Relaunch of Renato Usatii’s Project: Another Spoiler?

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Cristian RUSSU
The proximity of elections awakens many political projects, including those everyone has practically forgotten about. For example, Renato Usatii is ready to return with renewed vigor to the electoral battles after his humiliating defeat in 2021.
On January 19, Renato Usatii, in his usual flamboyant manner, announced his return to Moldovan politics and the relaunching of the Our Party. He admitted that he had been offended by the Moldovan electorate for the “yellow card” in the early elections of summer 2021, and based on his emotions he had decided to leave the Moldovan people with those whom he had chosen to govern him. Allegedly Renato Gheorghievici gave us all time to realize that we should have appreciated his good intentions. But then, however, he suddenly had an epiphany and realized that perhaps he himself had not fully appreciated the manifestation of the people’s wisdom and the signal given to him. While in doubt, Usatii conducted several opinion polls and found out for himself that the people were allegedly not at all against him in power. The biggest revelation is that the residents of Balti and other cities where Our Party mayors were elected did not support the party in the parliamentary elections only out of “fear of losing their favorite mayors”. In general, Usatii invented a legend about the reasons for his return to big politics. Some will surely understand and accept it, and some will even forgive the moment of weakness and give him a second chance. Interestingly, this is already the second attempt of the former Balti mayor to reanimate his political career in the last six months. On September 6, he came out with a similar set of confessions, calling the then elected deputies idiots, and on September 14, he had a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador. At the end of the meeting the diplomatic mission issued a symbolic press release in which it ranked Renato Usatii among the “leaders of the country’s political spectrum” and listed among the topics of conversation the issues of Moldova’s European integration and the upcoming local elections. It has long been known in our politics that the launch (in this case, the relaunch) of a political project, even formally pro-Russian, requires the approval of the “main” embassy. This has become a kind of tradition and ritual. This time the Americans have even outlined the limits of what is allowed for the political activity of Usatii, whose electorate is obviously on the left wing. It is hard to understand why he waited four months for a “second comeback”, but one can be sure that he accepted the rules of the game. It is indicative that on the TV air of a channel considered oppositional, he criticized all the ministers of the Gavrilita government, leaving two persons out of the picture. Only the former Minister of Labor was praised (it is clear that everyone praises Marcel Spatar) and the head of the Foreign Ministry, Nicu Popescu, “a professional who lives on airplanes”. It became clear at once that Renato Georgievici is not going to challenge the foreign policy vector and the European integration course, and in general he will try to stay out of it. Although, earlier, the Our Party program had a vision on this issue and clearly stated that Moldova must build its foreign policy, cooperating both with the West and with the East, but at the same time “not to be vassals for anyone”. It is clear that after February 2022, even political projects that are focused on normal relations with Russia are forced to adjust their position with regard to everything that is happening to the east of our country. Renato Usatii was no exception. He condemned the war of Russia against Ukraine, calling it a great mistake and a disaster of the XXI century. In order not to get lost in the chorus of condemnation of the Russian invasion, the former mayor of Balti named the only complaint to the foreign policy of the current government, which, in his opinion, is the self-withdrawal from the work of CIS structures. Usatii considers that the President should have gone to the CIS summit anyway, at least in order to express her complaints to Putin personally and also to improve ties with other CIS countries: Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. Otherwise, the sphere of political interests of Usatii and his party is likely to be exclusively domestic. Finding dirt on politicians and officials, making jokes and making fun of his opponents (including former president Igor Dodon) – all these traditional components of a scandalous politician’s success seem to remain with him. On 19 January, Usatii even came to the program with Gheorghe Gonţa in the same suit and tie that he wore three and a half years ago. Another curious detail that the politician himself said: the timing of the opinion polls, which allegedly prompted him to revive the party. It turns out that the last poll took place back in December 2021. Thus, it took Renato Usatii more than a year to decide to restart his political project. All this suggests that the decision was by no means spontaneous. Throughout the past year, Usatii has been able to watch the sweep of the left flank being carried out. Whereas last September’s announcement of his return was just a trial balloon given the increased activity of the left (in addition to Shor’s protests, the Common Agenda alliance can be recalled), now the restart of Our Party is taking place in an almost complete lull on the part of the other left-wing forces. It has come to the point that even the parliamentary opposition has withdrawn from political activity. If we believe civil activist Pavel Grigorciuc, deputies from opposition factions ignored for the first time a meeting of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on the evaluation of Moldova over the past three years, where the procedure of withdrawal of our country from the CoE monitoring almost began. Given the de facto dual power in the PSRM and the problems with the return of the leader of the Shor Party, it may well be that Renato Usatii will fill the niche of leader of the “constructive opposition” on the greatly thinned left wing, becoming quite a comfortable and completely satisfactory spoiler for the current government.