Daily Life of the New “Success Story”: PAS Strengthens Its Regime

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Vladimir ROTARI

The gas crisis has temporarily diverted almost all the public attention, while events crucial for Moldova’s future political life keep unfolding inside the republic

Justice Guards the Interests of the Authorities Now that the dismal prospect of being left without gas in the coming winter is no longer in sight, the country's leadership will certainly continue to implement the election program with renewed vigor and energy. As we remember, one of its items has already been “triumphantly fulfilled” - namely, the minimal pensions have been raised to 2000 lei, even though not for everyone and with reservations. Besides, prices this fall soared so that many couldn’t even notice the supplement (not to mention the inevitable and imminent increase in tariffs). But formally the promise is fulfilled. Next on the list are the fight against corruption and the long-suffering justice reform. Judging by the first signs, the results here are expected to be no better than with pensions. So far, all the steps allegedly taken for greater good are more like the banal establishment of control over key judicial and supervisory authorities, as well as the preparation of a smoother soil for the subsequent “clearing out” of the republic’s political space. Even if the EU, very loyal to Moldova now, has started to sound the alarm on some legislative changes (in particular, under the law on the prosecutor's office), this means something. However, PAS doesn’t intend to dwell, as can be seen from the case of Alexandr Stoianoglo. Recently, the prosecutor General suspended from office was extended house arrest for another 30 days. The trial of the former head of the prosecutor's office increasingly represents lawlessness, rather than democratic judicial proceedings. All the arguments of Stoianoglo’s lawyers, backed up in writing, are ignored, while the prosecution continues to build on Lilian Carp’s statement, articles in the media and the testimony of as much as one witness, created the new GP head in a month. It is clear that the non-gratas will be caught and imprisoned not only in the Prosecutor General’s office. In October, the Constitutional Court approved the initiative of the PAS deputies to limit parliamentary immunity. The proposed amendments to the Constitution provide for a list of crimes in the investigation of which suspected legislators can be detained, searched and arrested without the Parliament’s permission. These are cases of active and passive corruption, abuse of power, illegal enrichment, money laundering and the taking advantage of influence. And the changes seem to be correct, but considering the Alexandr Stoianoglo’s situation, it is not hard to figure how and against whom the authorities will use this new nightstick. According to the legislation, it will be possible to vote for these amendments in six months. So, perhaps soon enough we will see new episodes of the “masquerade” within the walls of parliament. Control over the Media Market Another package of legislative amendments from the ruling party, submitted and already adopted last month, was dedicated to the national media market and caused a big stir in the profile environment. And what happened is that Teleradio-Moldova was pulled out of the Teleradio Council’s control in favor of the parliament. Now the deputies will not only be able to approve the company’s CEO for a seven-year term, but even have the opportunity to dismiss them for improper performance. It gets better. The size of Supervisory Board membership the of Teleradio-Moldova, as well as the Council of Teleradio (for a moment, determining the rules of the game in the media space of the republic) will be reduced from nine to seven, and five of the members will be appointed on the proposal of the parliament, the president and the government, and only two of them – of the civil society and public organizations in the media field. Previously, the proportion differed, to put it mildly, – four from the authorities and five from public figures. The bill authors believe that the amendments “will improve the quality of public television and radio media services”. It just seems that few people share their point of view. The head of the Teleradio Council, Ala Ursu-Antoci, called the proposed changes a mere encroachment on the independence of Moldovan media: “Political control is being established over the only institution regulating the media market and the only national provider of media services. This is an attempt to subdue us politically”. The parliament's decision was criticized by non-governmental media organizations. “In the past, the transfer to the Parliament, the president and the government of the prerogative of appointing and recalling TRM management led to the vicious practice of completely subordinating the company to the political forces in power. Recall that such interference in the editorial policy of the state-owned channel has already led to the conviction of Moldova in the ECHR for violating Article 10 of the Convention”, the statement of NGOs, including the Independent Press Association, the Center for Investigative Journalism, the Electronic Press Association, RISE Moldova and others, says. And the National Anti-Corruption Center, after analyzing the amendments, stated that the cancellation of the public competition for the election of the Teleradio-Moldova Director General “contradicts all national and international anti-corruption standards”. Thus, the ruling party gets another tool in order to strengthen its regime, and at the same time strike at the competitors’ media networks, for which all this mess with TRM was actually started. Offensive in Balti If you thought that the elections were finally over this year, then this is not true. Due to the resignation of Renato Usatii, the place of the mayor in the country’s second largest city – Balti is now vacant. A whole candidate regiment is going to compete for this post in early elections, including the current vice-mayor Nicolai Grigorisin, socialist Alexander Nesterovski and one of the SOR party leaders Marina Tauber stand out. Along with the Balti elections, voting should take place in 14 more settlements, but, of course, the main attention will be focused on the northern capital. The ruling party also decided not to stand aside and join the race. Balti is not exactly a traditional patrimony for the right. However, PAS strives to demonstrate that they have grown stronger and their desire to win (or at least to show a convincing result) even in those areas where it seemed unlikely until recently. The official candidate of the majority party is Boris Marcoci, a well-known local businessman, a former municipal councilor, and currently a member of parliament. Considerable resources were put into Marcoci’s election campaign, including administrative ones. This was clearly highlighted by the scandalous episode when the DA Platform candidate Arina Spataru was denied registration. Not that she was a potential race leader - yet, in the 2018 mayoral elections, for example, she gained more than six percent. Probably, the PAS decided not to split the already scarce right-wing electorate and leave only one strong candidate. “Have the times come when candidates who do not suit the authorities are removed from the election race?” was Spataru’s rhetoric question in that regard. “Bad” Autonomies The relations between the central authorities and the autonomies are not going well at all so far. As for Gagauzia, it seems that the reputation of its Bashkan, who is in addition Igor Dodon’s former ally, as well as the long-standing popular vote for the “left” automatically exclude the region from the rank of the “appropriate” ones for an ideologically “narrow-blinded” president. Irina Vlah has already complained that there is actually no dialogue between Comrat and Chisinau and that the autonomy is facing a number of unfriendly steps. “It turns out that if the residents of Gagauzia did not vote for Maia Sandu, then they are bad people. After all, Ms. Sandu says that she is the president of good people - those who voted for her. I want to remind Madam President that the people living in Gagauzia are all citizens of the Republic of Moldova,” said Irina Vlah, who, by the way, was not included in the new composition of the Supreme Security Council. The situation with Transdniestria, of course, is even worse. The settlement process has obviously hit a rough patch, with the meeting in the 5+2 format being already canceled. It is quite obvious that reintegration is the last priority for the Government, and this is disappointing: with full power in hand, it would finally be possible to achieve historical progress. But, probably, the practice of recent years will be continued: we will make further attempts to slowly integrate the left bank into our legal field, Tiraspol will snap back in response. Apparently, the authorities associate the final settlement not with their own actions, but with the position of international partners, in the meantime preferring to keep the situation in the “stand-by” mode. Staff Shortage Another interesting episode related to domestic politics is the staff shortage which the ruling party apparently started to suffer from. We wrote about its likelihood a long time ago: a young by Moldovan standards political force a priori did not have sufficient reserves to immediately compensate for the losses from numerous resignations and dismissals in state bodies. As a result, a competition for vacant positions in the government was announced this week, which was personally advertised by Madame President. “We are looking for professional and honest people with whom we can transform the country! The Government of the Republic of Moldova is looking for active people interested in working in the public sphere, responsible and honest professionals eager to contribute to the development and implementation of public reforms and policies in various sectors designed to improve the lives of citizens,” Maia Sandu wrote. Well, judging by recent events, professional and honest people are very much needed. Summing up, it is easy to see how the pro-presidential party, having gained a mono-majority, has actively engaged in building a long-term and stable political regime with loyal courts, investigative and prosecutor’s offices, pocket media, enjoying free hands in terms of persecution of opponents. Given Moldova’s past, certain associations and parallels suggest themselves. On the other hand, what else could be expected from PAS which is much more familiar with political struggle than state-building. As to the latter, all hopes, apparently, should be placed on our foreign friends, with their generous gifts and investments.