RTA expert Sergey Cheban notes that the gas theme becomes a ‘hot’ prize for people’s love, which is clearly closer to Igor Dodon. The analyst states that Sandu will try to take revenge and prevent the strengthening of the Party of Socialists. Will they have the patience not to fall out and keep the coalition?
Sergey Cheban, RTA
Over the past few days, the main subjects that unfold around the new Moldovan government are Russian gas after December 31, 2019 and some tectonic shifts on the country’s deadlock problems: Transdniestria and the military-political status of Moldova, which has long been in the air and causes controversy among experts.
So far, the socialists of Igor Dodon clearly hold the lead on all fronts. In the beginning, it was different – Maia Sandu’s government, traditionally supported in the European Union, made dramatic economic gains. Europe was literally in a hurry to almost defiantly give Moldova a few ‘sets’ of financial assistance that was blocked from 2018 due to the unwillingness of Brussels to tolerate the regime of Plahotniuc and his associates.
Allocating money almost straight to Maia Sandu, Brussels powerfully reinforced the authority of the Prime Minister and made it clear that Europe is betting on the future government of the ACUM bloc. In this context, Igor Dodon had nothing to brag about, since he did not achieve any significant success in the economy – that is, in the most obvious sphere for the population. Familiar to Dodon Russian direction only occasionally brought Moldova more or less tangible practical bonuses, however, for elections or for promotion of the Party of Socialists. It seemed that the pro-Europeans clearly surpassed the socialists in terms of popularity.
In August-September the situation changed. A delegation of the Russian Defense Ministry headed by Sergei Shoigu himself arrived in Chisinau at the invitation of the pro-presidential Defense Minister of Moldova. There were highlight declarations and breakthrough initiatives on the disposal of ammunition in the breakaway Transdniestria with the participation of Russian special facilities. A couple of days later, this initiative was supported by Trump adviser John Bolton during his visit to Moldova. Another couple of days later, Maia Sandu’s visit to Washington was canceled, and Igor Dodon, on the contrary, began the season of trips to the world’s largest capitals.
In addition, the Dodon’s team Dodon ‘rode’ smartly the gas issue – the key enterprise Moldovagaz was headed by the protege of the President, Vadim Ceban, who the PSRM’s leader personally introduced to Russian colleagues in Moscow. After that, the President along with Ceban and Economy Minister Brynzan went to Brussels – there head of the Ministry of Economy asked Brussels for a loan to buy gas for the future, in case Moscow and Kyiv do not agree on gas transit in 2020 by the end of the year.
Amid the apparent success of Igor Dodon, Maia Sandu will have to come up with new stories, through which she and ACUM bloc may lift up the dwindling popularity. There are no ideal options yet, but, judging by the actions of the government, the pro-European camp is busy generating them. Maia Sandu’s two main themes are the return to state ownership of the Chisinau airport, as well as the investigation of the actions of the SIS that led to the deportation of Turkish teachers from Moldova and their subsequent imprisonment.
In the case of teachers, everything is clear – this step of Chisinau in 2018 was perceived by international partners very ambiguously. In addition, even then there were rumors that the expulsion of teachers can be some sort of ‘payment’ of Moldova for the repair of the presidential building. Now Sandu specially refreshes the events of a year ago: first, understanding the complicated relationship between the Turkish leader Erdogan and Europe, and secondly, to stir up a truly uncomfortable topic for Igor Dodon.
The airport case is even easier: once it passed on disadvantageous terms for the country to the structures of Ilan Sor, another fugitive oligarch under the patronage of Vlad Plahotniuc and the main defendant in the billion-dollar theft case. To return the airport to Moldova is the right move to improve its rating and strengthen political influence. That’s even more insulting for Sandu that at the last moment the new owner Nat Rothschild intervened in the situation. Now the return of the airport may not only stall, but also result in a deterioration of Chisinau’s relations with influential Western partners.
Anyway, the events clearly confirm the continuing contradictions between Sandu and Dodon. The outward unity of the two camps hides constant competition and a tough fight for literally every reason to improve their popularity rating before the next election. In a sense, the ruling coalition rests on the powder keg of a very artificial and literally hard-won union of two absolutely irreconcilable politicians.
It is not known how long Igor Dodon and Maia Sandu will have enough political patience and wisdom not to destroy the current composition of the Moldovan government. However, there is no doubt that the fight between them will continue, as it is already aimed at the battle for the presidency in 2020. This means that this year we will again witness high-profile initiatives and successes (or not?) on both sides. The main thing is that these efforts somehow affect the real interests of people, and not the electoral positions of politicians.
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