It's been a month since the start of the permanent protests initiated by the Platform “Dignity and Truth” and a week since the start of the protests staged by the pro-Russian duo Renato Usatyi and Igor Dodon. The demands of the two camps of protesters have many things in common. But the goals pursued by them differ essentially. For the Platform “Dignity and Truth”, the removal of the current government means the purification of the European integration process. For the Usatyi-Dodon duo, the ousting of the so-called pro-European coalition is a method of suspending or abandoning the European agenda.
Two camps, two geopolitical colors
The common objective that connects, only partially, the two camps represents the ousting of the government and subsequent seizing of the politic power. At the same time, the camps are at odds because of the ‘geopolitical flags’ they carry. Thus, the Platform “Dignity and Truth” considers the continuation of the European integration course is the only solution for ensuring the country’s development. On the other hand, the abandonment of the European agenda is the final objective of the pro-Russian duo Usatyi and Dodon, for whom Moldova’s problems are caused both by the purported pro-European government and by the European integration. The duo is also for the restoration of the relations with Russia and less in favor of the Eurasian Economic Union. This precaution explains their interest in attracting as many protesters as possible and not only those with Euro-skeptical or anti-European views. This discrepancy in views between the two protesting camps explains the profound duality that persists in society over the foreign course that the country should follow.
‘Good cop versus ‘bad cop’
The two protesting camps, though they have common objectives - to remove the government, to renew the institutions, to obtain the direct election of the head of state and early parliamentary elections - apply different methods to achieve them. The Platform “Dignity and Truth” opts for the role of the ‘good cop’, being determined to exert pressure on the government coalition until the end, including by staging a general strike and other civil unrest events. Any of the planned events are designed to be peaceful. It’s clear that the European partners’ opinion about them counts for the Platform. Ensuring a close dialogue with the EU with a view to propelling reforms after the ousting from power of the government that is considered a false pro-European one is important for them. In opposition to the pro-European protesters, the anti-European duo Dodon and Usatyi is ready to resort to more efficient measures, even coercive ones. These are inclined to have a behavior typical for the ‘bad cop’ as how their actions are interpreted by the EU, the U.S. or other Western powers is not important for them. In their view, the radicalization of protests, which they do not rule out as a possible scenario, can be anytime justified before the people as a consequence of poor governance that resulted in the capturing of the state institutions and the ‘stealing of the billion’.
It is obvious that the two camps have a different view about the developments following the removal of the government. The pro-European camp anticipates that the early elections will create appropriate conditions for launching a proper pro-European political alternative that will be able to advance the European agenda. This thing is not at all shared by the Usatyi-Dodon duo that wants to capitalize on the protest mood existing in society in order to obtain a majority of seats in Parliament and to interrupt the European integration process. These are advantaged by the fact that they represent the main force of the parliamentary opposition (Dodon), leading simultaneously the extraparliamentary opposition (Usatyi). The situation of the Platform “Dignity and Truth” is affected by the fact that it hasn’t so far managed to generate a political force that would be regarded by its supporters as a competitive and credible pro-European political alternative.
Instead of conclusion
The anti-government protests in Chisinau illustrate the cleavages about the country’s geopolitical orientation existing in society. Thus, the Platform tends to articulate the wishes of the pro-European protesters. On the other side, the Usatyi - Dodon duo protests against the government and also against the country’s pro-European course. The wish to remove the rulers accused of ‘capturing the state’ and facilitating the ‘theft of the billion’ unites them. But the methods that each of the two camps is ready to use are different. The Platform wants to be credible before the pro-European public opinion and the European partners and thus inclines the balance towards non-violent methods. The anti-European duo adopted a Machiavellian approach according to which the ends justify the means. It is evident that the radicalization of protests by a camp can influence the general spectrum of the protest spirit. The passing of the ‘red line’ in the case of the anti-European duo can probably affect the other camp as the radicalization of protests by one camp can determine a wave of solidarity between the protesters and the subsequent merger of the camps, regardless of protesters’ geopolitical options. We will yet see if the government is able to anticipate the deterioration of protests, accepting one by one the achievable demands of the protesters.
Dionis Cenușa is a politologist, holding an MA degree in interdisciplinary European studies from the College of Europe.
Areas of interes: European integration, European policies, EU's foreign policy, migration and energy security.
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