Battle of Moldova

Mikhail Simonov, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
Battle of Moldova

Moldovan President Igor Dodon made a long visit to Russia, full of meetings with President Vladimir Putin, high-ranking officials and even Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill. Back home, Dodon reported on the visit at a special briefing. The President said that he had received an invitation to take part in the EEU summit, since the republic has been granted an observer status at the Union. The event will take place in early December, and Igor Dodon plans to attend it.

The second news - of a practical nature - encouraged Moldavian farmers. The president said that already in the start of the coming year, local agricultural producers working with Russia will be exempted from customs export duties on vegetables, fruits, wine-making products, as well as canned vegetables and fruits. Such an agreement was reached during a meeting with Putin, and in the coming days, specialists from Rospotrebnadzor will arrive in Chisinau to compile a list of Moldovan companies, which will be provided with the mentioned exemptions. It will include about 100 exporting companies. For a tiny predominantly agrarian state, such an advance from Moscow seems very generous. Another thing is that the relaxation of the customs regime will be semi-annual - on a trial basis. And, apparently, not so much in terms of taste, but rather in terms of "politics".

For the past few years, Moldovan products, in particular wine, either enjoyed a regime of maximum export favor from Russia, then suddenly fell into disgrace, receiving tough warnings, or the export was even suspended. And the point is not that the taste qualities of products rapidly deteriorated, but it was due to the political situation inside the republic. As a rule, Chisinau's problems with export of products started when pro-Western sentiments intensified, and, conversely, the green light was given when the pro-Russian benchmarks were coming to the forefront in the republic in various segments of the population and political circles. Moldova, of course, could be suspected of a kind of game, like “Lukashenko swings”, but the situation in the republic is really not stable.

Experiments on the Constitution have led to the fact that Moldova's president with limited powers has his own road, and the government - which has real power - its own road. At the same time, the President cannot be called "as poor as a church mouse" - his Socialist Party (although officially the president can no longer be a member of the party, being a non-partisan figure) -  the second largest in parliament, although being much inferior to the pro-European coalition - manages to block certain decisions sometimes, taking advantage of contradictions between its subjects. The pro-Western forces, represented by the government, respond with temporarily removal of the president from power in the case of the slightest aggravation of contradictions. The Constitution allows to do it, and Dodon constantly is out of game, as long as the government does not achieve the necessary scenario.

As a result, the republic has the pro-Western government, the pro-Russian president, and the population divided into two parts - one sees the future in unity with Europe, the other - with Russia and pro-Russian alliances. In addition, there is an unregistered Transnistria problem, which creates the most favorable conditions for any talented politician to turn his neck in a snap.

From the first days of his presidency, Dodon positioned himself as a pro-Moscow politician. And while during his current visit to Russia, he was proving his “pro-Russian” nature, persuaded his counterpart that, despite his confusion, the situation in Moldova was far from being doomed (being pro-Western), sought preferences, etc. Chisinau was shortly visited by U.S. senators, who convinced the government of the need to strengthen contacts with NATO, and this can be fixed in the Constitution of the Republic.

Earlier, the ruling Democratic Party of Moldova submitted a bill to parliament, according to which the European course of the republic would be fixed in the Constitution. However, the opposition, mainly the Socialist Party, blocked the document. The government decided to achieve its goal through a referendum, which was scheduled to be held simultaneously with the parliamentary elections in February 2019. As conceived by the authorities, the voter, while making a choice, must also answer the question of whether he supports the pro-European course and whether it needs to be fixed in the Basic Law of the country. Now it seems the question may get a different meaning - on integration with the EU and NATO.

Igor Dodon understands the "piquancy" of the situation better then others. He will not be able to participate in the elections - his opponents have already announced that he will be removed from the game or that his actions will be limited. For the president not to be active during the election campaign, it is enough for the speaker of the parliament and the prime minister to take part in the elections. In this case, the president remains the first person of the state, non-partisan, as already noted, and cannot be distracted by anything other than state administration. And Prime Minister Pavel Filip and Speaker Adrian Candu have already announced their participation in the elections, which deprived Dodon of the opportunity to manoeuvre. Now the president can only make campaign speeches before the official start of the election campaign, because when it starts he will have to be silent and deal with public affairs only.

Therefore, Igor Dodon is already urging the citizens of Moldova "to make the right choice at the February 24 elections - to vote for the Socialist Party." In this case, Dodon names three scenarios. The Socialists win and form a parliamentary majority government. The second option is that the West achieves the creation of another “pro-European coalition” in Moldova, but the electorate is kind of sick of it. And third, no one gains the number of mandates sufficient to form a majority in parliament, then re-elections will be scheduled for the autumn, and all this time from February to autumn the only legitimate authority will be the president.

According to most experts, the fate of the elections will be decided in the struggle between the majoritarian candidates. 51 deputies out of 101 will be elected by the first past the post system, which is, by the way, a parliamentary majority. The nuance is that all of the majorities will be considered independent deputies, according to the Constitution, even if they were members of some party. And then their party principles will manifest themselves - after all, promises of both the pro-Western and pro-Russian forces when forming coalitions in the parliament are likely to be very tempting

Therefore, they say that the third scenario may turn out to be the most advantageous for Igor Dodon: the majority in parliament is not formed, re-elections are set, and in six months of virtually single-person power he strengthens his positions in a way that being in the presidential camp would look promising during the parliamentary re-elections.