Presidential elections will be held in Moldova at the end of 2020 and incumbent President Igor Dodon already stated that he will “most probably” run. The intention made public by Igor Dodon unsurprisingly coincided with the stepping up of his efforts on the Gagauz segment. During the past few years, the Autonomous Territorial Unit (ATU) of Gagauzia represented the electoral reserve of Igor Dodon and of the Party of Socialists and it’s now time for this area to be staked out, reminding the locals that namely he is “the only reliable ally of the Gagauz people among the Moldovan politicians”. For those from Gagauz-Yeri, such a thesis is not at all convincing, but the opponents of Dodon join in here and, unwillingly, play his game, making the inhabitants of the ATU to choose “the lesser evil”.
Updated old proposals
On February 7, President Igor Dodon met with the Speaker of the People’s Assembly of Gagauz-Yeri (APG-Y) Vladimir Kyssa with whom he discussed the adoption by Moldova’s Parliament of a package of laws designed to harmonize the regional legislation with the national one. According to President Dodon, he included his legislative proposals in a bill that will be submitted to the working group consisting of members of Moldova’s Parliament and of the APG-Y for preliminary examination.
The legislative proposals mentioned by Dodon are actually an updated version of the initiatives formulated by the working group in 2016, which reached a deadlock owing to the critical position of the Democratic parliamentary group. The MPs do not yet have a coordinated position on these bills and the history can thus repeat, offering the President new occasions for stating his support for the Gagauz side and for expressing his regret at the fact that he cannot solve the problem owing to the absence of a parliamentary majority.
Igor Dodon discussed the same subject with the deputies of the APG-Y three weeks ago, on January 21, during a working visit to Comrat. Also then, the President had to confront the criticism leveled at him by local deputies, who reproached him for not delivering the promise to defend the powers of Gagauzia.
The skeptical approach to Igor Dodon’s promises is widespread in Gagauz-Yeri. But this does not mean that the inhabitants of the ATU will not give him support in the presidential elections. Even if this may seem strange, such a choice can be made under the influence of politicians and opinion leaders on the segment that is conventionally considered of the right.
Fuelling of propaganda
Commenting on the working group’s initiatives in an interview for the publication “Event of the day”, ex-minister of defense Viorel Cibotaru said that if the current rulers accept to adopt the given package of laws, there will be a big risk that a breakaway region will appear on Moldova’s territory.
Cibotaru argued that Gagauz-Yeri had plans to build different constructs like “the Republic of Budjak” or platforms for experimenting with Moldova’s federalization.
“All these plans are designed not to stimulate the national renaissance of the people of Gagauzia, but to Russify them, to ensure their political, cultural, social and emotional association with the Russian Federation. This runs counter to the national renaissance of the Romanians in the Republic of Moldova,” stated Cibotaru.
MP of the Action and Solidarity Party Oazu Nantoi also urged vigilance if the package of “Gagauz laws” is examined in Parliament. In an interview for the same publication, the political expert said a new working group could be set up and repeated the question he often put on different platforms associated thematically with the ATU: “What was Gagauz-Yeri created for?”.
The accusations of separatism, the hand of Moscow and the Romanian renaissance are an ideal cocktail for uniting the Gagauz voters for struggling against the “ATU’s enemies” and for imbedding the idea that it is now too early to write Igor Dodon off.
Such theses easily turn into propagandistic slogans that the Socialists will not hesitate using to defend the public sphere of Gagauzia and the conscience of its inhabitants from any political opponents.
“Who if not Dodon?”
It is absolutely evident why Igor Dodon pays so much attention to Gagauzia. In the runoffs of 2016, he gathered about 66,000 votes in Gagauzia, which was almost 4% of the total score. Currently, he is in a comfortable state when he can exploit the subject of the working group and declare his support for the Gagauz bills and can present several visible deeds of the Foundation “From the Heart” before the elections. Such a strategy will make many Gagauz voters ignore the elections, but many of those who will go to the polls will vote namely for Igor Dodon as “the others didn’t do more” and “who if not Dodon?”.
For its part, Gagauzia is bewildered: what’s the use of promoting a candidate who does not keep his word? In such a case, Igor Dodon does not have a prompt and persuasive answer. Instead, before the presidential elections, the people in Gagauzia could hear stories about enemies of the ATU and unionists. Locals’ attempts to identify a healthy alternative in the Moldovan political spectrum will fail again and the people will have to accept the variant of “the lesser evil”.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.