‘Coordinator’ Lays His Cards on the Table. What Stands Behind the Change in the Political Signboard of the PDM

Home / Analytics / ‘Coordinator’ Lays His Cards on the Table. What Stands Behind the Change in the Political Signboard of the PDM
Last Friday, the leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova, Vlad Plahotniuc, delivered a program statement that has already become a great sensation. Notorious oligarch, a businessman and part-time politician who is considered a shadow leader of the country, after the meeting of the PDM political council said that the Democratic Party will focus on the needs of the people, abandoning geopolitics. “From now on the PDM is a pro-Moldovan party, for all Moldovans,” Plahotniuc said. In Moldova, Plahotniuc’s statements are treated in different ways. Someone considers such a political maneuver a pre-election bluff, and someone – a betrayal of the ideas of European integration. The editorial team of the RTA interviewed regular authors of the portal about the meaning and significance of the pro-Moldovan turn of the PDM. Below are the main conclusions of the experts. Specious flexibility For many years the Democratic Party of Moldova has diligently positioned itself as pro-European. At the same time, it is indicative that the more democrats monopolized power in the country, the stronger and more clearly became their orientation towards Brussels. This has its logic: the creeping usurpation of power by the Democratic Party headed by Vlad Plahotniuc did not remain unnoticed in European capitals, especially since the process was accompanied by terrific scandals like “theft of a billion”. In this sense, PDM had only one way to look legitimate itself in the eyes of its European partners: to demonstrate the political course towards Brussels and to signal the maximum loyalty to the ideas of the European future of Moldova. This tactic worked until a certain moment. However, after the results of the elections of the Chisinau mayor were invalidated, the mass of claims against Moldova and its leadership by the European institutions became critical, and the Brussels and EU support of the acting government of the Republic of Moldova began to decrease exponentially. European financing of the Republic of Moldova today is frozen in a number of areas. A flagrant violation of the basic principles of democracy by the Moldova’s leadership crossed out even such merits of the Democratic Party as an approved by the Venice Commission initiative to incorporate the European vector of development into the country’s constitution. In July, Vlad Plahotniuc firmly condemned the EU decision to suspend macro-financial assistance to Moldova. At that moment, it became obvious that the situation had gone too far and a return to the initial positions in relations between the leadership of the Republic of Moldova and Brussels is hardly possible, which means that the democrats need a new ideological platform capable of replacing the “European course”. So, the “Pro-Moldova” concept was voiced, which instantly provoked heavy criticism against the PDM for “betrayal of the European course”. That was expected: there could be no question of a real abandonment of the course for the European Union, but it was necessary to show its “flexibility” to the European partners and the ability to adapt to the rapidly changing realities. The Moldovan leadership sent a clear signal to Brussels: further criticism of the current government could hit hard on the “European Moldova” project, while Andrei Nastase’s scenario at the election of the Chisinau mayor awaits alternative pro-European politicians. Besides, the limits of “flexibility” can be very conditional – who knows who will be the one to build the “pro-Moldovan” future of the country with? One shot for two Plahotniuc announced the “change of the signboard” of the Democratic Party that is not least the political technology phenomenon. Until then, the ruling PDM was criticized both from the left and from the right flank. Socialists oppose the European course of Moldova and obstruct the anti-Russian rhetoric of the government and the PDM. Right-wingers led by Maia Sandu and Andrei Nastase believe that the “Plahotniuc’s regime” usurped, distorted and blackened the European idea. Declaring itself a “pro-Moldovan party”, the Democratic Party is trying to get out of the criticism on the geopolitical issue and put the left (including the socialists) and the right against each other and this will be inevitable, if both of them will not be able to adjust on the fly the main messages of their election campaign, reducing the share of geopolitical rhetoric, as the PDM has done it. The idea of the democrats is logical. While at the level of political parties and movements in Moldova the West will struggle with the East, tearing the electorate at different poles, the ‘center’ is free and painlessly occupied by the PDM. As you know, with the typhoon sweeping away everything on its way, the safest place is its center, the so-called “eye of the storm”, where there is almost no wind and clouds. However, Sandu and Nastase may not want to follow the example of Democrats, although now they will have to seriously consider adjustment of their election strategy. With Dodon’s left-wing socialists, things are a bit more complicated: after declaring their party a pro-Moldovan, Plahotniuc invaded without asking the political space of socialists, which has long been promoting the idea of a sound balance between the West and the East. Away game The concept of “pro-Moldova” is an obvious direct invasion of the ideological space of the PSRM and Igor Dodon, where the socialists have been in the last few years. Opinions about the ultimate goal of such a maneuver diverge. Many experts immediately assumed that Plahotniuc prepares the foundation for a future coalition with the Socialists. Representatives of some Moldovan parties consider this step as a certain “coming-out”, believing that Plahotniuc is no longer going to hide ‘cooperation’ with the Socialists. According to another hypothesis, the pro-Moldovan turn of the PDM is primarily a painful blow to the Socialist Party that will have far-reaching consequences. Henceforth, the PDM of Vlad Plahotniuc copied the ideological banners of the PSRM, and now both of these forces declare almost the same goals and objectives. However, the Democratic Party has significantly superior resources for their implementation: the PDM controls the government, parliament and actually all power structures. This means that in the period remaining until the election, the government can implement in a short time or create the appearance of implementation of items from the PSRM electoral program. In this case, the democrats will sooner or later start to set the pace of implementation of the “pro-Moldovan” policy, and all those involved in February 2019 will only have the role of caching up or extras. The government and the PDM have enough resources for this short and exceptionally imitative surge of positive activity, unlike the Igor Dodon party, which is objectively limited in administrative and managerial resources. The delay-action mine for the pro-presidential wing of the Moldovan leadership also lies in the fact that criticizing the PDM will now become much more difficult since the risk of “making it to” its own political priorities is great. Public outing The upcoming elections are the first, in which half of the deputies of the parliament will be elected in the single-seat constituencies. The political experience of recent years has repeatedly shown that the pre-election struggle of the deputies for single-seat constituencies is more a charity competition, rather than competitiveness of ideas. The reform of the electoral system of Moldova that the democrats and socialists jammed through was especially criticized for this. The overwhelming majority of experts and analysts familiar with the situation in Moldova are convinced that 50% of deputies elected in single-seat constituencies can either initially be democrats under cover or simply ‘outbidded’ by the PDM later, like a significant part of the Communist faction in the current parliament. In his Friday statement, Vlad Plahotniuc bluntly declared that the party will work directly with local authorities and citizens. Thus, the leader of the PDM actually legitimized the upcoming activities of democrats in single-mandate constituencies: pre-election charity, the use of administrative resources, obsequence of local officials before the elections, and so on. Now all this is not the methods of unfair electoral competition, but the party’s policy, and dare anyone to blame the democrats for this. With open cards Whatever the case, the change in the political program of the Democratic Party is an extraordinary event. For many years PDM has emphatically abstracted from a heavy criticism and accusations of absolute power. Vlad Plahotniuc managed to solve majority of the most controversial cases being blatantly detached, remaining ‘over the fight’. The opinion of the shadow ruler of the country was voiced through rare and rationed contacts with press and polished publications in the media. Over the past few years, the situation has gradually changed: democrats have less and less hid their decisive role in Moldova’s policy, and many fundamentally important decisions of the state were announced at party meetings. Vlad Plahotniuc’s statement is the end of an era in which the Democrats at least tried to preserve the face, imitating the appearance of separating themselves and the state. The opposition, the public, journalists, Moscow, Brussels – all for a long time ‘peered’ into the Democratic Party of Moldova, giving it the status of ‘Politburo’. Apparently, today, being in front of a real threat to lose power, Vlad Plahotniuc no longer disguises his status, demonstratively revealing cards with real and fake aces and jokers. The current situation is an indicator that the increased pressure on the PDM from many power centers has served a purpose. It seems that Plahotniuc has carefully weighed, modeled the scenarios of the situation, and made conclusions. The main one is to win at any cost. Undoubtedly, the Democrats and their leader would prefer to maintain ‘fashionable’ remoteness, to lead the country from behind the scenes of Moldovan politics, and to blame individual careless officials for costly failures, rampant corruption and other shameful phenomena, easily replacing both individuals and the whole cabinet. Today, the situation requires decisive actions from the PDM and an all-in game, where, as one can judge, all means are good. The new policy of the Moldovan democrats is a direct challenge to all the political forces of Moldova and international partners, a demonstration of power on the eve of the decisive battle. It remains to be seen whether this general battle will be held in the Fair Play regime, or the international community will again prefer to turn a blind eye to the depressing realities of the Moldovan ‘democracy’. The material uses opinions of the RTA regular authors Sergei Ceban, Dorin Mocanu and Sergei Isaenko.