What Prevents Dodon and ACUM from Forming a Coalition?

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In recent days, the idea of an ‘anti-oligarchic’ coalition of Dodon’s socialists and pro-Europeans of Sandu and Nastase sounds from everywhere. Sergei Isaenko figured out what prevents the left and right opposition from coming closer.

Missed chance 2016

After summing up the results of the elections to the Parliament of Moldova, there is a pause, which the leading political forces of the country decided to use as a timeout. Experts and journalists wonder what is happening behind the scenes of Moldovan politics. The main intrigue is the image of the future ruling coalition, without which Moldova is likely to face new early elections. The Democrats have already declared their openness to cooperation through the ‘master of Moldova’ Vlad Plahotniuc. For their part, the leaders of the pre-European ACUM bloc have repeatedly stressed that they do not intend to join a coalition with anyone. In his turn, President Igor Dodon, informal leader of the socialists, gave four hypothetical coalition scenarios and did not rule out the creation of a ‘broad coalition of national accord’ with the participation of the three main winning parties. Meanwhile, experts and public figures are increasingly calling on opposition pro-Europeans and socialists to unite to fight the oligarchic regime of Vlad Plahotniuc, who holds in his hands the most important institutions of power. According to analysts, now PSRM and ACUM have a unique chance to outgame the ‘puppeteer’ of the Moldovan policy. To do this, they will have to remember 2016, when both socialists and euro-unionists were united against Plahotniuc’s attempts to get the Prime Minister’s seat. Then the protesters even managed to break into Parliament. However, the popular unrest stopped after the constitutional court decided to hold direct presidential elections: the PSRM and the right joined the election campaign and the barricades were empty. Some experts believe that the decision of the constitutional court was very useful, as the protest was fizzling out: it is one thing to criticize and promise, and quite another to decide to reboot the entire political system of the country. It is not surprising that instead of the “war with the oligarchy to the bitter end”, which was joined by thousands of ordinary citizens, the right and left switched to internecine struggle for a minor presidential post. Personal political ambitions were predictably more important than the ‘liberation’ of state institutions, for which citizens went to protests. The geopolitical factor was also more important than people’s aspirations. There is an opinion that Washington and Brussels saw a threat to their influence in Moldova in early parliamentary election, which in 2016 was very likely. Fearing a possible strengthening of the pro-Russian flank in the Parliament, the US and the EU recognized the new Cabinet, actually created by Plahotniuc. The pro-European opposition also felt the attitude of its Western curators, and therefore the idea of deoligarchization of power took second place to anti-Russian rhetoric. Three years ago, the opposition already had a chance to overthrow Plahotniuc, but the PSRM and the right missed it. As a result, over the past two years, the opposition has not tried to find common ground, moreover, ideological and geopolitical contradictions between the flanks were supplemented by pathological mutual distrust.

Adherence to principles or fear?

The struggle for the posts of President and mayor of Chisinau turned ideological rivals into political enemies. This was greatly facilitated by the maneuvers of Igor Dodon and the PSRM, which supported the reform of the electoral system and thus partly predetermined the triumph of the democrats in the elections on February 24. Since then, the pro-European opposition thinks that Plahotniuc and Dodon are allies and brands them both “invaders” of the state. The hypothesis that the PDM and the PSRM work together was used by the ACUM bloc as a propaganda tool. Hence the principled position of Maia Sandu and Adrian Nastase not to enter into a coalition with either the democrats or the socialists. This approach is convenient: they can criticize the current government not only on the street, but also in Parliament, at the same time won’t need to be answerable to their voters for the words. The fact that the right-wing pro-Europeans do not have a specific action plan ‘to save Moldova’ is evident by the first statements of Maia Sandu after the elections. The PAS leader promised only to introduce bills on the captured institutions, uncertainly using fatalism as a cover: if they are not accepted, then so be it. Such a position raises a reasonable question: did Maia Sandu really expect to win and does she understand what to do? It seems that АСUM has no other tactical alternatives except for a concrete defense and going with the flow in the comfort of parliamentary seats. Meanwhile, even Igor Dodon assumed the creation of a hypothetical coalition of socialists with the pro-European bloc. “Do not rule out anything,” the President of Moldova said on NTV in response to the journalist’s comment that the ACUM leaders intend to firmly adhere to the promise not to unite with anyone. Such a coalition, in his opinion, should be created only on the basis of an agreement defining the rules of the game. However, Dodon did not rule out this kind of treaty between all at once – PDM, PSRM and ACUM, in fact expressing the willingness of the socialists to large-format negotiations with competitors. With whom to unite is not a matter of principle for Dodon now, although before the election he equally criticized the democrats and the pro-Europeans.

Will the abroad help?

The possibility of creating a euro-socialist faction in the Moldovan Parliament is also assumed by some experts, believing that it can become an example of a ‘reset’ of geopolitical tensions between the EU and Russia. Tensions between Washington and Brussels against the background of discontent in the EU with anti-Moscow sanctions deprived the West of the former solidity, and Vlad Plahotniuc irritates both Europe and the Kremlin. Given that the ACUM bloc and the PSRM are oriented respectively to Brussels and Moscow, in theory, these actors may influence on the formation of a parliamentary majority in Moldova. Such a scenario will definitely not suit Washington, which is more likely to destabilize the situation in the country than allow a separate agreement between Brussels and Moscow and strengthening Russia’s positions in Moldova. It will soon become clear whether their international patrons will be able to agree, and whether the pro-Europeans and socialists will find a formula to overcome mutual enmity to accomplish the main conceptual task – to defeat the oligarchy, claiming the longest possible keeping of Moldova under its full control.