The Constitutional Court may allow Maia Sandu to start forming an interim Moldovan government to expand her political and administrative powers
Relations with Romania and Ukraine already reset, today Maia Sandu is on her second day in Brussels, where the Moldovan President will have an intense program of official meetings. During the trip, the president’s team hopes to convince European officials to quickly unfreeze the dialogue and reinvigorate Moldova’s European integration agenda.
While Sandu’s foreign policy start is quite productive, the internal developments are still rather unpredictable and uncertain. The only positive trend is a significant decline in the number of detected COVID cases, which allows reducing the burden on the health care system, safely waiting for the vaccine to arrive to finally stop the pandemic this year.
According to some experts, the new presidential administration will deliberately reverse a number of Igor Dodon’s decrees seeking to fill the internal political vacuum. For example, the initiative to create a commission to reform the country’s constitution. Given the reduced functionality of the major political power institutions in the state, the president may focus her efforts primarily on the fight against corruption in the system of government bodies, mainly in the field of justice.
In fact, the only working instrument in the hands of the president today is the Supreme Security Council, which allows hearing from responsible officials on important resonant issues. At the same time, Maia Sandu is in no hurry to use this mechanism, which she inherited from the previous president, as well as to make any collective decisions with Council members, most of whom are still loyal to the socialists and democrats.
Nevertheless, such a collegial format of work would help relieve internal tension and neutralize personal risks, since there are those both among the socialists and the right-wing parties who would like the president to take the fall. A convincing example was the situation when the movement of the Transdniestrian vehicles through Ukrainian territory was banned, which, most likely, forced Maia Sandu to personally take a fundamental political decision. The latter drew criticism from the DA Platform deputies, as well as other patriotic public representatives.
After his re-election as the Socialist Party chairman and upon return from another Moscow trip, Igor Dodon seems to be currently planning to convene the party’s executive committee to give this year’s first public assessment of the current domestic political situation, and also to voice another portion of accusations against the new president, who, according to the socialist leader, bears personal responsibility for what is happening. By and large, the logic of the PSRM and Dodon’s actions is quite consistent with the tactical task to aggravate the environment for the current head of state as much as possible by prolonging the crisis. According to their plan, this will inevitably lead to the diminished public confidence, and, consequently, to the weakening of electoral prospects for the PAS party close to the president.
The frozen state of political processes, when the major stakeholders have lurked watching the president’s maneuvers, is in many ways a temporary phenomenon. After the parliamentary work is resumed, the internal political environment may change dramatically as early as in February and with a high degree of probability not in the president’s favour – unless Maia Sandu comes up with a clear set of steps by that time and proposes a specific formula for overcoming the crisis to the deputy corps.
Meanwhile, the ambiguity of the situation lies in the fact that, with all their exaggerated willingness to hold early elections, the current parliamentarians do not even hide their intention to support any candidate for prime minister, even the most technical one, who will nominally lead the republic out of the impasse and prolong the “political life” of the current legislative convocation. This hardly fits into the plans of the Moldovan president, who is forced to search for alternative ways to dissolve the current parliament.
A series of Maia Sandu’s appeals to the Constitutional Court with a request to clarify if the legislature can decide on its self-dissolution, and whether heads of departments can be appointed not only from among the members of the interim government, indicates that the head of state is trying to ensure the widest possible room for maneuver, having no desire to jump into a game with the current deputies. After all, the latter will most likely not agree to create all the necessary legislative modalities for launching the dissolution procedure.
If the self-dissolution scenario carries a risk that parliamentarians will anyway block the mechanism, then the possibility of Cabinet reshuffles will allow Maia Sandu to eventually form a government, albeit semi-functional, but yet quite loyal. Such developments can significantly reinforce presidential positions concentrating most of the administrative resource in her hands. This would not only repeat the current foreign policy results in practical terms, but also set up completely different starting positions for the main electoral competitors before the early parliamentary elections.
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