Should We Expect a Government of National Unity in the Near Future?

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Cristian RUSSU
The recent resignations in the Government and the Presidency suggest a growing staffing problem in the governing majority and its inability to overcome the socio-economic crisis unilaterally. Is the ruling party ready to consolidate its right-wing forces and share responsibility for what is happening in the country ahead of local elections?
Their Resignation Went Unnoticed   The beginning of the new year was marked by a new series of personnel losses for the ruling authorities and Maia Sandu personally. On January 9, Marcel Spatari, the Minister of Labor and Social Protection, and Stela Ciobanu, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice of Moldova, resigned. The president’s cousin Anastasia Taburcianu, who served as the prime minister’s press secretary, and presidential spokesperson Sorina Stefarta also decided to leave the team. In the last six months, the Government alone has lost four ministers: Minister of Agriculture Viorel Gherciu left in July, Minister of Environment Iuliana Cantaragiu in September, Minister of Economy Sergiu Gaibu in November and now Marcel Spatari. Many observers consider the resignation of the latter a landmark, since he was one of the few high-level specialists in the Government. If we analyze, all resignations in the Gavrilita Government and the Presidency were either due to public criticism, as in the case of Iuliana Cantaragiu for the firewood harvesting and distribution program, or due to personal or family motives. Vladislav Kulminski was one of the first to cite nonservice reasons of his departure as deputy prime minister in November 2021. Now, Sorina Stefarta and Marcel Spatari publicly stated that. The latter does have family in Bucharest, but family circumstances could hardly have been decisive for officials if they had seen prospects to grow in our country. It is a high and sometimes unjustified risk for successful managers to get involved in public administration. Is a New Alliance for European Integration possible? That the Government in its current composition cannot handle current socio-economic challenges and, even more, confidently go along the path of EU membership, is stated not only by the few representatives of the extra-parliamentary right-wing opposition and experts, but also by the media supportive of the ruling majority. More and more often, we can hear that the authorities should engage in a dialogue with all the right-wing political forces and unite in the face of the sweeping changes needed for EU accession. In practice, this would mean that the PAS should include people from other parties in its government team and create a so-called “national unity government” of right-wing forces. Such ideas, in the spirit of forgotten alliances for European integration of Ghimpu, Filat and Lupu times, have long been promoted by Alexandru Slusari from the DA Platform who literally begs for any official position. Representatives of the newly created CUB party (Coalition for Unity and Well-Being) also voiced their readiness to provide competent expert advice to the authorities. The authorities reluctant to use the proposed personnel assistance raises more and more questions, especially given the dubious nature of recent appointments and their efficiency. Take Dumitru Alaiba as Minister of Economy, or Alexei Buzu as Minister of Labor who is a director of an NGO that promotes gender equality and inclusion. By all appearances, Alexandru Slusari’s dreams are not destined to come true. So far, there are no signals that the ruling PAS party is ready to voluntarily refuse its monopoly on power and share it with its former partners in the ACUM bloc. “Dogs bark but the caravan moves on” or “Those who dropped out of the ranks will be replaced” – this is approximately how our authorities put their staff policy. By the way, PAS MPs and ministers have already showed their bewilderment over the mass regret in the media regarding Spatari’s resignation who was tasked with a risky compensation program. Another deterrent for the current authorities is stepping into the three-year period of electoral campaigns. It is difficult to imagine that, once in a ministerial seat, the conditional Slusari or Munteanu will not use administrative resources to push their personal political projects. We all remember the media scandals resulting from inter-party squabbles during the alliances for European integration ten years ago. The incumbent authorities, in spite of all blunders and leaks, do succeed in keeping the integrity of the party facade and do not allow washing their dirty linen in public. Yet, even if it does exist, the unified position in the PAS is primarily a matter of unwillingness to share power. Human Resources Are Key Nevertheless, staff shortage was noticed, and now the authorities have several ways to solve the problem. One of them is financial incentives. The public is already aware that the authorities had to seek outside sources of funding to attract the right people. As a rule, funds for encouraging nominees were given by nongovernmental agencies close to the authorities. However, such unofficial payments have their limitations, and, moreover, they create further inconveniences and risks, which is why higher official salaries for officials has turned into one of the government’s main goals. Amid high inflation, ministerial salaries are up by 9 thousand lei, reaching the limit of one thousand euros. Such an income may be attractive for non-governmental managers, on whom the current administration will place its bets. Recent examples include the already mentioned Alexei Buzu and Stella Jantuan, an expert and former advisor to Marian Lupu, who has joined the presidential team. Parliament itself is the resource base of the necessary personnel for the government and other institutions, where PAS has few figures little involved publicly who can be replaced as deputies by those from the party list. Transitions of Sergiu Litvinenco and Vladimir Bolea to the government can be called quite successful. The latter, after realizing the real situation in the country’s agriculture, became one of the few remaining opponents of Moldova’s exit from the CIS. Most remarkable was the formal return to the presidential team and public space of the well-known figures who had problems with justice and who were previously involved in scandals. Thus, the position of Secretary General of the presidential administration was given to advisor Veaceslav Negruta who in 2015 was sentenced to three years of probation for abuse of office on the charge of passing 400,000 euros to former PLDM deputy Pantelei Sandulache. Vadim Pistrinciuc, the author and architect of many projects, another character who, like Nagruta, was at the center of the scandal with leaked correspondence, recently lifted the veil of secrecy over the further actions of the ruling authorities. As expected, constructive interaction with the right-wing opposition and the expert community is not part of these plans. Apparently, there are plenty of NGO experts among officials, and no one is going to heed the proposals of non-parliamentary forces. When in office, senior officials will be asked to toughen policies and speed up the reforms and other measures that were promised or are consistent with the current foreign policy context and with what development partners are expecting. The very fact that these two figures came out of the shadows into the political arena confirms how determined the authorities are to fight for this power, regardless of the image costs. Especially illustrative are Pistrinciuc’s statement that to restore order in the country, primarily in the justice sector, there is no need to be cautious about the separation of powers principle. Thus, we cannot expect that the rules of decency will be observed or that other democratic decorum will be preserved, while all the experiments already done by Sergiu Litvinenco in the field of justice may be considered a child’s prank. Of course, we cannot say that people seriously worry about the democratic future of the country, or about the rule of law principles and freedom of speech. However, it is important to understand what we get in return for losing those few things that Moldova could preserve in recent years. Loud promises and new slogans will not help people buy food. So far, only the authorities and their retinue can boast of their better financial well-being. Whether the population will see improvements in their life is a big question. As to the plans authorities have for the upcoming local election campaign this fall, the overall strategy is already outlined and consists of banal blackmail of the local authorities. When adopting the budget, the Parliament, as proposed by the Ministry of Finance, instructed to raise the salaries of public sector employees by a fixed amount of 1,300 lei, with no provision for financial coverage. In other words, local authorities will have to seek funds for these purposes on their own, which is extremely difficult since regional budgets were adopted prior to the state budget, and only those heads of local authorities who are PAS members could be aware of such plans. All the rest predictably criticized the authorities’ trick: the political decision that will bring dividends to the ruling party but will be carried out locally by everyone, including the opposition politicians. It will be impossible not to pay increases promised by the government, nor will it be possible to pay them without help from the government. By summer-autumn, most local authorities will be in an extremely vulnerable position with a budget deficit, which can be covered only with funds from the center, and for this they will have to pay by their political loyalty to the ruling party.