What Is Behind the First Resignation in Natalia Gavrilita’s Government

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Sergiu CEBAN
A hasty retreat from the sinking ship of the PAS government has begun. The first “turntail” – Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Vlad Kulminski – left the Cabinet of Ministers allegedly “for family reasons”
The government of Natalia Gavrilita has overcome the 100-day milestone. It is quite a traditional mark for summing up the first results of the work to understand whether the current cabinet of Ministers has justified the citizens’ hopes, what are its successes and failures, as well as how long the current government staff will be able to keep their seats. At the same time, it should be noted that a significant number of these seats are still empty due to the continuing staff shortage. The authorities even had to take extraordinary measures, posting an ad on the presidential website searching for “responsible and professional” candidates for vacant positions in state authorities. Having taken up the fight against corruption and poverty, the Cabinet of Ministers was completely unprepared for the sudden energy crisis and a new pandemic wave. A combination of negative factors, including the constant increase in food and fuel prices, as well as the expected increase in utility tariffs, will hit the population very hard and, most likely, by winter will lead to a strong increase in discontent with the government, the president and the ruling Action and Solidarity Party. One of the main complaints against the government, and the authorities in general, can be attributed to extremely weak coordination in the fight against corruption, which requires sharp and decisive actions, especially given the breadth of the mandate given to the PAS. Instead, for more than three months we have been witnessing the slow and at the same time dubious decisions of the authorities to take political control of certain state institutions, law enforcement agencies and the judicial system. Some appointments of people from the “personnel forge” of Vlad Plahotniuc also raise questions. Amid all this, signs of discontent between members of the once unified PAS team, some of which remained in parliament, and the other left for the Cabinet of Ministers, have become increasingly visible. So, last week, the vice-chairman of the legislative body, Mihai Popsoi, suddenly decided to give a low assessment of the activities of Natalia Gavrilita’s government, and also announced that soon we will witness personnel reshuffle in the Cabinet of Ministers, as well as in other state institutions, causing the biggest complaints from people’s deputies. To sum up the hundred-day period of the current Cabinet of Ministers’ office, we should say that indeed a number of officials, including the ministers, do not cope with the tasks assigned to them and are to be replaced. For example, some high-ranking members of the government have not bothered to go to the press in three months and tell what exactly they have been so busy with and what pressing problems they have been solving. The anti-chart leader among all the government members, who regularly provides the public with reasons for criticism and ironic remarks, of course, is the Health Minister Ala Nemerenco. However, personal proximity to the president seems to allow the “minister of odious statements” to hold on to her post for a while, at least until the fourth wave of the pandemic is overcome. Nevertheless, the first signal that not everything is going right in the team of the current Moldovan authorities was the unexpected resignation of Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Vlad Kulminski. As formal motives he cited urgent family circumstances. However, most likely, the real reasons are of a deeper political origin, which forced one of the key figures from Maia Sandu’s entourage to leave the current government’s composition. According to one of the most common versions, the Deputy Prime Minister decided to be the first to abandon the rapidly plummeting government of Natalia Gavrilita, which, to put it mildly, has nothing to boast about on the Transdniestrian track. Let me remind you, the recent months have been witnessing a serious increase in contradictions in relations with Tiraspol, which were further aggravated after the meeting in the 5+2 negotiation format had been cancelled for the second consecutive year. Another hypothesis is centered around Kulminski’s several visits to the deputy head of the Russian presidential administration Dmitry Kozak. According to some analysts, the completed gas talks contained, in addition to the official protocol, a closed political section which was hidden from the public and the Action and Solidarity party leaders. Therefore, internal tensions and disagreements left the Deputy Prime Minister no choice but to resign. Another version, probably the closest to the truth, concerns certain ideological tensions within the PAS. It is believed that Vlad Kulminski was among the pragmatically minded members of the ruling party’s team who advocated for a “non-geopolitical” foreign policy which in parallel with the core Western vector would pay attention to the eastern one, in particular to relations with Russia. Such a reputation allowed Kulminski to join, in particular, the gas negotiations with Moscow, despite the fact that this topic at first seems to be non-relevant for the official in charge of reintegration. However, according to some observers, the now prevailing radical views within PAS sharply contradicted the Deputy Prime Minister’s stance and, apparently, ruled out the possibility of his further work in the government. The last week’s decision by the leadership of the Parliament to join the Transdniestrian settlement adds to the overall landscape and possible internal discontent. According to Chairman Igor Grosu, the legislative body is rather poorly involved in the process. As a result, a special commission was created comprised of deputies from all factions. The Commission is expected to regularly monitor the work of the Reintegration Bureau under the Government, as well as consult, evaluate and develop appropriate recommendations. Along with this, the proposal of the Communists and Socialists Bloc to grant the Commission the right to have direct contacts with representatives of the Transdniestrian “Supreme Council” was not supported by the ruling majority. Either way, this whole story of the first resignation in the government looks suspicious, and the scarce data generate numerous versions and various explanations. Most likely, it will be possible to understand what exactly happened in the heart of power in particular after the appointment of a new deputy prime minister and judging by the policy he/she will implement. It is still difficult to tell whether Vlad Kulminski left realizing that he would be accused of treason to Moldova’s state interests or it was a conscious decision to leave the spotlight in order, for example, to continue coordinating the actions of a technical appointee as an adviser to the president. The seemingly insignificant situation around the Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, in fact, requires special attention and explanations from the country’s leadership. It is extremely important for the society to understand whether everything that is happening is an indicator of some hidden shifts in the Transdniestrian settlement or whether all this is just a consequence of internal conflicts between individual groups within the ruling party.