How Could Authorities Benefit from Situation in Gagauzia?

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The authorities deliberately stir up discontent and separatist tendencies in the autonomy in order to use them for own strategic purposes.
Cristian RUSSU We could hardly talk about any major achievements, when assessing the current government policy with regard to Gagauzia over the past two years. For an outside observer, it is more about failures: in communication with the population of the autonomy and its leadership, in ignoring the obligations to secure the rights of Gagauzia within the hierarchy of national legislation. These failures are not the merit of only the PAS, but it can also be charge with many matters, given their anti-geopolitical pre-election rhetoric and what we saw in reality. Tension between Chisinau and Comrat is a long-standing phenomenon, but it is fueled mostly by the revanchism of the central authorities, who constantly seek to minimize the autonomy’s powers, also, in order to strengthen their positions in the light of the expected negotiations on the status of Transnistria within the united reintegrated Moldova. The current situation is remarkable for the fact that, at first glance, Comrat has initiative and the main role in inflating the conflict this time. That said, I am far from thinking that the ascent of the Gagauz case in recent weeks to the top of the “information chain” is natural. On the contrary, many components of the new round of confrontation, including its media accompaniment, are clearly staged. To their credit, the consultants of the ruling regime played a multi-stage combination, without good prospects in the Bashkan election. That is, they not only give a free rein to the situation in Comrat, but also actively provoked the heating up of the conflict to such an extent that it can be safely classified as preparation for a rebellion. The arrival of security officials from the National Anti-corruption Center and the theft of boxes with voter lists, which provoked an emergency meeting of the National Assembly and a congress of MPs of all levels and mayors of the autonomy’s settlements with a loud declaration planned for tomorrow, were only the final touches. From the moment when the Sor Party, having a public deal with Russian political forces, was given the green light to “hype” in Gagauzia, it became clear that the authorities were heading towards creating the necessary external media image. It is a win-win option, because in this case it will be convenient to attribute all the costs to the malicious influence of Ilan Sor and Russian hybrid attacks. In this scenario, the European partners, who saw Moscow’s hand raised high in the events in the south of Moldova, could hardly refuse to maintain or increase financial injections to combat Moscow’s revenge-seeking intentions. At the same time, this will once again lower the bar of requirements for the candidate’s minimum, which Chisinau has to pass. It would be easier to ask the curators to be tolerant of some democratic “excesses” that PAS allows itself in building a European Moldova that is “independent of the Kremlin”. By the way, it is worth recalling that Western partners earlier acted as the main promoters of preserving and strengthening the Gagauz autonomy. For example, during the previous crisis, Gagauz representatives went to complain specifically to the US Embassy. Now, with the open manifestation of separatist sentiments, it is unlikely that anyone in Brussels or Washington will listen to the Gagauz. And no one will understand the causes of the current rebellion. The funny thing is that the events in the autonomy are beneficial to the President’s Office from the point of view of their perception in Russia. The Kremlin officials are actually given the opportunity to feel the imaginary influence on the political processes in Moldova. This is important not only as a traditional ploy to attract the attention of Western partners, but also to demonstrate that the existing administrative and legal foundations of the Moldovan state, even with such a curtailed autonomy as Gagauzia has, leave loopholes for the “hand of Moscow”. This, in turn, should lead to the opinion about the adequacy of the legal framework that Chisinau is ready to define for Tiraspol when it comes to discussing the formula for the final settlement of the Transnistrian conflict. Moreover, there may be an expectation that against the background of the bright “pro-Russian” speeches of the Gagauz in the Russian political establishment, the desire to use Transnistria for additional destabilising of already, at first approximation, “shattered Moldova” will grow. This will further strengthen the role and significance of the current regime in the eyes of curators. In addition, the authorities will have a reason to push partners to change their minds on the long-term mantra about the “special status of the Transnistrian region”, appealing to the Gagauz experience, where this eventually turned into a hotbed of separatism with a tendency to an open uprising against Chisinau. Therefore, the strange lull in recent months in the Transnistrian direction, in many respects, is connected precisely with the desire of PAS to create the impression among external partners that there is no longer a need for a formal negotiation process, and even more so for meetings imitating the dialogue. Chisinau is now positioning itself as the main guarantor of not only the economic, but also the military security of Transnistria, and allegedly has already received the loyalty of Tiraspol to this end, since Transnistria is slowly but steadily returning to its native harbor in social and economic terms. The ruling party use similar narratives in terms of progress in the Transnistrian issue, such as, for example, the reorientation of the region’s exports to the EU. This can be seen even in internal political debates, yielding up such scenarios, developed and implemented at the highest level. Therefore, we should expect that the current authorities will artificially support and use the tension in Gagauzia to achieve their goals, including the Transnistrian issue.