Ambitious CUBic of Moldovan Politics

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Vladimir ROTAR.
Potential partners, or perhaps even the PAS substitutors, are strengthening their positions. Last week Igor Munteanu’s CUB was accepted into the influential European group ALDE, and this week it announced a partnership with Servant of the People, Ukrainian ruling party. RTA expert Vladimir Rotar found out its meaning for the future political scenarios in Moldova.
Despite the onset of summer, the traditional vacation season, the social and political life in the country remains highly active. Echoes of last week’s EPC Summit in Bulboaca still engross the minds of politicians and experts who are trying to comprehend the results and significance of the event for Moldova. Meanwhile, other topics, perhaps even more important for the average person, are gradually becoming part of the agenda. For example, the long-awaited tariff reduction as a hype reason for some opposition politicians. Meanwhile, yesterday a rather interesting news emerged, which has not yet attracted excessive attention from the public. It is about the announced partnership between Igor Munteanu’s Coalition for Unity and Wellbeing Party (CUB) and the Ukrainian Servant of the People Party. The parties plan to sign a formal agreement on cooperation and support in the near future, as well as to create working groups to solve issues in trade, transport and agriculture. The key objectives of the partnership were mentioned at the joint press conference: European integration and security. The latter component mainly implied the Transnistrian issue, with a special emphasis. The head of the Ukrainian delegation, MP Vadym Galaychuk, spoke about Kyiv’s interest in the experience of resolving the conflict with the left bank and, following Volodymyr Zelenskyy, repeated the thesis that changes in the Russian-Ukrainian war would create the necessary groundwork for its completion. Пожалуй, не имеет смысла лишний раз детализировать, какую роль играет партия «Слуга народа» в Украине. Можно ограничиться упоминанием того, что в 2019 году она сделала в соседней стране то, чего в 2020-2021 добилась у нас ПДС – то есть в результате избирательных кампаний заполучила основные рычаги власти. Возникает логичный вопрос: зачем такому солидному формированию налаживать сотрудничество с очень молодой молдавской политсилой, не имеющей пока представительства в органах власти. Many press releases about the CUB and the Servants of the People partnership mention that both parties are members of the European liberal group ALDE. The CUB was able to formalize its participation only last week, which was the formal occasion for the start of cooperation and an initial exchange of courtesies with its Ukrainian colleagues. But, of course, there are probably additional ulterior motives, with a deeper bottom. Igor Munteanu’s party is still a newcomer in Moldovan politics, but its leader is not. The expert, former diplomat and MP is a good backgrounder to start a solo political career. At one time Munteanu was a member of the DA Platform, in fact, absorbed by Maia Sandu’s party. At some point the PAS absorbed almost the entire right-wing electorate, depleting the potential of the forces that fed on it. Nevertheless, it is obvious that no party in a modern democratic state can have a monopoly position in its ideological segment for a long time. In addition, the rule of the current government can be assessed as generally unsuccessful, both for objective reasons related to the geopolitical confrontation between the West and Russia and the war in Ukraine, and because of its own mistakes. As a result, the ruling party is gradually losing supporters, who are looking for new agents of their interests – and the CUB offers itself here as a reasonable alternative. Interestingly, the CUB does not fundamentally disagree with the PAS on most issues. The ideological platform of the party is built on approximately similar pillars: European integration in this decade, creation of common spaces with neighboring Romania, uncompromising fight against any elements of oligarchic influence in Moldova. At the same time, members of the Coalition and, first of all, its leader regularly criticize the ruling party, but unlike the center-left opposition, they condemn not the essence of its domestic and foreign policies, but the efficiency and methods of implementation. Igor Munteanu scolded the PAS and Maia Sandu, for example, for insufficient efforts to suppress criminal groups in Moldovan politics (such as the Sor Party) or for poor tactics in the elections in Gagauzia, where the ruling party, in his opinion, should have put up its own candidate and moderate the entire process more carefully. At the same time, CUB's position on some points is much more radical, primarily in terms of the reintegration of the country and relations with Russia. The Coalition sees the restoration of territorial integrity through a tough confrontation with the left bank via economic strangulation and pressure on key persons in the region. In addition, the refusal of any energy deals with Transnistria, which feed the separatist regime, is also considered necessary. As for Russia, it is called an aggressive criminal state, and any Moldovan forces cooperating with it are accused of treason. Interesting, but many other seemingly radical points in the rhetoric of Munteanu and his associates have a habit of showing up in the ruling party’s policies after a while. This was the case with the enshrining of the Romanian language in the country’s constitution or with the procurement of air defense/defense assets and the supply of lethal weapons to the republic. The same happens with the status of neutrality, which CUB suggested long ago to give up and to build its foreign policy towards joining a military bloc (obviously, meaning NATO). The government of Dorin Recean is now generally following this program. Summarizing all the facts, we can draw some interesting conclusions. So, there is the CUB, a new, yet small star on the Moldovan political horizon. However, it shines quite remarkably, not least because it is ensured time in popular media outlets, financed by Romania and other Western countries. This, in turn, confirms the idea that the party has considerable support from Bucharest and Washington (especially since Igor Munteanu was once Ambassador to the United States and certainly has interesting connections) and a mandate to criticize the ruling PAS, which not everyone can afford to do. Thinking in this way, the assessments of some experts that CUB is something like a new PAS, launched in the free float by the Western players, which help it to find the fairway, “get flesh” and protect it from bigger fish, seem quite justified. It is certainly advantageous for the West to diversify its party package in Moldova to keep the PAS in tone, and, if necessary, to include a new force with more radical ideas and determination to implement them in the ruling structure (if such a need arises). As we can see, the ruling party is not yet doing anything beyond the necessary minimum in the current geopolitical conflict. Yes, there is anti-Russian rhetoric, some sanctions and symbolic steps, but in general the status quo is maintained with Russia, especially around Transnistria, where there is still a Russian peacekeeping operation, energy deals and a pro-Russian administration without excessive pressure (although after 2022 Chisinau has all the levers and possibilities to do so). Perhaps at some point - or even now - this behavior may no longer suit certain influential players, and that is when CUB, which unlike the PAS, will be ready to go behind the lines, will come in handy. And in the case of the Transnistrian conflict, this will inevitably have to be done together with their Ukrainian colleagues. Therefore, bridges can be built now, as we are witnessing.