Another round of internal political row completed, Maia Sandu made an unexpected move by sending a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin with a request to help with the Russian vaccine supplies to Moldova. What will Moscow do?
Despite high expectations, the previous week provided no final clarity – on the contrary, it only intensified the internal political intrigue. The refusal to vote for the candidacy of Igor Grosu and the stories around it highlighted again the positions of almost all parliamentary factions. The pro-presidential PAS party, relishing the growing ratings, has confirmed its intention to adhere exclusively to its own interests, without looking back at anyone, be it their former ACUM bloc partners and especially the Democratic Party with its quasi-fractional fragments.
The Socialist Party and the Shor/For Moldova group, despite their complex relations (especially after the PSRM’s participation in the parliamentary immunity withdrawal from Denis Ulanov and Petru Jardan), are forced to stick together in the face of a common threat. However, the range of options to effectively counteract Maia Sandu is reducing every week, as evidenced by the obviously desperate appeals to the Constitutional Court and joint political declarations, which are usually made when there are no real levers of influence on the current situation.
Maia Sandu is expected to hold another round of consultations with the PSRM and Shor/For Moldova parliamentary factions today. This is undoubtedly a necessary formality for the president. Whatever the parliamentary majority representatives say, the main topic of the agenda for the head of state will in any case be the parameters of the dissolution of parliament and setting a date for early elections. Then, most likely, an appeal to the Constitutional Court will follow in the coming days, with a request to clarify if there are circumstances required to issue a presidential decree on the dissolution of the sitting parliament given the insurmountable internal political crisis.
According to Moldovan experts, the highest court will almost for sure speak in favor of the “resignation” of the parliament. In this case, the president will receive carte blanche, and the further fate of the people’s deputies will completely depend on Maia Sandu’s political will.
In this context, it is quite natural that both systemic and non-systemic politicians will gradually accept the idea that early parliamentary elections are inevitable, and the necessary preparations should be started anyway. It’s not hard to guess that the main front line of the electoral struggle will run between Igor Dodon’s Socialist Party and the pro-presidential PAS Party. The active phase of such confrontation is already under way, in which the most pressing domestic problems are used as election tools, including the pandemic.
Last week’s alarming indicators convincingly attested that a new and more dire wave of coronavirus is raging in Moldova. The UK variant of coronavirus was officially confirmed in our republic, and, most likely, it has already become widespread. All COVID-19-related indicators are now regularly updating anti-records, so the country urgently needs to address the issue of vaccine supply – the only way to more or less effectively confront the pandemic. As you know, Chisinau is currently receiving batches of the British-Swedish AstraZeneca drug as part of both the Romanian humanitarian aid and the COVAX mechanism (along with AstraZeneca, the American-German Pfizer will also arrive in small amounts). However, the volumes provided (several tens of thousands of doses as of today) are in no way enough to achieve the herd immunity.
In this regard, earlier, in the course of the joint parliamentary-government consultations, a decision was made to purchase 1 million doses of vaccine at once. Money for these purposes was allocated, but the problem is that the leading COVID-19 vaccines manufacturers barely have time to meet the existing global demand: the whole amount of their vaccines has already been chartered by contracts until the end of the year. As a result, commercial deliveries to Moldova may not start earlier than the first half of 2022.
Under these circumstances, Maia Sandu sent appeals to the heads of 30 states with a request to assist in the supply of vaccines to Moldova, which she told about in an interview with one of the Moldovan TV channels. At the same time, she highlighted that the letter was also sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This move was somewhat unexpected and came primarily as a response to Igor Dodon’s regular accusations that Maia Sandu was blocking the delivery of the Russian drug. In addition, such an intrusion into the Socialist leader’s “territory” spoiled his game a bit, since he was clearly about to make the Russian vaccine aid exclusively his story, turning it into a key factor during the PSRM’s election campaign. With all the risks of such a situation in mind, Igor Dodon has already announced his visit to Moscow this week, and it is possible that he will try to convince the Russian partners that a balanced approach of the Russian side will only benefit his main political rival.
It is quite obvious that the topic of Sputnik V supplies to Moldova was politicized. Otherwise, it is difficult to explain the fact that there is still no vaccine in the republic, even despite the fact that it was registered with the National Agency of Medicines and Medical Devices. In addition, attention was drawn to a rather muddy story with the delivery of a Russian vaccine batch to the left-bank territories, which was raised in parliament.
However, there is still hope that the sharply deteriorating epidemiological situation will help overcome (geo)political prejudice. In theory, the internal consensus of the president and the ruling party should open the door for massive Sputnik V deliveries to Moldova, and now everything will depend on the Kremlin decisions.
In our opinion, it’s an opportune moment for Russia to solve several tactical goals at once. First, to establish pragmatic contacts with the current Moldovan president, who previously preferred to carefully distance herself from direct ties with the Russian leadership. Secondly, to help their Moldovan socialist allies who in any case will be able to derive electoral benefits from this.
Sputnik V wasn’t the first vaccine to arrive in Moldova (losing to AstraZeneca from Romania in this correspondence competition), but using it for the mass vaccination of the Moldovan population will be more than a convincing revenge. It is difficult to overestimate the potential image dividends, which, moreover, will subsequently allow Moscow to give convincing hints to Chisinau who exactly turned out to be Moldova’s closest partner and friend during one of the most difficult moments. Therefore, it is highly likely that the request of the Moldovan leadership won’t be left without a response, and the first batches of the Russian vaccine will reach Moldova in the very near future.
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