The Dilemma of Combating the Ruling Party

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Anton ŠVEC
The accumulated protest potential does not become an overwhelming problem for the current regime, despite all its blunders and repressive policies. Why?
The fail in the local elections forced PAS to willy-nilly seek coalition solutions to support its course. Therefore, its gaze was directed towards opposition political and social movements that would help to maintain governability and implement policies at the central and local levels. At the same time, groundless bravado before the elections, including the declared refusal to cooperate with “anti-European” forces, could potentially lead to a crisis and loss of functionality of the entire government system. On the other hand, dissatisfaction with the regime as a whole or certain aspect of its policy is rather limited and often “masking” in nature. After all, counteraction to the pro-Western and anti-Russian course of PAS not only contradicts the current political mainstream in the republic, but also clearly won’t gain understanding with the most influential players in the region - the European Union and the United States. The most striking example in this sense is the farmers’ protest, which in fact has no serious prospects. The leader of the Farmers’ Power Association, Alexander Slusari, is a biased person, controlled by the West, who has the same, if not more radical, ideological attitudes as the ruling party. In the past years, PAS and DA, in which he played one of the main roles, were allies, primarily because of similar right-wing platforms. Despite rather conflicting rhetoric, Slusari will never engage in a really tough confrontation with the regime, as he will not be allowed to do so by the key foreign embassies in Chisinau. And he personally will choose the latter between the interests of the agricultural sector and EU integration. Between the security and welfare of farmers and the interests of warring Ukraine, he will also choose the latter. Hence such a modest reaction to the arbitrary behavior of the police and the government, who threaten protesting farmers with expropriation of land property and criminal cases. Thus, Alexander Slusari is a convenient sparring partner for the authorities, relaying discontent but not allowing the protests to get out of control. Given this dilemma, neither the problems of the agricultural sector will find a solution (neither enlarged nor privately - except for those close to PAS, who already have enough resources), nor will the authorities feel enough pressure to transform their robbery policy. The only way out of the situation is to change the headliner of the farmers’ protest. However, the question of whether this movement is capable of self-organization and leadership has no clear answer yet. Another example is the mayor of Chisinau, Ion Ceban, who actively promotes European integration, the Romanian language and enjoys support at the highest level in Romania. He has criticized Russian aggression in Ukraine and has met with the US, Romanian and EU ambassadors many times. There are no ideological contradictions between his party MAN and PAS, and their coalition in the Chisinau municipal council seems to be a natural development (despite the significant representation in the capital of members of the Socialist Party, from which Ceban himself resigned). By retaining control over the parliament, the presidency, the government and the capital, the authorities can, with minimal compromises, have little fear of protest scenarios, especially since they won’t receive external support. The Socialists, who were pushed into the opposition after the snap elections in 2021, are also “under the thumb”. In this respect, PAS has a convenient position, given the leverage it has through criminal cases against the former president and his associates, which it actively uses. In addition, if necessary, contact is also possible in this case - everyone remembers the coalition experience of PAS and PSRM during the premiership of Maia Sandu and the presidency of Igor Dodon. We should not write off the European Social Democratic Party of Moldova, which is gradually regaining its own influence and cleaning up the image inherited from Vladimir Plahotniuc. The ESDP has shown good results in some districts in the local elections, retained its pro-European vector and channels of communication with partner parties in Romania and the European Parliament, which under certain circumstances may contribute to their rapprochement with PAS. In addition, the leader of the European Social Democrats, Ion Sula, has already indicated his interest in cooperation with the ruling party. As for Our Party and the Communists, they don’t have sufficient influence even locally and can generally be categorized as a systemic opposition that doesn’t fight the regime as a whole. Thus, even despite the unsatisfactory results of the local elections, the PAS retains control over the country and can continue to rule without fear of a revolutionary situation. Any protests against the government, any acts of disobedience at the central level are doomed to failure, followed by problems with the West and repression. Protests can be effective in the regions, but fearing accusations of separatism and police brutality, the regions are also in no hurry to get involved in big politics. This comfortable situation for the authorities does not necessarily mean that Maia Sandu will win next year’s presidential elections (provided they are minimally honest and democratic). On the contrary, the rating of the incumbent president and PAS is steadily declining. But their perceived impunity and lack of control makes it more tempting for them to abandon the elections or postpone them to a more appropriate time. Some representatives of the Central Election Commission, controlled by the presidency, are already mentioning such scenarios (for example, holding presidential elections simultaneously with parliamentary elections in 2025). The opposition (even without a rigid consolidation) is able, using the anti-rating of the government and technologies, to win the elections, but is not ready to resist the usurpation of power by Maia Sandu’s regime. And if the pre-election polls turn out to be disappointing for the regime, the presidential election will be simply cancelled under some pretext. And nobody inside the country will be able to do anything about it. The previous usurper Vladimir Plahotniuc had to be expelled from Moldova by American, Russian and European diplomats. We can hardly dream of the same assistance from outside in the near future.