Revenge, “Fix Game” or Distraction: the Detention of Ex-MPs

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A fresh episode of the ruling party's war against corruption once again aroused maximum questions and minimum trust from the public
Vladimir ROTARI, RTA: Yesterday’s searches and detentions of former parliamentarians have so far become the largest operation of state agencies under the PAS board in the fight against corruption. Thirteen ex-deputies were examined on illegal enrichment and bribery, because, according to the investigation, their expenses far exceeded the stated income. As a result, five of them were arrested. The promise of an uncompromising war against corrupt officials of every stripe was one of the pillars on which PAS’s victories in the last two national election campaigns were based. However, after gaining full power, things in this direction, as practically in all others, were barely tangible. Therefore, such a sudden "rush" was of a real surprise and for many not in a good way. There are many versions of what happened. Few people believe in the simplest and most pleasant one for the authorities – “the fight against corruption is gaining momentum”. On the contrary, the motives for this step were immediately sought in a completely different plane and, first of all, of politics. Let’s figure this out. The fact that the operation was very much in time draws attention to itself. Suffice it to say that yesterday the rise in price of a key product – bread – went public, and this, coupled with the next announcements about the growth of tariffs for gas, electricity, heating and hot water, and what’s more – retroactively. It is clear that the media background for the authorities was extremely negative. And here, could not have been more relevant, a massive attack on former deputies is carried out, diluting news feeds with dozens of materials with various details on who was detained, when and why. Besides, now it can be presented as the first serious success in the fight against corruption, especially if they manage to confiscate the property of the detainees and prove their guilt. This is especially important considering that the main “state thieves” – Vlad Plahotniuc and Ilan Sor – are still too hard to get. And the chances of doing this sometime in the future are not that great. As it turned out, no one is looking for Moldova’s ex-owner at all, and this unnerves the authorities. First, Maia Sandu says that catching Plahotniuc is “not her business”, then blames Interpol for not looking for the oligarch. The Ilan Sor situation is no better. We can deprive him of his parliamentary immunity as much as we like, but it’s not going to help to get him out of Israel. Against this background, of course, persecuting “small fry” will not impress the population that much, but it’s still better than nothing. If we dig a little deeper, there’s a whole lot of interesting details. For example, all the detainees by a lucky coincidence turned out to be members of the SOR party. Last year, my colleagues and I noted that PAS’s revenge for reputational losses in the municipal elections in Balti will definitely follow soon enough. Apparently, so far there are not enough forces to cover the formation at all. But it won’t hurt to meddle Ilan Sor’s party brand, gaining popularity amid falling ratings of PAS and BoCS, into a fresh corruption story. It is very curious that all the “figures” of yesterday’s news reports are former communists, and the very ones who left the faction and eventually allowed Vlad Plahotniuc to establish a regime of sole rule. Apparently, this fact has given rise to a conspiracy theory in the Moldovan telegram community that yesterday’s raid is nothing more than a “fixed game” of the authorities and Vladimir Voronin. Allegedly, this was one of his conditions for future “mutually beneficial cooperation”. It's hard to say how true this may be, but at least it sounds good. Moreover, everybody knows about the PAS need for votes for amendments to the basic law after the elections. It is unlikely that the president and her party will refuse the temptation to adapt the Constitution to suit themselves and the “good times”. Quite a natural desire – the Socialists and Dodon also tried to pull this off at the time, even though unsuccessfully. Maia Sandu and PAS have much more opportunities in this regard – both in terms of control over state institutions, and in terms of international support, thanks to which key capitals can turn blind eyes on small democratic “excesses” when reforming the republic. But the PAS does not have a constitutional majority, and the question where to look for the missing votes still stands. The options were initially few, but now there are even fewer. With the SOR party, all the pots have already been thoroughly beaten, and the authorities cannot get involved into such a collaboration. The Socialists are unlikely to do this, at least for now. There are signals that the unity in their ranks is not so strong, but the belief in revenge and the desire to survive in Moldovan politics is likely to keep them from rash steps. Only the Communists remain, who of all the parliamentary opposition look the safest for behind-the-scenes negotiations and a small temporary cooperation. The real story will soon become clear when the Parliament begins to consider amendments to the Constitution. However, I want to talk about this in conclusion. If, in fact, we take as a basis the political motivation of the events that took place yesterday – whatever it may be – then several important questions immediately arise. The first of them is how well the operation was prepared and whether the evidence base against the detained deputies was collected? We have already seen the example of Alexandr Stoianoglo, whose arrest was preventive in nature with accusations concocted literally in minutes. Thus, they wanted to prevent new charges that the Prosecutor General planned to announce at his press conference. As a result, they got a big headache from a failed investigation and even criticism from the West. If yesterday’s arrests have again become a kind of “plug” or “distraction”, then this threatens to discredit even more the entire war against corruption announced by the president and her party. Especially when Plahotniuc’s people keep working quietly in the most important positions in the country with the full connivance, and sometimes with the permission of the country’s leadership.