Bifurcated candidates. Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

`... For the November 1, 2020 presidential elections, we have four pairs of candidates bifurcated on their electoral segments. The only stake of the current election campaign is the confrontation between the former allies. The climax is that the fake battle takes place amid a real pandemic...”
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Degradation of electoral competition

On October 2, 2020, the campaign prior to the election of the President of the Republic of Moldova started. Most probably, we will have eight candidates who will fight for office of President. It’s hard to speak about the stake of these elections. After approximately 30 years of independence, the citizens got tired of politicians and empty promises made by these. The politicians promise many things before the elections, but ultimately do nothing: definite settlement of the Transnistrian issue, transformation of the Republic of Moldova into a Trans-Carpathian Switzerland; submission of the application for joining the European Union; entry into the Russia-Belarus Union, then into the Customs Union; transformation of the Republic of Moldova into a bridge between the West and the East given that there are allegedly harsh geopolitical struggles between the two hemispheres of the globe, etc.

In the current campaign prior to the presidential elections, none of the previous themes mentioned above is now raised. Instead, the current campaign has an unmatchable feature. Not the victory in elections, but rather the fight against former partners who earlier represented a whole and now became enemies matters at present. From this viewpoint, the eight candidates formed actually four pairs: Dodon-Usatyi; Filat-Shor, who are substituted by Tudor Deliu and Violeta Ivanov; Sandu-Năstase, and Chirtoacă-Țîcu. The political struggle within these pairs shows how much the political and electoral competition worsened in quality in the Republic of Moldova.

Struggle of pairs

Usatyi-Dodon is the pair
with the greatest geopolitical weight. The candidates for President until recently were a whole. Their unity was exhibited at different levels, reaching an apogee in 2015-2016, when the two politicians initiated common protests against the government of Vlad Plahotniuc. Later, in the presidential elections of 2016, when Usatyi supported Dodon in the runoffs, he secured the victory of the second. They both maintained relations with different centers of influence in Moscow. Igor Dodon managed to come closer to the highest circles of the Kremlin, joining ultimately the Russian imperial movement in the Republic of Moldova. On the other hand, Renato Usatyi has maintained close business relations with the heads of the Russian railways, who are close to President Vladimir Putin, since the period of creation and turbulent activity of the cooperative “Ozero”. Together with the removal of Vladimir Yakunin from the administrator of the Russian railways, the problems of Renato Usatyi with his partners in Russia started. A common feature of Dodon and Usatyi is also their attitude of veneration of authoritarian leaders in the Eurasian area. This way, Igor Dodon straightforwardly shows his admiration for Vladimir Putin, declaring that he envies the Russian citizens for having such a leader as Vladimir Putin, while Renato Usatyi stated  that Lukashenko is an example for him and Moldova should have a system of government similar to that of Belarus.

The non-damageable unity between Igor Dodon and Renato Usatyi shook when the latter realized that Igor Dodon is actually a trusted confidant of Vlad Plahotniuc and this thing was confirmed later. When going to a court in New York in January 2020, Plahotniuc disclosed that namely he took measures to remove Renato Usatyi’s party from the parliamentary campaign of 2014, ensuring consequently the electoral victory of Igor Dodon. Moreover, recently one of the political advisers of Plahotniuc admitted that the restoration of the direct election of the President of the Republic of Moldova in 2016 was also the masterwork of Vlad Plahotniuc, who secured Igor Dodon’s victory by keeping the age limit of 40 for candidates. This age limit was valid for Dodon, not yet for Usatyi.

Currently, having the confirmation of the cooperation between Dodon and Plahotniuc, Renato Usatyi considers the first always plotted against him, accusing Igor Dodon of involvement in the persecutions he faces in Russia, where criminal cases were started against him. This way, in the given circumstances, the previous unity between the two is not possible for now. What should the two elucidate now? An older thing – who of them is a chatterbox? Recently, elements that seem to justify Renato Usatyi’s assertions appeared in this dispute.

The Filat-Shor pair is the second duo with a major impact on the moral climate in Moldovan society. Surely, the two cannot fight directly in the current election campaign and are thus represented by substituents. Let’s show yet how solid the partnership of the two was when Vlad Filat and Ilan Shor represented a harmonious whole. The relations between them started in 2010, when Vlad Filat served as Prime Minister, while Ilan Shor was a businessman. There are many versions of how the friendship between the two started. One of the versions is that Shor wanted to have a monopoly on the duty-free shops at the entrances and exits of the Republic of Moldova. Owing to Premier Filat, businessman Shor managed to remove French businessman Franck Charles Arif, who owns the company Le Bridge, from a similar business. After the successful operation in favor of Ilan Shor, the ECHR obliged the Republic of Moldova to pay the French citizen damages totaling 35 million lei. This is how the relations between Shor and Filat was cemented.

Undoubtedly, the cement that united the two was hard. A proof of this is a bizarre incident that tested their partnership. Businessman Ilan Shor at a certain moment started to consider himself more important than Prime Minister Vlad Filat. In March 2011, at one of the intersections in Chisinau, Ilan Shor’s motorcade didn’t give way to Premier Filat’s motorcade. A scandal arouse, but this was swiftly hushed up, revealing who was yet more important in the Republic of Moldova. The weight of the figures and their importance were demonstrated to society in September 2011, when businessman Ilan Shor had his wedding party at the Palace of the Republic that is managed by the State Chancellery, which was in Premier Filat’s subordination. Moldova’s Parliament, which was based at the Palace of the Republic at that time, could not work during the month the hall had been decorated for the businessman’s wedding. But the real pearls of Ilan Shor’s wedding were the dear guests: ex-Presque’s Vladimir Voronin and Petru Lucinschi; incumbent President Igor Dodon; the then minister of justice Alexandru Tănase etc.

The Filat-Shor partnership, including with intimate undertones, lasted until October 2015, which is until it was suitable for Vlad Plahotniuc. As the main culprit in the bank fraud case, Ilan Shor wrote a denouncement about the bribing of Vlad Filat with $250 million! Five years have passed since then and now Vlad Filat considers himself a victim of the two who meanwhile became fugitives and whom the Prosecutor General’s Office considers the main beneficiaries of the theft. For the robbed and disappointed citizens of the Republic of Moldova, it is important to understand what the two former partners - Filat and Shor – want to dispute in the presidential elections through their substitutes Tudor Deliu and Violeta Ivanov? A simple thing. Who behaved more morally – Vlad Filat or Ilan Shor? The truth is many Moldovans consider all the politicians are thieves. Those who share a small part of what they stole with the ordinary people are good, while those who do not are bad. This way, the Filat-Shor pair has greater importance in the improvement of the ethics of Moldovan policies. 

The Andrei Năstase vs. Maia Sandu pair is designed to determine who of the two made a greater contribution to the fight against Vlad Plahotniuc. Their competition is principled and is based on the principle of parity. Andrei Năstase withdrew from the presidential race of 2016 in favor of Maia Sandu. So, it is now the turn of Sandu to withdraw in favor of the first. In this connection, Andrei Năstase insists that time has come NOW to say YES!. On the other hand, Maia Sandu does not agree, saying that It’s the time of good people! Who can understand Năstase and Sandu in their principled fight? One thing is clear. The dispute between the two brings great satisfaction to Igor Dodon, especially because the struggle between the two seems irreconcilable.

The Octavian Țîcu vs. Dorin Chirtoacă pair is strictly unionist in character. Octavian Tîcu is the successor of Missis Ana Guțu as the leader of the Right Party that was renamed the National Unity Party (PUN). On the other hand, Dorin Chirtoacă is the successor of Mihai Ghimpu as the leader of the Liberal Party (PL). Mihai Ghimpu and Ana Guțu formed a concrete union within the PL until their separation in 2013. They both ran in the presidential elections of 2016, the difference between them being revealed by their electoral slogans. Ana Guțu’s slogan was: Together we build the Union!, while Mihai Gimpu’s slogan was United for the Union!  By all appearances, in the current election campaign Octavian Țîcu and Dorin Chirtoacă will determine how is it better – to be Together or to be United for Union? This is the big stake of the two unionist candidates in the upcoming presidential elections!  

Conclusions

So, for the November 1, 2020 presidential elections, we have four pairs of candidates bifurcated on their electoral segments. The only stake of the current election campaign is the confrontation between the former allies. The climax is that the fake battle takes place amid a real pandemic.

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