Escalating Protests – the Risks of Police Intervention

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Anton SVET
The working week in the capital began with state-sanctioned attempts to disperse protesters and dismantle the tent camp. However, the forceful suppression of the rally and the regime’s double standards can have the opposite effect and deepen the crisis
The ruling party still refuses to acknowledge that it is not only the ill will of oligarchic forces that is behind the protests. The same farmers are protesting because they cannot sell their products on traditional markets and do not receive any state support. The government defiantly ignores calls to go to Russia and openly plays along with the anti-Russian campaigns, including the attack on the Russian embassy in Chisinau. Maia Sandu does not miss a single opportunity to accuse Moscow and publicly demonstrate her solidarity with Ukraine and Western countries. The same tactics are followed by Parliament Speaker Igor Grosu and Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu, who interpret the attacks on civilian infrastructure in completely different ways, based on who exactly is doing it and where. It is these attempts to “be on the right side of history” that have become the ultimate goal and content of our domestic and foreign policies. Any pragmatic issues and tasks are regarded as secondary and ignored in favor of closely following the conjuncture and directives of Washington, Brussels, and Kyiv. Clearly, such unprofessional and ideological management cannot be successful in the long run – there is no ground to believe that the crisis around Ukraine is about to be resolved. The people of the country, at least a significant part of them, cannot handle the consequences of inflation and the colossal increase in the cost of utility bills. According to the national bureau of statistics, inflation has reached an annual rate of 34%, and food products such as fruits, vegetables, and sugar are becoming more expensive. Tariffs for electricity, heat and gas are also rising steadily. The average monthly payment per household exceeds almost any pension (except for special pensions, such as those of former judges) and even salaries in some sectors of the economy. People, physically on the brink of survival, are predictably susceptible to populist statements, especially amid the remarkably inane and arrogant speeches of officials and court politicians. They say we will have to be patient, but there will be bright times, as if we had “rich years” at least once in this century. Therefore, when populist politicians, supported by the people for purely utilitarian reasons, are attacked with clear signs of administrative arbitrariness and extrajudicial reprisals, people predictably revolt. The first wave of arrogant distrust and attempts to mock the authorities over the protests has passed. It has become clear that popular discontent is growing and, moreover, is becoming “institutionalized”. A tent city has been set up, images and slogans have been formulated, and a primary set of demands to the authorities has been compiled. It is premature to talk about a serious threat to the regime, but the protests are definitely not marginal phenomena. Moreover, they have already received limited international support, for example, in the form of Russia’s controversial but quite standard decision to allow agricultural products from the Orhei district to enter its market. Maia Sandu and her team were themselves involved in the protest movement against the government of Vladimir Plahotniuc and should understand that control of the National Assembly Square is a significant political factor. In this situation, the authorities decided to strike their own blow against the protesters, to try and disperse the “town of changes” and to free the square from the tents. A fairly serious police force was deployed for this purpose. As a result, the people in the square, who demanded that representatives of the country’s leadership simply come out to talk to the people, were brutally dispersed. In the past, however, the authorities tried not to be too harsh on the protesters, sometimes even meeting some of their demands. But Maia Sandu enjoys the unconditional support of the Western community, which will not respond to any showdown with the opposition and violations of civil liberties in Moldova. After all, in their terms, they are produced by a pro-Western party, emphatically adhering to the “right” views and foreign policy guidelines – the so-called principles of Euro-Atlantic solidarity. Besides, the sudden contacts between the PSRM and the Civic Congress put additional pressure on the protesters (depriving the protest movement of a part of the social basis). Thus, the parliamentary socialists and active bloggers from the Civic Congress, by separating themselves from the protests, are playing in tandem with the authorities, doing them a favor in preserving political stability. There is reason to think that this does not happen at no cost – the unexpected replacement of Igor Dodon’s house arrest with judicial control may also have some reason. As a result, the security forces are given carte blanche to violently disperse protests if instructed to do so by the country’s leadership. And they will definitely use it when the government feels threatened. We are talking about just a few days, because psychologically our leaders are beginning to weaken noticeably. There are many attempts to escape from the political reality – into international visits and non-stop commenting on what is going in the world, but not in Moldova. This is a double-edged sword situation. The further the authorities “break away”, the more perspectives the protests will have. In winter, the people’s socio-economic situation will worsen. And then the leadership will have to deal with the protests by the only possible methods of force, because it is impossible to remove the objective reasons for the growth of popular discontent in conditions of such a failed incompetent government. With the silent consent of the Western community, which has long monopolized the right to external legitimization of all protests and Maidan technologies in the world, Maia Sandu and her team will use force without fear of international outrage. After all, everything can be presented as a fight against Russian influence. The West can understand even repression of Gagauzia by force, on the sly, as Comrat will always be an inconvenient alternative to pro-Western authorities and a bridgehead for revenge of leftist forces. Therefore, the forthcoming period will be a democracy test for Maia Sandu – the political future will show how humanist slogans of the authorities match the reality. The temptation to get rid of all opponents in a swift and tough manner, without resorting to judicial delays and lawsuits, is great. Knowing the President’s political biography and true political image, there is every reason to fear such an outcome.