The President needs the help of the ACUM bloc, but it seems he cannot get it easy way
As expected, the local elections in Moldova are a big test for the ruling coalition of ACUM and PSRM. Despite there is no evident advantage of any of the political forces, the internal tension between the allies is becoming more tangible.
Until now, the participants in the loudest verbal arguments were mainly parliamentarians and officials, including, of course, Ion Ceban and Andrei Nastase, who are fighting for the seat of the capital’s mayor. But this week, President Igor Dodon has already decided to speak out. Unexpectedly, he criticized his political partners and pointed out three problems which define the future of the coalition. This, in his opinion, is inadequate behavior of some representatives of ACUM, inefficiency of some ministers and departments, as well as ignoring the initiatives of the President and the PSRM. Moreover, as the head of state noted, the socialists “will not sit at the same table anymore” with some people.
Apparently, it just boiled up, and the outburst was a reaction to a sufficiently dismissive attitude towards him from the pro-European bloc. In addition, it was expected that the signature of the Moldovan leader on the updated coalition agreement is unlikely to allow him to continue to be ‘above the fray’ and will force him to increasingly resort to periodic criticism of the government and its members.Thus, Igor Dodon is trying to convince his coalition colleagues to listen to the aspirations of the socialists. Dodon expects more ‘pliability’ at least in the matter of personnel appointments. The President talked too much about replacing the failed ministers in the Sandu government with representatives of the PSRM to drop this initiative now.
In addition, Dodon hopes for the understanding of partners in the Transdniestrian settlement process. It was hardly a coincidence that the President’s statements were out just the next day after he met with Transdniestrian leader Vadim Krasnoselsky. There Igor Dodon for the first time made clear commitments on several very complicated issues such as telecommunications, banking and criminal cases. It is obvious that it will be extremely difficult to solve them alone or with constant opposition from the government.
As experience has shown, the lack of a common position in the coalition regarding the mandate of Vasile Sova has already led to the failure of the 5+2 meeting in Bratislava, as the Moldovan negotiator did not take on extra responsibility and preferred to block the signing of the final Protocol. As a result, in order for the negotiations not to finally fall into a ‘nose dive’ (and also, probably, at the request of international partners), Igor Dodon himself was forced to solve certain tasks in force majeure mode, in fact performing work instead of the Moldovan political representative.
The meeting with Vadim Krasnoselsky has hardly brought significant dividends to the Moldovan leader. However, it was necessary to save the face of Chisinau at least with the OSCE, whose draft agreement on the results of the Bratislava meeting in the 5+2 format was ignored by the Moldovan negotiator. These circumstances forced Igor Dodon at the sixth meeting with Krasnoselsky to publicly announce some of Chisinau’s commitments to solve long-standing problems that remain open and hinder the progress in the settlement of the conflict so expected by international participants.
The first test for the President’s ability to keep the situation under control in negotiations with Tiraspol will take place very soon. Next week, after a three-year pause, Bavaria will host another informal conference on confidence-building measures between Moldova and Transdniestria. Almost all the parties involved in the negotiation process have special hopes for it, both in terms of agreeing on the notorious Bratislava Protocol and making real progress on existing problems.
These circumstances require more careful study and coordination of positions at the intra-coalition level. It became clear that the President does not want to allow another failure in the negotiations, which will have a negative impact on his reputation at home and especially in the international arena. These circumstances explain the pressure in the media put by Igor Dodon on his allies in the ruling alliance on the eve of the event in Germany.
How ACUM can thwart Dodon’s plans could be seen this week. The government presented a timely ‘gift’ to the Moldovan negotiators, refusing to translate the instructions of pharmaceuticals into Russian. As you know, the import of medicines is one of the most sensitive problems for Tiraspol, which fears possible restrictions in this area in 2020. Now Chisinau itself gives more arguments to the Transdniestrian representatives, complicating the work for Vasile Sova and his team.
The Transdniestrian settlement continues to be one of the stumbling blocks for the Moldovan coalition members. Forced to take charge of relations with Tiraspol and having made public promises to solve Transdniestria’s problems, Igor Dodon enters a difficult part of the political track on the eve of the presidential election in Moldova. It is obvious that the topic of conflict settlement will be his key argument in the election campaign. But here lies the main danger, because the President is not able to solve the difficult issues for Moldova on his own in the current unstable configuration of the government.
In turn, the leaders of the ACUM bloc are also well aware of the complexity of the moment and the potential danger of the Transdniestrian issue, their actions seem to hint to Mr. Dodon that it’s better not to force events, pushing him to choose another priority for his pre-election PR.
Contradictions in the camp of allies are gradually coming to a pivotal point, so Dodon, being noticeably restrained in recent months, now publicly shows growing irritation with his partners. The upcoming talks at an informal conference in Bavaria will show whether the President’s messages have had an effect.
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