PAS Policy in Gagauzia - Against Sor or Against Autonomy?

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The national leaders use struggle with Ilan Sor as a pretext to further ruin the Gagauz autonomy and minimize its significance and influence in internal Moldovan affairs
Semen ALBU, RTA: “I believe that we should treat the Gagauz with respect”. The words of the Prime Minister Dorin Recean while presenting yesterday’s report of the government progress last year. Ironically, it was an answer to the question why Evghenia Gutul has not yet been approved as a member of the government, contrary to the legislation. This demonstrates in a very telling way the real degree of respect for Gagauzia. In general, the confrontation between Chisinau and Comrat is not going to slow down, taking threatening shapes. Some observers, for example, Vlad Kulminski, who is close to Sandu, even express the opinion that the Gagauz issue is now more complex and profound than the Transnistrian case. Although the latter issue, as everyone knows, is also in deplorable state. These are “yellow” masters of dialogue. The consolidation in Gagauzia of forces related to Ilan Sor, who uses this special region as a springboard for further attacks on the central authorities, was the obvious catalyst for the political conflict. The mere belief that this fact alone is the cause of all the turmoil is like playing into the hands of the ruling party. It is convenient for leadership to present all problems with the Gagauz as a confrontation with “pro-Russian criminal oligarchic forces”, in fact destroying the Gagauz autonomy and the region’s economy. And, it turns out, Sor unwittingly (or not?) assists in it. Kulminski claims that Gagauzia has become a “geopolitical battering ram” against the national leaders. The top officials, including Sandu, also exploit this pleasant narrative. She says directly, “the Sor group has seized power in the autonomy and is implementing the Kremlin’s agenda against Moldova”. This has cut the region off the international contacts and reduced the significance of its voice when talking about pressure from the center. Who in the west, after all, will listen to supposedly “pro-Kremlin agents”? As a result, not a single European diplomat met with the elected bashkan, according to the head of the EU delegation, Janis Mazeiks. The diplomat claims that it is impossible to have a dialogue with her because of ties with Sor. Correct me if I am wrong, but actually there are no court decisions against Gutul, and she is still the democratically elected head of Gagauzia, which is not disputed by anyone. That is, the Western partners, as well as their protégés in the Moldovan authorities, simply do not respect this choice of the Gagauz, because they do not like it and it is (geo)politically unacceptable. Apparently, this is what democratic standards and attitudes look like now. Nevertheless, I would like to draw attention not even to the conflict between PAS and Sor, which itself is rather unclear and has been developing for a long time, even before it was transferred to the Gagauz space, but to what PAS is doing to Gagauzia itself. It is wrong to think that the problems here started only after Gutul was elected. In fact, Chisinau’s relations with Comrat had been bad before, almost from the very beginning of the Sandu party’s sole rule. The president’s scandalous visit to Gagauzia also took place before Sor got there, as well as the almost complete freezing of political contacts. And the police special forces had been walking the streets of Comrat long before. The “yellows” initially showed maximum disrespect and disregard for the region just because its ideological coloring did not correspond to their ideas of beauty, and Gagauzia did not show them any special love at the presidential and parliamentary elections. But is this a reason to suppress people just for their free choice, which is still considered a basic element of any democracy. It turned out to be a reason. So, even before the summer elections of the bashkan in 2023, official Chisinau did everything to make the Gagauz feel disadvantaged. And in many respects, it pushed them into the arms of Sor, who offered understandable socio-economic carrots, while the authorities only continued to crack the whip. The Sor representatives made it possible to instantly unleash holy hell on autonomy, embarking on a policy of its oppression and, as a result, elimination. The most high-profile event in this regard, of course, was the decision on VAT, which threatened to remove almost half of the revenues from the local budget. And this is only the direct effect - and the indirect one consisted in the beginning of business migration, which reduced the taxable base and, accordingly, budget revenues. The Constitutional Court eventually recognized these amendments as illegal. But, firstly, Gagauzia still has to pay the accumulated 40 million lei during the VAT norm. Secondly, many large enterprises have already left the autonomy, having changed their legal addresses. And thirdly, the authorities are not going to give up and promised that they will overcome the CC verdict with new, finalized legal acts. There is no doubt about the destructive tendencies and talents of the “yellows” - they will bring the case to the end, and Recean will also threaten the CC judges, by the way. The fact that the authorities discriminate against Gagauzia, using the plausible pretext of fighting against Sor, is quite obvious. It is not only about VAT, but also about the refusal of officials to visit the autonomy to communicate with their local colleagues, and about the failure to allocate money for the region from funds such as road and regional development. MP Fiodor Gagauz rightly pointed out the latter matter to the prime minister, calling it a non-government approach. There is another interesting point. Sor secured his victory with populist promises like cheap gas and pension supplements. However, his attempts to fulfil them are blocked by the central government, which closes the bank accounts from which the extra payments were supposed to come, or takes away the license of the company supplying blue fuel to the region at a reduced price. Moreover, there are questions about Chisinau’s methods, because legally everything is not flawless. Besides, there is a simple thought: why not let Sor invest his own or sponsor’s money into Gagauzia, helping its population, and at the same time legally develop criminal cases against his team? Or is it much more important that Sor doesn’t score political points at all, given that he won’t be able to convert them at the national level in a way that threatens Sandu/PAS anyway? You see, people are in politics, the interests of some citizens do not concern them. Especially if we remember the words of Grosu, who frankly named the main goal of his party - to win all the next elections, everything fits. In general, it is clear where things are going. Amid the pressure on the autonomy, Gutul travelled to a youth festival in Sochi followed by checking all Moldovan participants for violations of national legislation. There she held meetings with representatives of Russia’s political leadership, including Vladimir Putin. As the bashkan stated upon her return, she managed to secure the support of the Russian Federation and brought concrete solutions on access to the Russian market for Gagauz goods, opening accounts in the Mir Payment System and cheap gas. Gutul’s visit was a good opportunity for the information hype in the pro-government media about the criminal case against her, which should be finalized in the coming months or even weeks. Putin’s appearance in this whole story is an ideal occasion to accuse the Kremlin of attempts of destabilization and to put additional pressure on Gagauzia, which still does not want to march to Europe in a united formation. Well, people in the West will like these tales - but inside our country everyone already understands the true desires and aspirations of PAS regarding the autonomy.