Chances for the Moldovan Opposition

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Sergiu CEBAN
The government's errors allow the opposition to build a platform for constant criticism and lasting street protest in order to keep the ruling party in a state of permanently high tension
Yesterday, the Bloc of Communists and Socialists staged a public protest in Chisinau in support of the arrested Prosecutor General Alexandr Stoianoglo. The protesters spoke against his removal, as well as other actions of President Maia Sandu and the ruling Action and Solidarity party. The citizens who participated in the picket called on the Council of Europe to respond to Stoianoglo's detention, who they say became a victim of political repression, and urged the international community to intervene and help restore the democratic principles and the rule of law in the state. Alongside the gathering in the capital, Gagauzia held its own rally in support of the ousted Prosecutor General. Comrat's main square witnessed almost the same calls to release Alexandr Stoianoglo and reinstate him in office, as well as demands to bring those involved in illegal arrest to justice. Following the protest action, a group of citizens even blocked for a while the entrance to the Gagauz autonomy on one of the highways as a “warning shot”. Besides the parliamentary left opposition and other Moscow-affiliated political projects, light pressure is also shown by non-systemic representatives of the country's political spectrum in the person of right-wing parties, as well as former associates of Maia Sandu in the ACUM bloc. It seems that the first obvious failure by the current government has united practically all politicians of various kinds in a common cause to adjust a bit the rating of the president and the parliamentary mono-majority loyal to her. So far, the republic's leadership is trying to pretend as if nothing happened and portrays complete confidence in the correctness of their decisions, without being distracted by the grumbling of the discontented. The “talking heads” close to the government rather ironically commented on a very modest street protest, calling it “reanimation of the opposition”. In their view, such developments promote democratic processes in the country and increase the current government's effectiveness, if such a “vibrant opposition” acts as a political opponent. The coming weeks will show how many political dividends the communists and socialists will be able to gain on the “Stoianoglo topic”. At this point, only one thing is obvious: street protests against the head of state and the Action and Solidarity party do not attract other political forces, primarily due to the continuing toxicity of the PSRM in its current configuration. Nevertheless, the very fact of the launched protests is important, especially in the context of the expected deterioration of the socio-economic and epidemiological situation in Moldova. Active protest attacks against the politically motivated decisions of the authorities are necessary for the BoCS, who will thereby slow down the initiation of criminal cases by new appointees in the Prosecutor General's Office against a number of deputies from among the socialists. Therefore, the main goal is not only to raise the degree of public discontent with the Prosecutor General's case, but also to ensure political security. It is the increased level of personal threat to ex-President Igor Dodon after the purge of the prosecutor's office that can explain the hasty visit to Moscow to meet with Dmitry Kozak and the subsequent sharp revival of the left forces on the topic of Alexandr Stoianoglo’s arrest. The opposition can surely continue the line of protest events. However, after yesterday's rally, it is quite clear that although there is a certain dissatisfaction in society with the strange episode with the arrest of the Prosecutor General, however, this issue in itself does not inspire the crowds to protest. Therefore, the Communists and Socialists Bloc leaders should think carefully about how exactly they can keep the prosecutor's case in a heated state and also gather as many political forces and activists as possible under their “protest banners”. One of the weak points in the criminal proceedings against Stoianoglo is the obvious inconsistencies on the part of the prosecution, which many see, to put it mildly, as not entirely convincing. Therefore, in case prosecutors are convinced that their arguments are valid, they must provide convincing evidence, and not information collected from open sources or the Internet. Otherwise, the failure of the prosecution position and the rehabilitation of the Prosecutor General can only accelerate incorporation of the latter into Moldovan politics. Last week, Maia Sandu called on the prosecutor's office to inform the public in a timely and broad manner about the procedures applied against Alexander Stoianoglo in order to ensure maximum transparency. Since the case has acquired a strong political connotation, the presidential advisers apparently recommended the leadership to be proactive and take the trial of the ex-prosecutor under its personal control. By such positioning as an arbitrator, apparently, the leadership plans to intercept the agenda from the opposition and dim down the public outcry. The information that the head of the Prosecutor General's office allegedly became a victim of internal wrangles and the struggle between various clans of security forces must have appeared for the same reason. It seems that the Stoianoglo case has reached the top of the domestic political agenda and requires the collective efforts of the president, the government and the parliament to find the optimal way out of this confusing and difficult situation. Experts predicted from the very beginning that replacing the chief prosecutor would not be an easy way for the authorities, and recommended that they act lawfully, carefully and delicately. Now the country's leadership has given reason to doubt every further case, so possible proceedings against former politicians and high-ranking officials will also have a strong resonance. Of course, the system is actively resisting and will continue to resist, and politicians from the government and the ruling majority must prove that the president and the party is capable of something more than the role of opposition. The Bloc of Communists and Socialists will have many more reasons to criticize the government in order to keep it in a state of permanently increased tension. The only question is how efficiently these reasons will be used and whether the left forces will be able to regain the citizens’ trust. In general, the opposition has a good chance to create a platform for a lasting street protest in order to test new leadership and bring new blood to the left flank of Moldovan politics.