Last week, parties from both banks of the Dniester River for the first time issued a joint declaration. RTA expert Anton ŠVETS investigated the background of this event
At the end of last week, a joint meeting of the Civic Congress and the Union of Opposition Forces from Transnistria took place in Chisinau. As a result, a common declaration was signed on the consolidation of civil initiatives and the solidarity struggle for the rights of citizens on both banks of the Dniester.
Despite the announced exclusivity of the event in the country’s history, at first glance, it turned out to be an insignificant event with the participation of marginal politicians with no access to power and no distinctive electoral prospects. Politically, the meeting had almost zero effect, and lacked any noticeable media coverage.
In a certain sense, the meeting indicated a cooperation that was in place for many years, since the leaders of the movements, Mark Tkaciuk and Oleg Khorzhan, come from the Communist Party system. The first one was a political adviser to Vladimir Voronin when PCRM was in power. The latter repeatedly and unsuccessfully aspired to the position of “president” of Transnistria, being the head of a regional communist project that for many years relied on the support of Moldovan and Russian partners.
In 2001, the votes of Transnistrian electorate played a significant role in the formation of Voronin’s sole regime. After the emergence of contradictions between Voronin and the then leader of the region Igor Smirnov, the PCRM started to co-operate precisely with the local communists, with the direct participation of Mark Tkaciuk. The current meeting implied the fixation of partnership relations with an attempt to use them as a ramp for a joint entry into the political life of the country.
Mark Tkaciuk, despite his media engagement, is not yet able to form a viable political project and for several elections in a row he demonstrates a negligible electoral potential - at the level of statistical error. In order to improve his results, he thinks of entering the Transnistrian field, gaining not only the votes of local Moldovans, but also of those on the right bank who are inclined to build normal relations with the pro-Russian enclave and Russia itself. These voters are markedly disappointed in the socialists and Igor Dodon personally, but they will certainly not support PAS, which is extraneous to their interests.
The current government did not prevent the congress and seemed to ignore it, although there were opportunities for accusations and even forceful intervention. First of all, we are talking about the amendments on separatism to the Criminal Code. Neither the Union of Opposition Forces nor the Communist Party of Transnistria have Moldovan registration, and therefore operate illegally. The justice authorities, if they had had the task, could easily have accused Mark Tkaciuk of aiding an illegal information structure and separatism, but in the end, they ignored it. So, we can say that the action was, one way or another, coordinated with the authorities and their supervisors.
The Union of Opposition Forces from Transnistria has no electoral objectives for now. The next elections in the region - to the so-called “supreme council” - are only in 2.5 years (and the “presidential” elections - at the end of 2026). The protest potential on the left bank of the Dniester is negligible. Thus, Oleg Khorzhan’s aims are only to document his partnership with the right bank political project and introduce himself into the media field.
Mark Tkaciuk has more things to do. It is not excluded that some of them are assigned to him directly by the current government or, at least, with its permission. The links between the Civic Congress and PAS - direct and indirect through Berlin and personally through Martin Sieg (Maia Sandu’s supervisor) - are well known. The CC is a convenient sparring partner for the ruling party, so comfortable that it is allowed to criticize the government quite harshly. The potential replacement of communists, socialists and “SOR” members in parliament and, especially, on the ground by representatives of “fictitious oppositionists” from the Congress would be useful for the current authorities. After all, Mark Tkaciuk quite reasonably attributes the start of the campaign for Moldova’s European integration to himself. So, the long-term goals of these forces differ in details, but there are no conceptual controversies between them.
The ruling regime finds it extremely useful to highlight the ties between the two banks of the Dniester without being formally involved in them. The situation in the Transnistrian settlement is rather alarming, the official negotiation process is brought to zero. The authorities do not want to deal with this issue at the current stage and bear the corresponding image costs. Attempts are now made to weaken the separatist region economically and socially in order to make the local elites more cooperative in the future, when our leadership and its curators consider that the time for the final resolution of the Transnistrian issue has come, with due regard to the situation in Ukraine and progress in European integration.
However, the international community should feel, during this period of vacuum, that the left bank has forces that are satisfied with the situation and ready for unconditional cooperation. This makes it possible to claim formal control of the situation and high prospects for reintegration, as well as the presence of a corresponding social demand. Apparently, this work has been temporarily outsourced to Mark Tkaciuk and his patrons, which reduces the regime's risks and undermines the ability of the Transnistrian administration to act as a united front.
Probably, this game would persist with attempts to be intensify, should PAS need this. It is difficult to judge how Moscow will react to this, because Oleg Khorzhan will soon have to face the question of his attitude to Moldova’s cooperation with NATO, Chisinau’s aspirations to join the European Union, pushing through the dominance of the Romanian language and infringement of the rights of Russian-speaking citizens. It is possible that at some point he and Mark Tkaciuk will have to cede the baton in the manner “The Moor has done his job - the Moor may go”. After all, such political forces can hardly expect a more serious role.