Nobody Will Send Plahotniuc to the Bottom. How the Leader of the Democratic Party Will Retain Power in 2019

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Gennady Gutu Parliamentary elections will be held in Moldova, on February 24. Experts believe that no political party in the country will be able to independently win an absolute majority of votes and to form a government alone. Such a political situation is the result of the behind-the-scenes manipulations of the leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova, who for the past two years had carefully set traps for his opponents. The leader of the Democrats, Plahotniuc, invented the rules of the elections game in the form of a mixed electoral system. Moreover, the Democrats control the authorities and 80% of Moldovan media. Having such an arsenal of methods, PDM can enact any political scenario and stay in power in any case.

Conquer, divide and conquer again

Now Vlad Plahotniuc skillfully influences the ratings of his main opponents: he may help someone and he may either tank or cozy up to the others. As a result, Moldovan politics resembles a whirlwind of intrigue into which the Democrats are trying to draw as many players as possible. The PDM correctly views the situation and creates chaos in order to control it for its own purposes. In relation to their main ideological opponents – the PAS and DA parties – the Democrats launched a whole range of pressure methods. Sandu and Nastase are criticized for the lack of their own ideology and exploitation of the topic of European integration, their appeals to the judiciary are ignored, they are removed from the elections and accused of having criminal ties. Democrats themselves cross the political field of the right, flirting with unionists and proposing to enshrine the European vector in the constitution. Media resources of Plahotniuc diligently underestimate the ratings of the right, while Plahotniuc himself admits that ACUM is the main opponents of PDM. In relations between the ruling power and the Socialists, President Igor Dodon holds a front line, who almost daily conducts a “disturbing fire”, criticizing the decisions, approaches and positions of the Democratic Party. Heavy artillery is working on the opposite side: the constitutional court has already stripped Igor Dodon of his powers five times, and Andrian Candu even speaks about the future removal of Dodon from power. However, at the same time, the PDM and the PSRM quite successfully pass some bills through the parliament by joint efforts and subtly cooperate on other issues. The Socialists themselves criticize the PDM, and argue that soon there will be a new time and they are preparing to “take power”, “bring people to the streets”, etc. However, the PSRM and supporters of Dodon criticize the same Sandu and Nastase as much, arguing that European integration is a dead end for Moldova. The circle of negativity is closed on this, generating endless criticism, scandals, leaks of compromising materials and mutual accusations. All this allows the Democrats to maintain predictable proportions of political influence by their main competitors. At the elections the leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova will apply the favorite and time-tested principle of “divide and conquer”. To dilute Moldovan voters, spoiler parties will be activated just before the elections, acting as a flock of piranhas, taking at least some percent of the votes from their main competitors. So, on December 11, the ex-president of the Republic of Moldova Vladimir Voronin announced participation of the Communist Party in the parliamentary elections. Although the activity and influence of this formation has noticeably decreased lately, many voters, especially of old age, will be confused: either to look for “star” or for “hammer and sickle” in the ballots. It is logical to assume that this time Vlad Plahotniuc will allow the Party of Renato Usatii to take part in the elections. Most likely, such formations as “Moldova’s Choice – the Customs Union”, “Democracy at Home” (PPDA), “People’s Party” (PPR), “Patriots of Moldova” (PPM), “Communist Reform Party of Moldova” (PCR) and many others will again appear out of nowhere. The goal is to increase confusion and dilute the voices of Igor Dodon, drawing the Socialists into conflicts with competitors on the left flank.

ACUM bloc – friends until the election

The basis for the conflict has already been laid in the political formation of Maia Sandu and Andrei Nastase. For the ACUM bloc, Plahotniuc does not need to get fake competitors from a dusty storage closet, because all of them have already united in one movement. Yes, at first glance it may seem that joined Liberal Democratic and Liberal parties to ACUM will add votes of the unionists to the bloc and significantly increase the chances of winning. However, since 2014, the rating of these political forces has also dropped significantly, and separately today they are not significant players. Their accession to the PAS and DA union is more likely explained by the logic of political survival and an attempt to secure at least a minimal presence in power. They are expected to exploit the authority of their promising allies, pampered by Brussels. So, when the time comes for bargaining and redistribution of deputy seats (that is inevitable in modern Moldovan politics), the ACUM bloc may find missing its tactical fellow travelers. It is enough to remember how difficult it was to negotiate a coalition between the unionists and the right in order to understand how fragile the union is. At the same time, the experience showed that the union of Maia Sandu and Andrei Nastase itself is far from the most stable, because both parties nominated their candidates in the struggle for the mayors’ chair of Chisinau and Balti. We should not forget the simple truth that there are no eternal allies in politics. The only question is who the first will not resist the temptation of cooperation with the Democrats, and most importantly – under what pretext this cooperation will be formalized.

Season of political victims

The main point of the chaos controlled by Plahotniuc is that the leader of the PDM retains the ability to pit the opponents against each other, to appoint the guilty, while luring potential party-switchers to his side. The idea is that the victims of various conflicts and scandals of the 2019 Moldovan political season should be everyone except the Democrats. Regardless of the election results, such important management tools as the CEC and the Constitutional Court will remain under the control of the PDM. If the Democrats fail to create a convenient coalition, then the legitimacy of many mandates, and even the elections themselves, can always be challenged, invalidating them, so to speak for attempt number 2, etc. An additional opportunity to create a parliamentary majority subordinate to the PDM is a consultative referendum on reducing a number of deputies and the possibility of their withdrawal. An RTA expert recently argued that such a vote could serve as a safety cushion for the Democrats and a reason to hold early elections. However, it is quite possible that the PDM will manage to independently form a coalition of power, and implementation of the results of the referendum will serve as an opportunity to bring some politicians to senses. Early elections are not mandatory at all – disobedient deputies can always be removed under the pretext of non-fulfillment of their constitutional obligations. After all, in their struggle with opponents it will not be difficult for Democrats to give another reason to provoke opposition to mass protests. But the final verdict on the legality of such actions will be made by the judges of the constitutional court. The political circuit created by the Democrats allows Plahotniuc to stay afloat, postponing formation of power for an indefinite period, raising the stakes and inflaming passions, drawing his rivals into the traditional Moldavian “hora” of scandals, intrigues and betrayal. So far, no one else seems to have the necessary resources for the “long” game.