Cabinet Reshuffles: Clan Rivalry Continues

Home / Analytics / Cabinet Reshuffles: Clan Rivalry Continues
Sergiu Ceban
Three ministerial resignations, two of which bear no relation to the incident at the airport, have nothing to do with the steps to boost the government’s efficiency and are just the result of bargaining between different clans within the ruling regime.
It would seem that the traditional vacation period should work to temporarily reduce the growing socio-political tension, however, this year we have an incredibly dynamic offseason. Passions run high not only because of the scorching summer sun, but because of the violent events within the ruling party. Recently, the PAS has celebrated its two years in power in the most modest way possible, as it obviously cannot boast of any great successes. In addition, in recent months, all sorts of scandals and squabbles among elite groups have reached such a scale that citizens, judging by sociological surveys, become more tired and want to stop this endless “farce”. As a matter of fact, the results of local elections this autumn are likely to become a new starting point for the next reorganization of power in the country. As I wrote recently, after the incident at the capital’s airport, the ruling party got in a very difficult situation, and as a result had to reshuffle its staff. In the last two weeks, many politicians and experts, including even loyal opinion leaders, have been demanding the resignation of the Minister of Internal Affairs and the head of the border police. And so, on 14 July, apparently after long debates in the hallways of the presidency, Prime Minister Dorin Recean announced changes in his government: in particular, the Minister of Education and Innovation Anatolie Topala, the Minister of Internal Affairs Ana Revenco and the Minister of Infrastructure Lilia Dabija were discharged.  Prime Minister thanked them for their work, mentioning the merits of each of them: Topala for the launched reform of the higher education system, Revenco for the managing the migration crisis and the reform of the interior ministry, Dabija for the construction of more than 300 kilometers of roads. And finally, new ministers were presented today: the Interior Ministry will be headed by Adrian Efros, a military officer; Dan Perciun, a young talent, now a MP, will try his hand in the education system; and Andrei Spinu, a long-known and “beloved”, will return to the Ministry of Infrastructure. The fact that the resignations in the security body did not follow immediately after the airport tragedy indicates that the removal from office was very difficult for someone, and the final decision became a result of intra-party disputes. If we talk about the Interior Ministry, Ana Revenco’s resignation as a person not from the system was long overdue. It is obvious that the appointment of a civilian as a head of one of the largest law enforcement bodies was a transitional decision that dragged on for two years. Over time, a process of internal collapse and a breach in the hierarchy of administration was set in motion in the Interior Ministry, resulting in systemic failures, one of which was the tragic situation at the airport. If continued, this turmoil could lead to a loss of control at the most crucial moment, for instance, during another mass protest, which will obviously resume before the local elections. On the one hand, it seemed that the staff capacity could strengthen the position of Dorin Recean, who personally announced the resignation of ministers, as if he had a political mandate to do so from the party and the president. Some even said that Recean would be able to further shape the government to suit his interests, introducing loyal people rather than political appointees who are placed in ministerial chairs by certain intra-party forces and business groups close to them. However, the fact that along with Ana Revenco, who was considered Recean’s appointee, two other ministers who had nothing to do with the incident at the airport left, suggested other thoughts. We can assume that it was an attempt to soften Revenco’s painful discharge by a group resignation of ministers. However, most likely, the prime minister was not and will not be allowed to reshuffle the government’s personnel. We cannot rule out that Recean’s desire to cement his positions in the government turned into counter demands of influential pro-authority groups to sacrifice some figures and to transfer the corresponding departments under their control. Even the Speaker of Parliament Igor Grosu, who was abroad last week, expressed concern about the governmental reshuffles. This reaction may be due to the fact that dismissal of the ministers will lead to the dismissal of other mid-level officials, such as the head of the border police, who by some accounts is under the political guardianship of the Speaker. Or Grosu is dissatisfied with the fact that this time personnel decisions were made without consultation and provisional agreement with the parliamentary majority. The return of Andrei Spinu was a crucial point indicating that the real political influence is not in government offices, but in the offices of large companies. The reinstatement of this ambiguous political figure, associated with high electricity and gas prices and corruption schemes, could cost the ruling party a decisive percentage in the autumn local elections. Although Dorin Recean has created a separate Ministry of Energy, the presence of Spinu in the government, who also has prime ministerial ambitions, is a clear indication that Recean’s position is balanced and his fervor to gain a foothold in the hierarchy of Moldovan elites are tempered. In fact, most of the ministers could have resigned, because after six months the current Cabinet has failed to reverse the negative socio-economic trends. In hindsight, such a personnel shuffle, which we have seen in previous periods of the country’s political life, is a clear sign of a deep crisis and the beginning of the end for the current regime. The current reshuffle once again shows that personnel policy at the highest level has nothing to do with the professionalism criterion. Candidates are often selected on the basis of personal loyalty to their superiors, party affiliation, and corporate business ties. Managerial qualities are taken into account, but they are not decisive. Most likely, the new ministers, with the exception of the head of the Interior Ministry, will be separate figures and only formally subordinate to the current prime minister. Finally, the main problem perhaps is that neither the government, nor individual appointees have a clear idea of what they have to do and what they plan to do at their workplace, what is the strategy of the general course of the executive authorities and the development of this or that sector. Therefore, no matter which agency you look into, there is often a ringing void under the beautiful guise of European integration. Personnel issues will dominate the authorities one way or another, but this issue has little public response. PAS should brace itself for the fact that the government cart will keep rolling on inertia until the fall and the beginning of the new political season. However, once the pre-election period starts, the degree of social tension will rise sharply, and the Cabinet of Ministers will find itself under a flurry of socio-political pressure. Will the cabinet be able to resist?