SOR Party Outlawed. What’s Next?

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RTA experts analyze the circumstances of the ban on the SOR party and explore the future political landscape in the country
Sergey Cheban: Thus, what many experts, including our editors, had already predicted happened - the “SOR” party was outlawed. The country’s authorities, offended by the defeat in the Gagauz autonomy, and also exhausted by the unending street protests, did what they had set out to do.  At the same time, they thoughtfully postponed the final decision until June, so as not to spoil the pro-European meeting on the Great National Assembly Square and the summit of the European Political Community. The Moldovan Constitutional Court, after internal debates, agreed with the government’s arguments that the “SOR” party violates the provisions of the Moldovan constitution. Nicolae Rosca, who announced the verdict, said that upon judgement, the “SOR” party is considered dissolved, all subsequent party documents are null and void. In addition, the Justice Ministry will have to finalize the procedure of political formation’s liquidation and remove it from the register of legal entities in Moldova. According to the court ruling, the councilors in local authorities and MPs from the “SOR” party retain their mandates but will continue their political activity as independent people’s deputies, but they are not allowed to join other factions. The party deputies called this decision of the Constitutional Court offensive and intend to appeal to the ECHR. Eliminating the legal framework will not stop the party incumbents, so they will undoubtedly continue their political activity, especially in light of the upcoming local elections. The long history with the banning of the party allowed Ilan Shor’s supporters to prepare thoroughly for a “political relocation” and the transfer of the entire party’s activists to another political formation. Most likely, it will be “Renastere”, where several renegade MPs have already settled down. We cannot rule out that Shor’s political advisers will suggest to disperse the forces. Thus, at the local elections we will see a lot of party projects with related electoral programs, which will later unite into one political bloc. The need for a strong injunction is also a consequence of the significant electoral gains that the “SOR” party has made in recent months, despite its legally questionable political practices. In the last parliamentary elections in 2021, “SOR” gained just under 6 % of the vote. However, after political persecution, recent opinion polls have shown that the party has almost reached second place in the popularity rankings, ahead of the Communists and Socialists. Therefore, the liquidation of the party structure, on the contrary, may contribute to an even greater consolidation of the protest electorate around Shor. It is not clear how events will develop further around the elected Bashkan of Gagauzia, Evghenia Gutul, who, according to the decision of the Constitutional Court, can fulfil her duties. However, apparently, the presidency delayed the appointment of the autonomy’s head as a member of the government, waiting for the Constitutional Court’s decision. It is quite possible that the court’s verdict will be the basis for applying a non-trivial legal measure to the elected head of the autonomy. Undoubtedly, the removal of the “SOR” party from the legal field is also a personal blow to the Kremlin, which since autumn of last year began to place its main bet on Ilan Shor, gradually drying up the Bloc of Communists and Socialists both in terms of resources and deputies. However, Moscow must have expected such a judicial outcome and prepared in advance to regroup its forces. Therefore, there was no great tragedy, and Russian experts will continue to prepare for their main task - the successful aggregate result of political forces loyal to the Russian Federation in the autumn local elections. Cristian Russu: The decision of the Constitutional Court to liquidate the “SOR” party was not a sensation, but rather a predictable finale of a protracted and boring media saga. For the ruling party it is a story that claims to become an important element of modern political mythology. There is no doubt that it will be reflected in history textbooks as “the struggle of progressive pro-European forces against the oligarchic remnants of the Kremlin’s former influence”, “the victory of good over the devious tentacles of corruption of Moscow’s minions”, and so on. There may be more variations of how this chapter will be described in modern history, because over the past year, the representatives of the ruling party have had plenty of practice in formulating the correct geopolitical behavior. In fact, the authorities exploited the theme of the struggle against the “pro-Russian oligarch” Ilan Shor so much for their obvious propaganda purposes that society got tired of it. There were few doubts in the country about the outcome of the events that had been set in motion by former Justice Minister Sergiu Litvinenco. The question was only about the timing and wording of the Constitutional Court’s final decision. It was the factor of information fatigue and predictability that was responsible for the fact that no one expects any protests and public outrage in connection with another blow to opinions’ pluralism in our country. The label of toxicity attached by the authorities to the “SOR” party, and the media promotion of everything connected with it, has long ago discouraged any opposition forces from coming to its defense. There was a strong possibility of getting involved in a nasty situation, which was composed with the participation of PAS. Therefore, the current context does not dispose any of the opposition politicians to any active actions against the authorities. Although in fact a dangerous precedent has been created: in a parliamentary republic, a country of thousands of parties, not just any organization from the register, but a parliamentary force that received the mandate of the people through the instrument of direct democracy has been outlawed. Another curious point is that the elimination of a party on the left political flank is favorable to all other figures. The PSRM, which suffered from the robbery of its mandates in Parliament, will benefit from yesterday’s decision in terms of internal organization. It will grant the Civic Congress, the parties of Renato Usatii and Ion Chicu a chance for a new breakthrough. Ion Ceban may potentially get a new electorate. Of course, we should have expected the usual phrases criticizing the authorities from members of left political flank, but nothing more. It seems as if Ilan Shor’s party was given a permit to amuse in the left political segment, so that everyone would wait for its ban. The only question is whether they will be allowed to use this advantage, even on the eve of the local election campaign. It is noteworthy that although the decision of the Constitutional Court refers to dissolution, the Ministry of Justice has to create a commission to liquidate the party and remove it from the common register. What’s the purpose of creating a commission to adopt a formal act? It is questionable that PAS lawyers did not think over the plan of further actions. Perhaps it was done in order to give an opportunity to the scandalized members of the “SOR” party to change the signboard and together with the defectors from the Socialists to reborn in the party of other renegades, in this case from the Communists. The leaders of the project “SOR and Co.” demonstrate in every possible way that they do not intend to leave the political Olympus of the country. Moreover, they have calculated the options of their future participation in the politics of the country. It is likely that we are waiting for the second season of the already familiar political soap opera with the same faces according to all the rules of the genre. In this situation, however, it is possible to savor a scoop of honey. It is about a contextual ban on the members of the “SOR” party to join any other formations, including factions in the parliament. Of course, behind this there is an obvious authorities’ reinsurance, but legally we can talk about a certain case, the beginning of real work on banning such a shameful phenomenon that has caused so much trouble to the country as “political tourism”. I would like to believe that years later such a requirement will finally appear in the legislation and will initiate the formation of a progressive political culture in Moldova.