The first act of the post-election drama in Moldova is over. Russia managed to form a very complex alliance between the right-wing ACUM coalition (now Platform DA and PAS) and the Socialist Party of President Igor Dodon, directed against the all-encompassing power of the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc. For many months, all participants in the country’s political process imitated a willingness to negotiate, while in fact only restating their positions and attempting to influence public opinion. Meanwhile, the issue of early elections, which could not offer a way out of the impasse, only aggravated the situation, playing into the hands of the Moldovan oligarch.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak’s visit to Moldova coincided with the arrival of European Commissioner Johannes Hahn and the US Department of State’s Eastern European Affairs Director Bradley Freden, but that time it was impossible to talk about any consistency among their positions. While the US was quite loyal to Plahotniuc, the Europeans were inclined to perceive him negatively, but on the whole, by that time they had softened their position and made statements which indicated their readiness to work with the Moldovan oligarch. Tough and consistent was the position of Russia – the only country in which a criminal case was opened against Plahotniuc. The conflict arose from the fact that the pro-Russian socialists in Moldova were initially inclined toward forming an alliance with Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party; the pro-Western politicians Maia Sandu and Andrei Năstase of ACUM did not even consider this option for themselves. The situation objectively compelled Russia and the right-wing Moldovan opposition to forge a dialogue, which happened during the visit of Dmitry Kozak.
The most surprising thing about what happened is not even the coordination of positions between Russia and the West, which hadn’t happened before, but the fact that Russia decided to support politicians who had not demonstrated any desire to promote Russian interests. Moscow agreed to Maia Sindu’s bid for the office of Prime Minister and for Andrei Năstase to become Minister of the Interior. It is also necessary to pay tribute to the wisdom of President Igor Dodon, who made a rather difficult choice in forging an alliance with the right. Europe accepted the changes fairly quickly; only the negative position of Romania became particularly noteworthy, it insisted on holding early elections in September 2019, in fact, supporting the position of Plahotniuc and former Prime Minister Pavel Filip. The United States took the existing coalition as a kind of challenge, but did not openly oppose it, preferring to conduct backstage consultations in order to preserve the figure of Plahotniuc in the political life of Moldova; these ultimately proved unsuccessful.
However, despite the aforementioned problems, the consensus between the right and the socialists is important to maintain for the future of the country. Moldova is at the initial stage of a difficult period of changes. The key problem facing the country is that its state institutions are weak and imperfect, and its civil society institutions are underdeveloped and, in many respects, artificial in nature. The blame for this rests squarely with Plahotniuc, a powerful criminal who held sway in Moldova for many years. His withdrawal from the political arena in the absence of a consensus between the main political forces may simply become a matter of replacing old problems with new ones.