Domestic political stabilization, retention of power at all costs and all-round support for Ukraine are likely to be the main tasks of the new government, while social and economic problems will take back seats
So last Friday saw what experts had been predicting for months – the government led by Natalia Gavrilita resigned. This happened very quickly, including for the ex-premier herself, who had just returned from a seemingly successful trip to Brussels. For this reason, Gavrilita resigned, barely hiding her emotions and, apparently, still hoping to the last that it would happen under more comfortable circumstances.
Just a few hours later Maia Sandu nominated the current secretary of the Supreme Security Council, Dorin Recean, as Prime Minister. This was also expected – his ambitions had been rumored for a long time, as well as their serious support from some influential Western embassies. Judging by the assurances of the Speaker Igor Grosu, there seems to be a consensus within the parliamentary majority, and Recean will be supported by the faction. Although, according to unofficial data, of course, not everyone in the party is happy with this appointment. Some groups of deputies resisted to the last in the Presidential building. Overall, the resignation of the government, one way or another, will hit PAS unity, and what concrete consequences this will have will be seen in the coming months. Some analysts have already started counting down the days when the current mono-majority will start to split into several sub-factions.
Gavrilita’s government, seated in ministerial chairs on a wave of post-election euphoria, somehow did not succeed in running the country straight away. As a result, the entire cabinet effectively became a symbol of unfulfilled hopes. However, with all the validity of the claims to the resigned government, the responsibility for the state of affairs in Moldova lies on both the ruling party and the President. With the powerful administrative and political resources in the hands of the PAS, backed by strong support from the West, revolutionary changes could have been implemented in the country. In the end, the whole state machine got bogged down in a procedural swamp, and by last autumn the Moldovan people who had invested all their hopes in the ruling party had not received the expected return, apart from loud speeches and imitation of great activity.
In addition, the growing internal divisions between the various groups within PAS began to threaten the entire power structure established in mid-2021. By February, therefore, urgent and decisive measures were already required to extinguish the internal tensions. The resignation of the government is likely to be the starting point for a reallocation of resources and personnel positions to form a new intra-party balance. We are likely to see a reflection of this process in the personal composition of the government and the reshuffling of second-tier agencies.
However, the hasty resignation of the cabinet was the first serious success of the collective opposition, which had been targeting the government for a long time. After this forced maneuver, the opposition forces may believe in their strength even more and, while the government is trying to quickly “politically recharge”, make another protest rush in the hope of further unbalancing the current regime. Especially since it is already known that street protests will begin again on February 19. Having achieved the government’s knockdown, the opposition will move even more actively towards its main strategic goal – holding early parliamentary elections with the aim of a complete political reset in the country.
The speed with which one government is being replaced by another speaks to the desire of PAS leaders to shorten the prime ministerial transfer as much as possible. The main narrative behind such a hasty reshuffle is an increase in security risks. This seems to be what the new government program will be tailored to, and candidates with a relevant profile will be selected for the cabinet. Here the statements of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky about the intercepted Russian plan of internal destabilization of our country, and also the public warnings of the Secretary of the Ukrainian Security Council Oleksiy Danilov about the preparation for a coup in Moldova by Moscow take on a completely different sounding. Maia Sandu’s address to the nation also leaves little doubt as to which sector will be the main focus.
It is not excluded that the signals from Kyiv were the decisive argument in favor of Dorin Recean, i.e. the strongman who is a member of the closest circle of the President’s confidants. Now he will have to deal with issues of special national importance and less with problems in the economy. Most likely, it could be a question of internal political stabilization and retaining power at any cost, suppressing pro-Russian views as well as neutralizing possible vulnerabilities for Kyiv and providing a deep rear for the Ukrainian army.
It is known that as secretary of the Supreme Security Council, Dorin Recean established a separate channel of communication with the Transdniestrian administration to discuss energy issues. But judging by the behavior and appeasing statements from Tiraspol, it cannot be excluded that other topics were also discussed in meetings with politicians from the left bank, including the whole set of regional security problems, in order to preserve stability in Moldova and to prevent the conflict in Ukraine from spilling over into our country.
It is not yet clear how free Recean is in choosing candidates for his cabinet, but there is reason to think that forming his own team will not be that easy for him, and the final list of ministers will be correlated with PAS’s internal interests. Nevertheless, despite initial speculation, it is clear that the Cabinet’s staff composition will undergo certain changes. For example, the influential Andrei Spinu will certainly leave the cabinet – he was just appointed Secretary General of the Presidency.
The fundamental difference between the old government and the new one is that the former came on a wave of general support for the ruling party and had a broad mandate of legitimacy from the people, which had been almost completely lost for a year and a half. Dorin Recean, on the other hand, takes office amidst strong dissatisfaction with the ruling party among the population and a lack of any hope of improving the situation. Therefore, the new Prime Minister faces even more tasks, which can be roughly divided into state and party tasks.
The Cabinet of Ministers has to do something incredible on a national scale to at least straighten out the socio-economic situation. It is also important not to slow down the pace of European integration reforms, and even more importantly, to force the bureaucratic system to speed up and show some results by the autumn. Electorally, Dorin Recean has to emerge from the technocratic shadow and become a public politician. It is necessary to preserve the cohesion of the ruling party and stop its splitting, as well as to achieve a relatively comfortable result of PAS in the autumn local elections, which will be a prologue to the election campaign of Maia Sandu at the beginning of next year.
The new government will not have much time to turn the tide. It is hard to imagine that the PAS, supported by its partner embassies and the entire non-government expert community, will find a group of talented Moldovan geniuses who will do the unbelievable. So the expectations are very, very moderate. Unfortunately, the chances of the new cabinet are slim and if the new composition eventually fails, the political fate of the PAS will practically be sealed.