crashes on an everyday basis, how come it’s this minor brawl that grabs the attention of the President? Because the students were Palestinian Arabs (a great part of international students in Moldova, especialy in medical schools, come from the Middle East). And so the fight grew in the Christian Orthodox eyes of President Dodon to the scale of an “outpouring of violence!”
No doubt those students deserved some form of punishment (they were expelled shorty after). But it’s abnormal to see the President himself ask for their stay permits to be cancelled. Igor Dodon tries to conceal his xenophobia behind clichés about Moldovan hospitality and tolerance, and behind the “hope that this is just an isolated case which will never repeat itself again and which will not affect how Moldovans think about foreign students.” But a President’s mere reaction to this otherwise minor case blows it out of proportion and promotes the notion that violence is not something that should be condemned flatly. Rather, violence is more serious if a foreigner assaults a local. Two Moldovans stabbing each other over a bottle of plonk is not something worthy of the President’s righteous indignation. But when a couple of Hijab-wearing girls slap a Moldovan mom, it’s a slap in the face of Moldovan hospitality, an “outpouring of violence”, which calls for immediate presidential intervention.
The Red Surfer 2.0
When we wrote about Igor Dodon’s inconsistency about Moldova’s foreign policy course, in the article referenced in the introduction, we dubbed him The Red Surfer for his ability to catch and ride any wave that’s higher at a given moment. Over the years, his surfing ability has apparently improved to the point that he tries to ride pairs of waves simultaneously. These feats, however, could be dangerous for our country, when the President with one hand signs cooperation agreements, and with the other sabotages the Government or foments xenophobic fears under the pretense of Moldovan hospitality.
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Igor Dodon welcomes election of Socialist MP Vladimir Țurcan as CC chairman (RO), moldova.europalibera.org ↩︎
Igor Dodon: We Moldovans are a hospitable, friendly people... (RO), fb.com/dodon.igor1 ↩︎