Sergey Cheban: Will They Let Plahotniuc Win Again?!

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The results of public opinion polls in recent days show that three parties will definitely enter the Moldovan Parliament after February 24: PSRM, ACUM and the Democratic Party of Moldova, headed by the main anti-hero of nowadays Moldova Vlad Plahotniuc. Sociologists promise that the socialists will win and get almost 40% of the vote, but this is not enough to form a government. But the Democrats, despite the lowest popularity of Plahotniuc, will remain in Parliament in any case and will certainly try to enter into a coalition with the ACUM or ‘buy’ deputies in single-mandate constituencies. Many experts suppose that Plahotniuc will manage to ‘make a deal’ with opponents and to form a government and consolidate his grip over power even with a minimum number of deputies immediately after the elections. The situation looks frightening. Plahotniuc hardly hides that he has usurped the power in the whole country. He is an oligarch who is considered guilty of stealing a billion, and a politician who easily invalidates the election results. The leader of the PDM over the past few years has become a unique, iconic political villain, who is disliked, criticized and feared. And if in the Soviet Union for many years there was a “cult of Stalin’s personality”, then in Moldova, perhaps, there is already an anti-cult of Plahotniuc’s personality. People with such public image usually find themselves not in a deputy seat, but in the dock, but the opposite works in Moldova – the anti-hero remains on the throne and has no plans to leave. How is it that neither the opposition nor the international community can rid a small country of the political tyranny of just one person? The first problem is that Moldova is still a valuable geopolitical asset. The USA, EU and Russia are fighting for influence over the leadership of Moldova. The country is located on the border of two civilizations – Western and Eastern, and for nearly 30 years since the collapse of the USSR it has remained the front of the struggle of the worlds, sometimes in the truest sense of the word: after the 1992 conflict, the Dniester divided the country into Moldova and the breakaway Transdniestria, which is supported by Russia. Since then, the opposing camps ‘babysit’ Moldova, fearing that it would be offended and ultimately go either to Russia, or to the European Union. In 2003, Moscow nearly ‘clipped’ Moldova to itself through the unification with Transdniestria in an asymmetrical federation. 6 years later, the European Union took revenge, pro-European parties came to power and Chisinau has been moving to Europe for 10 years. Now the EU is afraid of losing Moldova, and Moscow expects to return it. The Kremlin is actively helping the Party of Socialists and Igor Dodon to win the elections, to defeat Plahotniuc and to slow down the process of Moldova’s European integration. That is why Russia turned a blind eye to all the tricks of the Moldovan government and did not impose sanctions against Moldova, so as not to frighten away the expected victory of Dodon. In the end, Plahotniuc still benefits since he finds himself in a favorable position and continues to attack Russia that is traditionally valued in Washington. The European Union until recently turned a blind eye to all the tricks of the Plahotniuc regime and only by mid-2018 stopped macro-financial assistance to Moldova, saying that will resume it only after the elections. Brussels has finally expressed indignation at the actions of the ruling pro-European coalition. Europe is eager to see a new leadership for Moldova, but does not yet intervene in the situation too actively not to make that its criticism of the PDM government accidentally brings to power the Party of Socialists. But such a middle-of-the-road position again suits Plahotniuc: he learned the weaknesses and phobias of the European Union and cleverly manipulates them. While foreign countries are afraid to ‘rock’ Moldova in the wrong direction, Vlad Plahotniuc without hesitation ‘shakes’ the country to his advantage. The second reason why the country’s main oligarch manages to control the entire state lies in Moldova itself. Plahotniuc is a contemporary of Moldova. He began his journey in the years when politics and business were just emerging in the country. Plahotniuc went through all the stages – from the uncertain 90s to the controversial 2000s, led a large business and played a major part in the most influential political party of those years – PCRM of Vladimir Voronin. Ironically, most of the defectors to the PDM in 2015 were members of the Communist Party, before they received an offer they could not refuse. Vlad Plahotniuc not only knows how Moldova is organized, but is well aware of who the present respectable politicians, officials and businessmen were and what they were doing in the past. He actively uses this information: brings some closer, shower others with gifts, bullies the third, make promises to the fourth. Plahotniuc is the essence of Moldovan society, which is forced to live not the way it wants, but in fear that it could be even worse. For this reason, it makes no sense for Plahotniuc to worry about his future – the fear that it could be even worse postpones the ‘boiling point’ of the Moldovan people. As a back-up, the Democratic Party butters up the population before the elections: builds roads, raises salaries, promises ‘the first home’, at the same time feeds and milks cows, simply put, hints that life might get better. Fear of the worst and timid hope for the best – this is what the poorest country in Europe has been living with for many years. The secret of Plahotniuc’s success is that he simply ‘chained’ this idea into political shackles and became the one who promises and threatens. It’s exactly what it is: Plahotniuc became the personification of Moldovan reality, and therefore it is almost impossible to defeat him until ordinary citizens of Moldova actually dare to break this vicious circle. The sooner this happens, the sooner the ‘dark times’ of Moldova will end. But is it destined to happen at all?