Who and Why Is Splitting the Party of Socialists?

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Cristian RUSSU
The main opposition party on the left flank has been under painful blowsthesepast weeks. Among them is the poaching of MPs, just like in the days of Plahotniuc. This vicious practice takes place with the obvious connivance of the ruling PAS, and most likelywith its direct approval.
The Socialist Party has had a tough time for a couple of years already. One can say that switching to opposition triggered internal disintegration processes. It simply turned outthat PSRM cannot operate in the “besieged fortress” mode. Truly,not ostensibly,besieged, as under Plahotniuc.Party leaders are clearly intimidated by the prospects of criminal prosecution, and average staff members are demotivated because ofinsufficient decisive actions. Igor Dodondoes not add much to the PSRM’s image,with his frequent criticism of former colleagues and “I’ll come back” or “I’ll think about it” promises. The start of the electoral campaign for the Gagauz Bashkan election, which has always favored the Socialists with high ratings, brought even more confusion because some deputies, in the person of VasileBolea and AlexandrSuhodolschi, decided to work in Victor Petrov’s headquarters, a rival of the official party nomineeGrigoreUzun. Despite all the troubles, the PSRM’s approval ratings for the past year have been more or less decent. Opinion polls conducted in the country, excluding the diaspora and the left bank, steadily show a minimal gap between the socialist-communist bloc and the ruling PAS.If we count the rating of the fugitive oligarch Ilan Shor’s party,the third most popular one among the citizens, the opposition has the potential to get a parliamentary majority in the next elections. However, there is an impression that the oppositionists themselves do not see these data and do not try to consolidate even with a view to a possible revenge.PAS, by the way, also sees the results of all these public opinion polls, and moreover, regularly orders closed polls. A new season of political tourism opened Late last year, socialist and communist faction MP Gaik Vartanean left the party, which was very unpleasant news amid Vlad Batryncea’s assurances that the party was disciplined and that the collegiate management format enjoyed overall support. Vartanean has always been one of the active speakers, at various public events or TV shows. The deputy candidly stated that he would join the formation of the capital’s mayor, Ion Ceban. Remarkably, the ruling majority did not react inany particular way to this shift in political orientation of the former socialist. On March 15, Alexandru Nesterovschi, a BCS MP, announced that he too was leaving his faction to join the Movement for the People formed by the parties Shor, PACE of Gheorghe Cavaliuc, Renaștere-Renaissance and activist Maia Laguta to organize mass street protests in Chisinau and other cities.This deputy “transfer” took place literally a few days after the change in the protest agenda, when the Shor members actually abandoned radical measures, giving up their demand for regime change, and focused only on one simple condition: payment of citizens’ utility bills from last winter. The next day, ten mayors of Soroca, Cantemir, Singerei, Comrat, Briceni, Causeni and Drochia districts elected from the PSRM announced that they had joined the Movement for the People. All local deputies showed a photocopy of a hastily made text justifying their allegedly personal decision to leave the socialists. A week later, another BCS MP, Irina Lozovan from Ocnita, committed an act of “political tourism”. All “dissenters” announced their decision in social networks, using similar motives – that they were tired of sitting in warm parliamentary chairs and watching the lawlessness of the authorities, that the party of socialists refuses to fight and protest in the streets, that the socialists are no longer the same, the party has no leader and so on. Who is digging into the socialists? Among the arguments the defectors used to justify their decisions and reject accusations of bribery were the following: they say their withdrawal from the BCS faction does not change anything, and these two parliamentary mandates decide nothing today, as it was during Plahotniuc's time to create or break the majority. This logic can be accepted, but only if we are guided by the current moment and proceed from the fact that the proposal to leave the PSRM ranks came to the MPs in the last weeks. However, one of the Socialist leaders Vlad Batrincea, in the midst of all these "flights", admitted that attempts to bribe socialist deputies had been made for the last nine months, without specifying the names. A few days later, another scandal was made public, this time with the participation of Ilan Shor, who responded to the socialists' claims with purely rational arguments saying that the new mandates in parliament were just an asset for him. Notably, this asset fell into Shor's hands just as he was deprived of another quite tangible asset in the form of the Chisinau airport. All these coincidences fit into the alleged deal between the fugitive oligarch and PAS, with the socialist party as one of its "lots". Another argument to support this version is that these collective and individual acts of "political tourism" take place with the full approval of the ruling authorities. Although previously the pro-European opposition loudly criticized the vicious practice of party switching. Now Maia Sandu declares in parliament that today Moldova is no longer a victim of traitors like Shor, that our state institutions are no longer their pocket tools, that the justice reform is in full swing. Only the socialist victims are indignant about the bribery of deputies and file lawsuits to the prosecutor's office and the Constitutional Court. Meanwhile all the power structures, anti-corruption bodies and special services, controlled by the authorities, pretend not to notice the facts of violations and political corruption. It all repeats, as three years ago. Back then, in May 2020, the socialists and ex-president Igor Dodon complained about attempts to bribe PSRM deputies, who were offered from €400,000 to €500,000 for joining the Shor or Pro Moldova factions. The criminal proceedings in these cases were eventually closed. PAS expectedly ignored the last proposal of PSRM to amend the Constitution in order to prohibit the withdrawal of the deputies elected on the political party list from the faction. One could argue for a long time that the socialists in parliament look impotent and that it would be better for them to be with voters at the barricades. The only thing is that the voters sent them to parliament to use parliamentary powers to defend people's interests. Obviously, it is politically shortsighted to leave the first ranking opposition force only to join an amorphous conglomerate of parties that can be covered up by the authorities at any opportune moment. It is even more strange to leave the PSRM ahead of the local elections, which might be a good launching pad for the next presidential and parliamentary campaigns. So, if from the political and electoral point of view the recent parliamentary switches do not look flawless, it means that there were other triggering factors as well. But no one is in a hurry to investigate them. However, such are the left-wing traditions of "political flexibility" established by the ex-president and now the honorary chairman of the Socialist Party. It is quite possible that, given the ongoing decay of the main leftist opposition force, no one in PSRM is making long-term plans any more.