Is Recean’s Government Doomed to Be Deposed?

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Anton ŠVEC
The executive branch is failing in running the country, systematically facing scandals, conflicts and corruption. Apparently, the current government may well be sacrificed to improve Maia Sandu’s chances in the presidential election
The staff turnover in the government continues this year, as well as the trend of putting foreign citizens into high positions. In January, the MFAEI, set up under the first Alliance for European Integration, a quite successful and modern agency organized in accordance with the practices of the European Union (most of its member states have ministries of foreign and European affairs) was reformed. But now Moldova will have only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed by the former deputy speaker of the parliament, Mihai Popsoi, who has instantly got into several scandals and trouble. A customized bureau headed by a deputy prime minister will handle the country’s European integration. Earlier, the government repeatedly announced that the position would be assigned to former MFAEI head Nicu Popescu, who had solved the tasks of obtaining candidate status for Moldova and starting negotiations on EU membership. However, last week the plans changed dramatically – a career diplomat Cristina Gherasimov, previously the state secretary at the MFAEI and secretary general in the office of President Maia Sandu, became the chief negotiator on European integration tasked to “convince citizens of the benefits of the country’s accession to the EU”. It is still unclear where to appoint Nicu Popescu; no new diplomatic missions have been announced yet. Perhaps his departure on a wave of success makes him a reserve candidate of the West in the upcoming presidential elections, in case Maia Sandu’s rating continues to plummet at the same pace. So, the incumbent president will probably try to get rid of the influential and respected in Brussels and Washington ex-minister as soon as possible by sending him on a foreign mission. Other appointments are related to the continued seizure of key public positions by foreign nationals. For example, in December, the National Bank was headed by Anca Dragu, former finance minister and ex-president of Romania’s Senate, who also had experience in the Romanian National Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Despite the opposition’s protest in Parliament, she was granted Moldovan citizenship under a fast-track procedure. Anca Dragu joins Daniel Stajcu who heads the anti-money laundering service, and several dozen other former Romanian officials now employed as high-level EU advisers in Moldova or in key positions in relevant ministries and agencies. The EU Partnership Mission, established here in April 2023, is also headed by Romanian diplomat Cosmin Dinescu. It appears that Moldova, from a state captured “from the inside”, is turning into a state conquered “from the outside”. The incumbent authorities favor this intervention in every possible way, actually attesting to their own incompetence and lack of good management skills. However, personnel reshuffling, foreign experience and implementation of European Union directives do not save the government from endless scandals, stalled reforms and failures in strategic areas. The topic of unjustifiably expensive gas purchases, which provoked an increase in the cost of utility bills and inflation, is constantly in the air. The budget runs a huge deficit, which is aggravated by mounting foreign debt service payments on loans taken out by the government. The state treasury is burdened by steadily increasing expenditures on the national army, special services and bureaucracy (including the creation of personal propaganda structures for Maia Sandu), as well as foreign trips and receptions of foreign delegations. Against this background, the Public Property Agency announced plans to privatize a number of state assets, but the public reaction forced the PAS functionaries to temporarily retreat, assuring that the parliament had not given its consent to this. The issue of support for farmers and the crisis in the country’s agriculture remains persistently acute. In addition, recent weeks witnessed two extremely significant resignations. The acting director of the Chisinau airport, Constantin Vozian, left his post. The state took back ownership of the airport last spring, but failed to ensure adequate prices for air travel, attract low-cost carriers, abolish unreasonable fees and modernize the harbor. The change of the airport’s three-letter code led to unplanned expenses and technical failure. The scandal with the non-transparent transfer of premises in the airport terminal to persons linked to Infrastructure Minister Andrei Spinu became the last straw for Constantin Vozian, who decided to “spend more time with his family”. A similar situation occurred at the state-owned enterprise Moldova Railway. The conflict between the management of the railway and the relevant ministry led to a salary crisis and even a threat to suspend the symbolic passenger train “Iasi-Chisinau”. Staff cuts did not resolve the issues, and Oleg Tofilat left his post, with unflattering remarks about the actions of the government and credit institutions. Prime Minister Dorin Recean is increasingly nervous and is personally caught up in scandals, either listing the names of unwanted judges, or engaging in open conflicts with PAS protégés Olesea Stamate (who refused the mandate of chairing the parliamentary legal commission) and Veronica Dragalin, who demands more autonomy in the staffing and day-to-day operation of the anticorruption prosecutor’s office. The choice of the prosecutor general remains topical, which has already triggered new clashes between rival clans within the ruling party. It is obvious that Dorin Recean’s cabinet is a “government for sacrifice” to which Maia Sandu will blame all the mistakes and costs of her authoritarian rule and PAS dictatorship. It is very likely to be dissolved during the election campaign, and its performance will be assessed as unsatisfactory. All of this is done to solve a key task for Maia Sandu and her supervisors – to secure her ratings and mobilize the electorate for a second presidential term. The fates of government officials in this setup are merely a tool, and so the quality of their work is of no importance today.