How and When to Tackle “Gagauz Issue”?

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A group of people supporting tough approach to the final solution of the issue regarding opposing autonomy has already been shaped in the president’s environment.
The voting in Gagauzia was emphatically remonstrative. The autonomy supported the Sor Party’s candidate, the most active opponent to the current authorities, who did not bother to send own applicant with a structured program. Without any chance of getting a significant number of votes, the PAS party acted recklessly and extremely arrogantly, ignoring the electoral campaign in Gagauzia. Unlike the Balti scenario, where a formal mockery of the electoral code and the votes of local people made it possible to get a candidate ready to cooperate with the central authorities, any tricks with Comrat, except for the actual abolition of its autonomy by establishing a police regime, will not give the ruling party the desired result. Evghenia Gutul’s victory was a natural result of Chisinau’s refusal to communicate normally with people guided by slightly different preferences, different from what politicians controlled by Washington and Brussels are trying to sell as a new Moldovan mainstream. A little-known candidate with no political experience was successful only thanks to the political brand of the Sor Party. The population of Gagauzia, thus, passed a vote of no confidence in the authorities, expressing support based solely on the criterion of opposition to the current regime. Gagauzia is becoming a long-term problem for the PAS, and the government is apparently trying to delay the final decisions as much as possible. Meanwhile, the Comrat Court of Appeal approved yesterday Evghenia Gutul’s mandate, rejecting Serghei Cernev’s complaint about the alleged supply of voters in the first and second vote rounds. Earlier, the People’s Assembly unanimously recognized the Gutul’s victory. On May 27, a congress of MPs of all levels and mayors of Gagauzia will be aimed at reaffirming support for the winning candidate. However, the central authorities won’t stop their judiciary attempts to delay taking the office by the new bashkan. No radical measures will be taken at this stage, because after the European Moldova rally, the government will fully focus on arranging the summit of the European Political Community to be held on June 1-2. The resolution of the rally contains an initiative to introduce a course towards European integration into the country’s constitution. A representative summit with the participation of EU top politicians and member states should convincingly fix Chisinau’s claims to the so-called “European future”. It is extremely important for the government to hold the event without conflicts and protests, in a calm business-like atmosphere. Therefore, a short pause will be taken in the final resolution of the Gagauz issue in order to avoid scandals related to Chisinau’s refusal to recognize autonomy’s democratic will. This is how we can interpret Maia Sandu’s rather evasive comments made on this topic during her visit to Iceland. However, after the summit, the ruling party will have to decide what to do next. Freedom of maneuver is severely curtailed by the government’s voiced refusal to cooperate with the winning candidate and threats to bring Evghenia Gutul under new separatism legislation – a very specific tactic given the fact that the elected bashkan is an ex officio member of the Minister Cabinet. The authorities stubbornly ignore the social demand for the normalization of the economic situation, for a balanced foreign policy and an adequate democratic process that takes into account the entire palette of people’s opinions and preferences. The logical consequence of such management methods will be an attempt to usurp power in the autonomy through its partial abolition with the appointment of a provisional administration from Chisinau. The government established party control over the Central Election Board and the judiciary through non-democratic tools. The Central Election Board has already reported violations and may in the future require a repeat election without the participation of candidates allegedly involved in violations of campaign finance rules. At the same time, the court rule may turn out to be rather vague and non-specific, as in the case of the ban on wearing the St. George ribbon. The main thing for the authorities is to record violations, which will subsequently allow them to interpret the judiciary conclusion in their favor and apply certain executive restrictions, primarily by the police and specialized anti-corruption agencies. At this stage, such plans are quietly, but very actively discussed in government offices with the participation of European advisers. The authorities are weighing the possible pros and cons of the scenario for the forcible seizure of autonomy and the establishment of a puppet regime there. But after the European Political Community Summit, in order to avoid unnecessary hype. Especially without guarantees of support for such encroachments in the form of usurpation by the Western community, which is a key source of legitimacy for the current regime. The US Ambassador was present at the Regional Election Board on election day and did not report any violations. Brutal attempts to disperse the autonomy can seriously outrage international organizations, including the OSCE, which was actively involved in the dialogue between Comrat and the central authorities in previous years and monitors the implementation of legislation on the special legal status of Gagauzia. If Recep Erdogan wins in the second round of the presidential elections in Turkey on May 28, which seems quite likely today, Chisinau may also expect Ankara’s painful reaction to bid for limiting the rights of autonomy. Taking into account these factors, the voices of people supporting the forceful scenario of not admitting Evghenia Gutul to office have not yet found full understanding with Maia Sandu. But the opposition has already been shaped (its voice leaks out in the statements of party “talking heads” like MP Oazu Nantoi) and will convince the PAS informal leader that harsh methods of resolving the “Gagauz issue” are justified. We can only guess what the Madam President and her Western curators will answer after the summit dated June 1-2. The population of Gagauzia, for now, will have to mobilize, rally and enlist the support of foreign diplomats and any possible allies. Otherwise, autonomy may be destroyed in the coming months.