Renato Usatii seems to be returning to big Moldovan politics, but in what capacity: as an accomplice to the protest movement or as a spoiler to divert attention from the reprisals against political opponents by the current authorities?
Anton Șveț, RTA:
The blowback in the early parliamentary elections put Renato Usatii’s political career and his party project on pause and in search of sponsors. Obviously, the voting results – his bloc did not even pass the electoral threshold, gaining only 4% of the vote – disappointed not only the Our Party leader himself, but also its key donors, who realized the uselessness of such an asset for the next few years.
Usatii temporarily stepped back, choosing the best moment for a “triumphant” return. It seems to have come, because at the end of last week he announced plans to revive Our Party. Such a demand has existed for a long time in the Northern capital, because the city is traditionally prone to protest moods, especially in the absence of legitimacy and control of the current Mayor’s office. Suffice it to recall the last municipal elections, and the fact that the current Mayor of Balti came to power without gaining even 10,000 votes.
Among other things, the restart of Our Party could mean that Renato Usatii had found sponsors. The politician’s public appearance, with a high-profile announcement, had a provocative tone and was accompanied by obscure, mostly profane statements, in which one could feel resentment for the year’s downtime. So far, we have noticed the complete absence of a plan, a program, or even a set of top-priority steps. All that has been announced is some kind of tour around the country and collecting comments of support for Our Party on social media. Even for a marginal political project, this is very thin.
Yet the moment for a return to the political scene is, one might say, passable. Protest potential in society is quite high, especially in some regions, where the authorities regularly deploy special police units, flexing their muscles.
The socio-political status of citizens will only worsen in the coming months due to worsening inflation and the constant rise in the cost of utilities. In addition, the authorities persistently create social polarization, refusing to cooperate with any forces that perceive Russia positively or neutrally. Recently, when asked what kind of opposition the government is willing to communicate with, Maia Sandu described something that does not exist. By the way, PAS itself doesn’t fall under her criteria either, except that it shows full support for Kyiv in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Therefore, populist, socially-oriented slogans and criticism of the government are in high demand today. Renato Usatii has always coped well with such tasks and has quite a successful track record of participation in protest movements.
So, the timing is good, some funding arrived – but what is the goal?
Commentators from Maia Sandu’s camp of supporters and servants will surely be reinforced by the version that Moscow is ready to use all available resources to create problems for the pro-Western Moldovan authorities. And here Russia has already shown the intention to cooperate not only with the traditional clients from the Socialist Party, but also with the Communists and with Ilan Sor. And now, perhaps, with Renato Usatii as well. All figures are fit to put pressure on Chisinau to improve the position of Igor Dodon and his satellites.
On the other hand, an odious politician and businessman, who still enjoys the sympathy of a part of the pro-Russian public, could be an effective distraction for the current government. Today, Maia Sandu and her team are crushing the parliamentary opposition with all their might, not stopping at any legal, political or moral obstacles. The Sor party has been decapitated, with its members criminally prosecuted. Igor Dodon is under house arrest, many of his entourage and even his relatives have problems with the law.
These developments cannot but irritate a part of the electorate, which, along with the deterioration of living standards and the tabooing of pro-Russian views, can threaten serious cataclysms. Channeling the protest potential into Renato Usatii’s populist project could be an acceptable bargain for the current government. And even in terms of a hypothetical future confrontation in local and parliamentary elections, “de-ideologized” Our Party could be a comfortable sparring partner.
So far, it is difficult to understand what is behind the another “round” of Renato Usatii in Moldovan politics. Apparently, it is to many people’s advantage, but based on even the first signals and last year’ experience, we can assume that the second version I have presented makes much more sense. We will see to what extent Maia Sandu will stick to her opinion that she can only cooperate with those opposition forces, the sources of which are open and transparent. It will be no less interesting to see how the pro-government media will behave towards Usatii.