How Will the War for the Prosecutor General's Office End?

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For the new authorities, the Prosecutor General's Office is the last strategic height needed to take justice into their own hands and set about a deep purge of the country's political system.

The day before, parliament adopted amendments to the Law on the Prosecutor's Office in the second final reading, paving the way for the early resignation of the Prosecutor General. In particular, the head of the supervisory authority may be dismissed by the head of state at the suggestion of the Supreme Council of Prosecutors, if, based on the results of the work of the evaluation commission, his/her activities are found unsatisfactory, as well as in the event of the decision of the Supreme Court to remove the Prosecutor General for the period of criminal investigation. The legislative amendments also affected the number of the Council of Prosecutors members, from which both the head of the Union of Lawyers and the Prosecutor of Gagauzia and the Prosecutor General himself were withdrawn. The process of preparing the ground to remove the current Prosecutor General Alexandru Stoianoglo was launched long ago. Harsh criticism and hints of the need to think about changing jobs appeared on a monthly basis. The main claims against the Prosecutor General's Office were built upon the lack of results in the theft of a billion investigation, the impossibility of completing the issue of Plahotniuc and Shor's extradition, as well as on other high-profile cases related to Veaceslav Platon and Gheorghe Cavcaliuc. The aforementioned bill being approved in the first reading, in fact, made the conflict begin afresh. Most likely, amid the conditions for his inevitable removal, Stoianoglo took a principled decision to go all the way of open confrontation. Moreover, during the press briefing, the prosecutor counterattacked saying that the investigation was examining the possibility of bringing to justice government officials who at their time had voted for specific decisions that led to crimes committed in the banking sector. In fact, he hinted that the investigative measures could affect the new government leaders. The attorney general fell completely out with the country's leadership after he had complained that he still had no working relationship with Maia Sandu. He concurrently compared her actions in relation to the justice authorities and the prosecutor's office with the manners of the former Moldovan oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, who boldly violated all the principles of the separation of powers in the state. According to experts, Alexandru Stoianoglo's decision to ignore the parliamentary hearings on the "theft of a billion" case and to communicate with the people's representatives through the press was not entirely correct. In doing so, he gave the parliamentary majority a reason to doubt his professional suitability resulting first in a negative opinion on the activities of the prosecutor's office and then in a vote for the appropriate amendments to the law on the institution. Since Stoianoglo decided to go on the warpath, it would be tactically wiser to come to parliament and voice from a high rostrum the counterclaims to the deputies, as well as the demand to end political attacks on the prosecutor's office. Avoiding the dialogue with the country's legislative body, the Attorney General decided to project the conflict personally on Maia Sandu in order to demonstrate as clearly as possible the political background of the ongoing crisis, due to the pressure exerted by the president. In addition, to add resonance to the current situation, at the Prosecutor General's behest, information about the head of state's demand to initiate criminal proceedings against the leaders of the Communists and Socialists Bloc began to appear in the public field. This offensive behavior indicates that Stoianoglo is not only aimed at a prolonged confrontation, but is also convinced that certain political forces and part of civil society will speak in his support. It should be understood that the new authorities perceive the Prosecutor General's Office as their last strategic height, vital to take the justice system into their own hands and start the deep cleanup. Therefore, Alexandru Stoianoglo's technical  dismissal remains only a matter of time, but the conflict itself will hardly be exhausted and will most likely enter another phase. Meanwhile, according to some experts, the mechanisms for the prosecutor general's removal introduced by parliament into the law are contrary to the constitution, therefore, Stoianoglo will undoubtedly challenge both the norms themselves and a possible decision on his dismissal in the Constitutional Court. However, further "political arbitration" in a high court may be significantly delayed. In the current circumstances, the Constitutional Court will certainly try to take the most cautious position, so as not to turn a blind eye to objective legislative violations, but at the same time not to come into conflict with the political power. Apparently, the "prosecutor's conflict" promises to be protracted and exhausting. By and large, in its current form, this body personifies not only the previous regime, but also the generally disgusting justice that has developed in Moldova during the 30-year post-Soviet period. For this reason, the parliamentary majority sees the root of most of the national problems in this system, which, moreover, will continue its strong resistance. In and of itself, replacing the prosecutor general will not solve all the problems - moreover, the adopted legislative amendments do nothing but further weaken the autonomous status of the prosecutor general, who will subsequently think primarily about the political loyalty to the authorities in order to hold his position. The silence of the main international partners in the current circumstances looks ambiguous. On the one hand, the desire not to rush into assessments and to understand the situation is quite justified, but on the other hand, the silent position is perceived as approval and an impetus for decisive action. So far, the country's leadership is likely to enjoy sufficient credit of confidence on the part of foreign actors who consider it premature to interfere in the polemics between the president and the prosecutor general. The "prosecutor's issue" is a rather complicated one. Moreover, it must be admitted that this institution of state power cannot operate in full force in its current state. Therefore, the legislation on the prosecutor's office requires serious changes and meaningful approaches in order to get at least some semblance of the European-type independent justice in the end. The ruling majority, however, seems to be focused on the tactical goals so far and therefore has promptly introduced procedural adjustments through the parliament solely to solve a concrete political task - to remove Stoianoglo. I'd like to believe that after their "own" prosecutor general assumes office, PAS will return to a real process of reforming the prosecutor's office and the Moldovan justice. So far, the actions taken by the parliament and the head of state do not look entirely convincing, and the obvious political motivation in the campaign against the prosecutor general has never been hidden or camouflaged. The issue of the prosecutor's office is increasingly taking on the features of a deep inter-institutional confrontation, throwing a shadow on the new authorities whose representatives have repeatedly condemned the methods of their predecessors. Recall, in 2019 it was the issue of the prosecutor's office that became fatal for Maia Sandu as Prime Minister. And it is very interesting how the story will end this time for Maia Sandu as President.