Opinion: Imitation of Opposition Fosters Dictatorship

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Anton SVET
Inspired by the passivity of their political opponents, the current government used force to disperse protests in Chisinau. The autocratic grip of the regime will only worsen as the socio-economic situation in the country worsens and the opposition camp further decays
On Sunday night, riot police and Carabinieri troops finally dismantled the tent city of change in the center of the capital, using physical force and special means. Several activists were injured, some protesters were arrested, but later they were released from police custody. In this way the authorities restricted with impunity the right of the population to peaceful protest, violating the law and ignoring European norms that guarantee the freedom of assembly. Even appeals by pro-government experts defending the rights of protesters are ignored. The illegal measures to disperse the tent city were condemned by the US and EU-funded Center for Politics and Reform, Promo-Lex, and Amnesty International, which openly support pro-Western values and Maia Sandu’s regime of personal power. The president-sanctioned police lawlessness is growing, despite the shouts of the former head of the inspectorate general, Gheorghe Cavcaluc, who still enjoys some authority in the police community and has promised to join the protest movement. The president has already hastened to thank the Interior Ministry “for calm and timely intervention to ensure public order”. According to her version, multiple violations were detected, and prohibited items were allegedly found in the possession of protesters. The reaction of the opposition to the smashing of the “town of change” was as flaccid as possible. The Socialist Party made only a very lengthy statement, calling the use of force against ordinary people criminal and calling for the use of judicial methods to eliminate the controversy. Party leaders Vlad Batrincea and Olga Cebotari went to Moscow for consultations, apparently to explain to the Kremlin their passivity, which renders them loyal to the current government. However, the criticism from the socialist camp increased yesterday against the background of the trial on the charge of bribery against ex-president Igor Dodon, which resulted in the extension of his house arrest by 30 days. All these toothless outcries are not critical for the current government. The other political forces who joined the so-called “common agenda” last week chose to keep silent and not react much to the police abuses. Even the opposition responded more vigorously to the provocative exercises and other strange actions in Gagauzia. However, this weekend, it was as if all of them “had enough water in their mouths”. Only the headliner of the protest, Ilan Sor, who is in political exile, reacted sharply. Meanwhile, his denunciation speech is unlikely to frighten the authorities, since the mobilization resource of his electorate is almost exhausted, and it will be difficult to make the protests more massive without the participation of other political parties. The protesters themselves are clearly not ready for a serious confrontation with the police, because they are also aware of the lack of a solid resource of support. The launch of the “common agenda” could be put down to elementary political competition – after all, the Sor party is a parliamentary party, and its popularity is gradually growing due to its socially oriented and pro-Russian slogans. Socialists, communists and “minority” members of the leftist spectrum and the center may sincerely dislike the usurpation of protest messages by the party of the former mayor of Orhei. At the same time, if the Socialist and Communist teams had joined the current protests (instead of the isolated participation of their individual members), the prospects for power could have soured dramatically. Given the mass and electoral potential of these parties and the left wing as a whole, after only a few weeks a rare voter or commentator would remember that the protest activity was originally launched by the Sor party. Frankly, there are doubts about the genuine interest of the PSRM and the rest in a real struggle for power. The socio-economic situation of the country will worsen in the near future, the responsibility for this will be borne by the pro-European Maia Sandu. Socialists are not capable in principle to “have it both ways” in the current conditions of an acute geopolitical confrontation, as they did it all previous years. In order to protect themselves from difficult elections and decisions, they will not provoke early parliamentary elections and will not try to seize power. Such political behavior, on the contrary, implies the possibility of deals and compromises with the ruling party, including the draining of protests. In this picture of the world, periodic quarrels and mutual accusations with factional partners, the Communists, are acceptable. This modesty of ambition unleashes the hands of the authorities, since Maia Sandu’s regime is not under significant pressure from the opposition inside the country and does not face the criticism from the West, which is traditional for such situations. In other words, the legitimacy of her rule, despite the violations of the law, political reprisals and the decline in living standards and incomes of the population, is not in fact challenged by anyone. The actions of the “common agenda” marginalize the protests, as if the grievances people have formulated against the authorities were not objective and justified. Even pro-government nongovernmental organizations are more principled than formal political opponents of the regime. There are serious doubts that Moscow sanctioned this behavior of the PSRM. It looks more like an independent game, aimed at the political survival of the party and some of its tops under Western patronage. The “common agenda” consists of politicians who have repeatedly demonstrated flexibility in their views, changing depending on the conjuncture. The unexpected or “sensational” presence of Mark Tkaciuk’s project in this group suggests that the architects of the deal are European advisors, at ease in Moldovan political life and governance, in particular the influential Martin Sig. Ion Ceban’s decisions are in many ways oriented to certain circles in Romania. Thus, “whipping up” a safe, electorally stable, inexpensive and unprincipled opposition, formally consolidated (but governed only by selfish interests) was the best way out for the authorities. This would make it possible to manage the intensity of criticism, maintain power, and even deceive Moscow with hopes of promising deals on certain delicate issues. For the sake of formality, the representatives of the Socialists or the Civic Congress could even prepare some informal roles, such as communicators with Moscow or Tiraspol. Unfortunately, the outcome of these sluggish processes will only continue to impoverish the population, weaken the protest wave and strengthen the regime of Maia Sandu’s personal authoritarian power.