Another Defeat of PAS in Gagauzia

Home / Analytics / Another Defeat of PAS in Gagauzia
Christian RUSSU
Despite the insistent pressure from Chisinau, the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia could approve the composition of the Executive Committee introduced by the new SOR party bashkan
Yesterday, amidst dramatic events in the South Caucasus, the election of the executive committee of Gagauzia took place that prevented the aggravation of the ethno-political crisis in our country. Of course, Azerbaijan’s military operation against Nagorno-Karabakh, which led to the final de-sovereignization of this region, did not affect the verdict of the People’s Assembly deputies, but for theregional trend researchers, such coincidences are quite symbolic. Signs that the time for the decision to approve the government of the autonomy had finally come became apparent as early as last week, when at the meeting with the deputies the elected bashkan, Evghenia Gutul, proposed to postpone the discussion of the issue. Then it became obvious that she needed a bit more time to form the necessary majority. In addition, just the day before, quite curious information about secret meetings between the authorities and a group of PAG deputies was leaked to the press. The fact of Chisinau’s pressure on the Gagauz became the final straw for the formal consolidation of the latter. It could not be otherwise, when it became known that Prime Minister Dorin Recean, SIS head Alexandru Mustiata and other law enforcers from the General and Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office, in fact, threatened the Gagauz MPs, demanding “to respect the law” and “not to hurry with the approval of the executive committee”. Of course, the promulgation of these reports caused the expected indignation among the residents of the autonomy and prompted the PAG leadership for the unified position. Nevertheless, during the last session, a group of deputies from the Socialist faction still tried to disrupt the 8th attempt to elect the composition of the executive committee, but failed. It is noteworthy that the composition of the bashkan’s team introduced yesterday did not differ much from the list we had seen a few weeks earlier. All this confirms the version that the stumbling block was not particular candidates or their level of proficiency in the Gagauz language. As early as last month, members and “talking heads” of the ruling PAS were promoting messages that local elites had realized all the negative consequences of cooperation with SOR representatives and would oppose attempts to turn Gagauzia into a hotbed of confrontation with Chisinau. Some deputies quite confidently convinced the public that the anti-SOR sentiments in the Gagauz parliament are strong and that the policy of the central authorities in the autonomy leads to success. Obviously, the goal of the ruling elite was to drag on and aggravate the political crisis in Gagauzia as much as possible in order to facilitate the plans on autonomy’s elimination, which had become a serious irritant for the ruling party. It seems that the central authorities would be satisfied with any scenario that would prolong the uncertainty until the local elections on 5 November: initiation of impeachment of the bashkan, an attempt to dissolve the PAG, counterclaims and dissolution of local institutions. Given the arsenal of forces and means used to put pressure on Comrat, including financial blackmail related to the threat of VAT refunds’ denial, the Chisinau negotiators had a serious advantage and chances. Besides, the recent history of the autonomy abounds in examples when the Gagauz elites, even without explicit assistance from the center, aggravated internal contradictions and provoked long-lasting political turmoil. Thus, after the autumn 2021 elections to the People’s Assembly, it took deputies 3 months and 15 attempts to elect the speaker Dmitrii Constantinov. The procedures for agreeing and approving the new composition of the Executive Committee under the previous bashkan, Irina Vlah, took more than 7 months. In this light, the failure of the PAS strategy seems even more sudden. And in our opinion, it is difficult to explain it only by the complex combinations of Ilan Shor, who is in Israel, the efforts of his regional team to attract the electorate, or the factor of Turkey. Apparently, the ongoing confrontation between groups within the ruling party also helped “unite the Gagauz”. The successful management of the Gagauz issue by the current government and some informal consultants could contradict the interests of one of the opposing clans. Hence the manifestations characteristic of internal disputes in the PAS in the form of leaking to the media ща spicy details about illegal activities of their rivals. We can also note that in the end Chisinau did not prevent the diplomatic isolation’s breakthrough of the bashkan and her team’s representatives. Evghenia Gutul, as the head of the autonomy, travelled to Turkey efficiently (at least in terms of image), and some of her associates were in Russia on the day of the Executive Committee’s approval. It seems that the PAG leadership, which was the main opponent of Gutul and her team a month ago, during the bargaining with Ilan Shor received not only guarantees that its influence would be preserved, but also became convinced that there were no obvious threats to its interests from Chisinau. In any case, the intermediate results of the events in Gagauzia with political manipulations, threats and scandals have seriously undermined the positions of all state institutions involved. The political status of the autonomy’s structures was marred, and Chisinau will continue its pressure. Even the main forum for the Gagauz, the congress of deputies of all levels, which did not take place this autumn, fell victim to the intrigues of elites struggling for power in Comrat. In turn, the country’s government institutions and the rule of law were once again seriously hit. High-ranking officials have been involved in dubious illegal actions, opposing the formation of local authorities in their own country. It is a quite revealing story amidst the declared readiness to introduce European democratic values.