Political views of the new President of Ukraine Zelensky may undermine the authority of Vladimir Plahotniuc
The situation in Moldova two months after the parliamentary elections remains a stalemate. In recent days, contradictions again have increased in the public spotlight between the Dodon’s Party of Socialists and pro-Europeans from PAS and DA. The political immaturity and indecision of the right and left opposition enable Vladimir Plahotniuc to continue ruling Moldova, but his situation is not as rosy as it may seem.
External partners – the US and Germany (ACUM’s partners) and Russia (PSRM’s partner) – strongly interfere with the union of the right and socialists with the Democratic Party of Plahotniuc. It seems that Berlin, Moscow and even Washington prefer early parliamentary elections to any other scenarios of the political situation in Moldova. At least, the main horror story of winter 2019 – the union of Democrats and Socialists – has not yet taken place. It turns out that Moldova’s international partners still have the opportunity to effectively influence the political forces in Chisinau.
For a long time, external legitimacy has remained the main asset and one of the main sources of power of Vladimir Plahotniuc. Tacit approval from abroad allowed him to maneuver, to wage a fierce political struggle and to suppress opponents. However, over time, relations with Brussels were finally damaged with arbitrariness of the Plahotniuc’s Government, and Washington never relied on a specific political force in Moldova and maintained contacts with all interested players, preferring not to put all their eggs in one basket.
Plahotniuc’s ‘factors of power’ in Moldova for many years were relations with the nearest neighbors – Ukraine and Romania. These neighboring states were governed by oligarchs with interests in the territory of Moldova and in the region as a whole: therefore, Moldova’s territory still remains an important transit link in trade and private business schemes of the elites of Ukraine and Romania.
The parliamentary majority in Romania is formed by the Social Democratic Party of businessman Liviu Dragnea, whose party openly conflicts with the leadership of the European Union. Brussels blames the leadership of Romania of almost the same as the Plahotniuc’s Government in Moldova. Both Dragnea and Plahotniuc are aggressively trying to take the ruling positions in their countries, contrary to public opinion, the advice of the EU institutions and even the wishes of their own parties. Therefore, there is a certain mutual understanding between the main politicians of Moldova and Romania.
However, Liviu Dragnea today is intensely fighting for power in the confrontation with President Iohannis and other politicians. This year elections to the European Parliament, as well as presidential elections in Romania will force the Romanian oligarch and his party to focus on domestic and intra-European affairs. Bucharest does not have time and instruments to help its Eastern neighbors in Chisinau, despite all the mutual understanding.
In this situation, it is vital for Vladimir Plahotniuc to maintain special relations with the new leadership of the largest state of the Eastern Partnership. There were attempts to meet and make connections with the team of Volodymyr Zelensky back before the first round of presidential elections in Ukraine and immediately after it, but they were prevented by the then President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.
According to leaked information in the media, the main Moldovan oligarch arrived in late April in Turkey, where the winner of the presidential race Zelensky under the claim of having vacations discussed his first steps with delegates of the high and mighties. In the end, according to the RTA, the meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky did not take place. The reasons why Volodymyr Zelensky denied the meeting were the slandering campaign against Zelensky in the Plahotniuc’s media, and well-known particularly warm relationship between the coordinator and the ‘chocolate king’ Petro Poroshenko. The team of the elected President of Ukraine is seriously afraid of the coalition of the Democratic Party of Moldova with the Party of Socialists of Igor Dodon, which can seemingly bring Moldova to a more pro-Russian foreign policy. Igor Dodon, who still has not admitted the Crimea annexed Ukrainian territory, is a boogeyman for any mainstream Ukrainian politician.
It seems that Zelensky had another very simple reason not to meet Plahotniuc. The development of the political scenario in the Republic of Moldova is still difficult to predict. What is the point for Volodymyr Zelensky to enter into negotiations with the oligarch from a neighboring state, whose political prospects are vague? Especially given the fact that the political image and success of the new President of Ukraine is largely based on the image of the ‘candidate of the people’, who opposes the oligarchs in power. Volodymyr Zelensky is aware that whoever is in power in the Republic of Moldova, Kyiv will always have time to establish adequate relations with them, controlling all schemes, ports and the border with rebellious Transdniestria. Therefore, the team of the President of Ukraine, using broad popular support within the country, can afford to carefully choose their future partners.
Meanwhile, the incident is a serious shock for Vladimir Plahotniuc, since the leader of the PDM needs external legitimacy here and now, and cannot pick over allies. Perhaps, his political future depends on external support, and only active external intervention will help to cut the Gordian knot of the Moldovan policy and form a coalition. Or, for example, significantly change the balance of power in early parliamentary elections.
Without this intervention (while Russia will continue to support the PSRM and the EU and the US will help the ACUM), Vladimir Plahotniuc’s political future remains a big question. The situation gets more difficult for the PDM leader when traditional external partners in the neighborhood do not seem to care much about the fate of himself and his patrimony.
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