The publication of the political “manifesto”, the loud squabble with the Romanian European MP, temporarily overshadowing even the ” Plahotniuc’s black plastic bag” plot made experts think about what lays behind the Moldovan prime minister’s latest activity.
Recently, relations with Romania became no doubt one of the Moldovan political organism’s most “exposed nerves”. It is worth recognizing that a certain duality and inconsistency have always been satellites of Moldovan-Romanian relations. On the one hand, Romania is a long-standing financial donor, the closest partner and ally of the Republic of Moldova in organizations such as the European Union and NATO. On the other hand, it is a powerful and dangerous neighbor from the point of view of the existence of Moldavian statehood. What’s to say, if still many prominent Romanian politicians call the neighboring people nothing more than “Basarabian Romanians”.
It is to mention that since the end of last year, previously strong friendships clearly began to “fail”. Bucharest openly disliked the political rearrangements in Moldova and this position was brought to the highest level – including by the president and prime minister who said that our republic can no longer be considered a reliable partner.
From this moment, the degree of criticism from the other side of the Prut only increased. Chisinau was regularly accused of stopping European-style transformations, total corruption, etc. Moreover, Romania advocated a revision of the European Union’s approaches to financial support for Moldova, which, in the opinion of a neighboring state, should directly depend on progress in reforming our country.
There are many reasons for the current cooling between Moldova and Romania relations but the main one, of course that pro-Europeans ACUM bloc who are pleasant to Bucharest got removed from the ranks of the ruling coalition. At the same time, the socialists who replaced them, especially in their oppositional being, markedly “showed themselves” in the field of “Moldovanism” and “anti-Unionism” (not to mention ties with the Kremlin). And even after PSRM and its informal leader President Igor Dodon, became much more restrained in relation to Romania the past background remained something to recon with.
Naturally, the opposition does not miss the reason to additionally prick socialists for deteriorating relations with “fraternal Romania.” One could see how hot this topic became while the Romanian humanitarian aid the meeting place arranging, there were fierce debates for several days (moreover, it continued even after it had already arrived).
The other day there was another story with pronounced scandalous shades and Prime Minister Ion Chicu unexpectedly became its protagonist. It all started with the statements of the Romanian deputy of the European Parliament Siegfried Mureshan: he called the last governments formed by the PDM and PSRM weak and accused them of destabilizing the situation in the country, slowing down the reforms pace and worsening the lives of citizens, that was why “COVID-19 reached unexpectedly the republic.” Moreover, in his opinion, only the Sandu government fulfilled Moldova’s obligations to the EU and the activity of which he evaluated in a positive way.
In response, Ion Chicu suddenly sharply criticized the European MP. Expressions about “Romanian boys who were sheltered by European structures”, “Romania moaning from the highest corruption in Europe”, etc. vividly contrasted with the current prime minister’s fashionable image.
Chicu’s statements, as expected, provoked a shaft of varying severity and criticality of political and expert comments both in Moldova and in Romania. The prime minister received a personal rebuke from the Romanian Foreign Ministry. The scandal that arose was so loud that it even covered such a “hot” topic as the videos on Vlad Plahotniuc and Igor Dodon meeting.
This episode can be called out of the ordinary for several reasons. First, Ion Chicu, unlike many other prominent Moldovan politicians used to be cautious and diplomatic in statements and tried not to participate in verbal squabbles. Second, the prime minister previously did not allow himself such attacks on Bucharest moreover, he stated that relations between the two countries were at the highest level (even when it was obvious that this was far from true).
By a strange coincidence, that was hardly a coincidence, the same day Chicu published a kind of political manifesto noting the need for “urgent” changes in the country.
This is a rather atypical step for the head of the executive branch, especially since he has been in office for more than six months. The “manifesto” itself is generally of interest as a rather rare attempt among Moldovan leaders to publicly speculate on the actions program to overcome the crisis. But why did it appear namely now?
The current ruling coalition is not feeling very confident. The parliamentary majority was reduced to a critical minimum and attempts to bribe deputies do not stop. The quarantine in the country’s main legislative body slowed down the process of disintegration somewhat (it was expected that this week the opposition would initiate a vote of no confidence in the government together with the process of president’s resignation). But in general, the chances of maintaining the Chicu Cabinet’s capacity do not seem very high: the president and prime minister already negatively assess the possibility of the government to work in the absence of a majority in parliament.
Against this background, there is reason to believe that the prime minister’s recent activity may indicate his political ambitions and desire in the future, after the government resigns to join the political game as one of the main participants. To reach it, Chicu has a good starting position. According to recent polls, he is one of the five most popular politicians, bypassing for example, current and ex-tops of the Democratic Party like Andrian Candu and Pavel Filip. And, according to some studies, the prime minister confidently takes the third place in trust rating, only slightly inferior to Maia Sandu.
His relatively equal reputation plays into the head of the Cabinet’s hands: he did not make serious enemies and generally corresponded to the head of “technocratic government” image, that helped to avoid getting into conflict situations. In addition, all the bumps from recent setbacks on the front of the fight against COVID-19 fell not on him but on the president, who himself hastened to lead the epidemic countering process. And in other areas, it was the president who often took upon himself all the negative and not the prime minister.
The published manifesto and squabble can be considered Ion Chicu’s first independent step into adult politics and not spontaneous but a calculated one. There is an opinion that the statements tone was specially designed to provoke the most powerful reaction with the accompanying media coverage. Given the upcoming presidential and most likely, early parliamentary elections Chicu has a space for constructing various political combinations with personal participation as a more independent subject. The main intrigue lies in what camp the prime minister will decide to play in the future and who will benefit from the appearance of a new strong piece on the Moldovan politics’ chessboard.
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