Expert: Fight of Clans for Control over the Justice Sector Is Gaining Momentum

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Christian RUSSU
The struggle between the sponsors of the ruling regime has entered a new phase. Not only functionaries from the opposing clans, but also the state itself fall victim to this struggle
Taking advantage of the high-profile scandals with the Pre-Vetting and Vetting Commission related to the case of judge Alexei Panis and the dubious past of the commission’s chairman Herman von Hebel, the head of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office (APO) struck a blow to this agency. The ambitious Veronica Dragalin accused President Maia Sandu and the parliamentary majority of favoring the interests of persons corrupted by the sworn enemies of PAS, Sor and Platon. A member of the Commission, former judge of the Supreme Court of Justice, Tatiana Raducanu, was chosen as a victim, and she was vilified in the form of a letter signed by Dragalin. It was sent not only to Maia Sandu and Igor Grosu, who nominated the judge for the position of the Vetting commission member, but also to all those who had previously failed to pass the test. By doing so, Dragalin opened a “Pandora’s box”, pushing all of them to challenge the evaluation results. Everyone remembers how the SCJ verdict of a year ago to cancel the decision of the Pre-Vetting Commission affected justice reform. Now the scale of “sabotage” will be even greater. Looking at the ongoing situation, many politicians, civil activists, journalists and ordinary citizens lament that “everything is rotten in our state”. Dear sirs and madams, not rotten, but cynical! This is the real policy of modern “European” Moldova, where a “state within a state” has long been established. The sponsors of Maia Sandu and her team do not want any restrictions, democratic transformations for themselves and desperately defend their monopoly right to own the obtained fiefdom. In the case of Dragalin, it concerns specifically the prosecutor’s office. On the other hand, the influential NGO community incorporated in the ruling party, led by Vladislav Gribincea’s Legal Resources Centre from Moldova, which has outsourced the implementation of justice reform, is snapping at Veronica Dragalin and hurling unpleasant epithets at her. Gribincea’s office accused the prosecutors of breaking the law (making public details of the criminal case) and attempting to prevent an independent assessment of their integrity, and defended its ward, saying that Raducanu “is known to everyone as an honest and courageous person”. Olesea Stamate, an MP from the ruling party, parodied Dragalin’s letter on social networks, while Tatiana Raducanu called the latter a “bandit and retard”, but resigned anyway. One less piece on the chessboard of the behind-the-scenes struggle. The parliament is already preparing to replace the commissioner appointed on the quota of deputies. However, the commission involving Raducanu have already done an important thing: it has approved the shadow director Gribincea as a candidate for the position of judge of the Supreme Court of Justice. On 16 May, members of the already controlled Superior Council of Magistracy approved the report of the Pre-Vetting Commission on Gribincea. That is, the struggle for power in the justice sector between the main clans continues, with the ruling party and the president looking rather stupid in this situation, demonstrating their complete lack of subjectivity in the decision-making process. As a punchball, PAS MPs are trying to whitewash themselves by talking about the presumption of innocence for Raducanu and the unjustified attack on the party by the head of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office. Stefan Gligor, chair of the Party of Change, play along them, saying that the attack of the APO head on Tatiana Raducanu plans to compromise the entire vetting process of prosecutors. Maia Sandu herself seems frankly confused. When asked whether she intends to remove the disgraced judge and member of the Pre-Vetting commission from the Supreme Security Council, Maia Sandu says something vague about the “lack of clear evidence of crimes”, wonders why prosecutors have kept silent for years, and this allegedly restricts her from immediately dismissing the judge from her position as a member of the Supreme Security Council. Meanwhile, Dragalin promptly challenged Sandu’s accusations in public, pointing out that information about Raducanu’s corruption cases reached her only now, but had long been known to the National Anticorruption Centre, which is controlled by another clan. It seems that Sandu does not act as the president of the country and guarantor of the Constitution who must make political decisions in the interests of the country, but as a legal expert. This weakness is immediately recognized not only by politicians, but also by the electorate. Alexandru Slusari, a candidate from the right-wing bloc Together, has already publicly doubted that Maia Sandu has the moral right to apply for a new presidential mandate. The European Social Democratic Party (PSDE) also openly supported Veronica Dragalin’s efforts in the fight against corruption at the highest level. The determination of the head of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office impresses many representatives of the justice system. One of her main advantages is the explicit defense of all her wards, regardless of their toxicity. This approach is in stark contrast to that of the ruling party, which all these years easily got rid of those functionaries who wanted to flatter the PAS regime and thus secure themselves. That is why the NAC has actually come under Dragalin’s control. All the ramifications for the internal political framework of the country are yet to be assessed, but for now it is clear that Raducanu’s case has become a kind of Trojan horse for Maia Sandu. It caused such reputational damage to the image of the PAS leader that all the opposition forces put together were unable to do. As for Dragalin, her ambitions went far beyond running a single organization. This is the case when investors decide that it is more promising to lead a project with the logo “Republic of Moldova” to effectively protect and increase their investments than to watch the incompetence of hired managers.