“Broken Ties with the East”: Ideology and Electoral Process

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Anton ŠVEC
A few weeks before the local elections, the ruling regime is even more vigorously demonstrating its loyalty to the West. Relations with Russia, Belarus and the CIS, as always, have been slammed
This week, the parliament, at the government’s suggestion, denounced another set of agreements within the Commonwealth of Independent States. In particular, on the principles of providing the armed forces of CIS member states with arms, equipment and materiel, as well as on cooperation in the field of manpower and social protection of migrant workers. If the rejection of the former, given the strengthening of cooperation and non-stop military exercises with the NATO bloc, was expected, then another demonstration of indifference to the situation of Moldovan migrants in Russia and other CIS countries gives another reason to criticise the authorities. Even the hours-long consideration by the legislature of a motion of no confidence in Dorin Recean’s government did not distract the parliamentary commission for foreign policy and European integration from the planned activity of severing ties in the eastern direction. The regularity of news about Moldova’s withdrawal from one or another CIS agreement allows us to assume that the country’s leadership has ordered to perform such ritual actions on a weekly basis. Given the fact that Chisinau is still a party to several hundred documents of the Commonwealth, there should be enough information occasions up to the “final European integration” planned for 2030. Besides the “deeply symbolic steps”, the previous week was marked by other particular events aimed at destroying adequate relations with Russia and Belarus. For example, over the weekend, a Moldovan women’s forum was held, which was attended by former Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and US Ambassador Kent Logsdon, among relatively influential individuals. At the same time, fugitive Belarusian oppositionist Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya arrived at the event at the invitation of Maia Sandu who had a short break from foreign trips. It’s funny how our politicians tried to keep a foot on both camps. For instance, her meeting with Igor Grosu – on the Parliament’s official website Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya was called an opposition leader, but on his personal Facebook page, the speaker, who radically supports Ukraine and Israel, assigned her the position of “president-elect of Belarus”. And the presidency decided not to give any information about the dialogue between Tsikhanouskaya and Sandu. Minsk’s reaction to these defiant gestures will certainly follow. The Belarus political elites tend to show restraint and caution in their relations with neighboring countries. For example, a direct bus service with Crimea was organized only a few days ago. However, Alexander Lukashenko will not ignore our authorities’ flirtation with the Belarusian opposition, especially when it comes to a purposeful invitation of Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya to Chisinau, rather than an accidental meeting at one of the numerous European platforms. Moldova has been openly hostile towards the current authorities of Belarus since 2020, after the failed coup attempt in Minsk. Direct contacts between the leadership of the two countries were interrupted after Igor Dodon’s defeat in the presidential election. Mutual trade turnover has been steadily declining reaching the level of about $200-250 million in the last five years (less than 2% of the total export-import of the republic), while it was almost half a billion about 10 years ago. Industrial cooperation programs are curbed, joint ventures are closing down, and major projects for the supply of agricultural and municipal machinery have not been implemented for a long time. The letter from Metropolitan Vladimir of Chisinau and All Moldova to Patriarch Kirill is an even more striking event. Reports say it had been sent in early September, but information about it appeared only last week. On five pages, the main Moldovan church minister sharply criticizes Moscow for aggression in Ukraine, claims a worsened attitude and lower trust of the population (up to 70%) to the Moldovan Metropolitan Church because of its links with the Moscow Patriarchate, and also complains about the pressure from the authorities. In addition, Vladimir reports active infiltration and transfer of church property by the ruling regime in favor of the Bessarabian Metropolis of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the flight of priests and admits his inability to cope with the situation. At first, many people expressed doubts as to whether such a letter had actually been sent, but its authenticity was confirmed by the Metropolis of Moldova. It is known that the Moscow Patriarchate sent no reply. Amidst the final ban of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Metropolitan’s of Chisinau demarche does not seem just an attempt to protect his own property and commercial interests, as well as its individual nominees (although these topics permeate the letter). It is about the full-fledged start of the campaign to reorganize Orthodoxy in Moldova, the trigger for which is the consolidated request of the secular authorities, clergy and part of the population (even without the preconditions formed over the past 2 years, the number of parishioners of the Metropolis of Bessarabia has grown 7 times in 15 years). The appeal, which turned up on the web not accidentally, gives a “pass” to Moscow, which must think of a way to solve all the immediate financial and property problems of the Orthodox Church of Moldova of the Russian Orthodox Church, without possessing any political instruments to do so. The next step will be an agreement on the part of Vladimir to a mass transfer of the priests under his authority and, in time, of himself (along with his parishes) to the Romanian Church, or, less likely, to turn into autocephaly. Obviously, this will be possible if certain conditions of the current clergy are fulfilled. Even the PAS must realize that in religious matters, given the public mood, it should act cautiously and delicately, making a deal with Vladimir, who has already formally disassociated himself from the Russian Orthodox Church and Russia as a whole, but has not lost his influence. A church split similar to the Ukrainian scenario will be credited to the current regime by its overseas supervisors. According to forecasts, the authorities will only ramp up their anti-Russian and pro-Western manifestations in the next fortnight, as usual in our pre-election period. For example, already today the speaker of parliament, Igor Grosu, is taking part in the Crimean Platform summit, where he has a rather extensive programme, including a meeting and signing of a memorandum with Ruslan Stefanchuk, the head of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. The ruling party needs to consolidate its own electoral base around the pro-European values, especially given the expected keen competition for the key municipalities of Chisinau and Balti. The geopolitical agenda will become a standard tool for mobilizing the population. The elections will show whether this tactic of the authorities is acceptable to the population or at least to its main electorate. But it will be difficult to restore cooperation with the East in the coming years. However, no one cares about this now, because the current government’s ideology is based on its ruination.