What do Moldovans want and what can power offer them? IPN analysis

”…Moldovan society is not yet ready to understand that there are no prosperous societies and people in non-democratic states and Moldova can no way be an exception. And with this misapprehension, Moldovan society comes to know what it wants – “prosperity”, but does not know what and how to ask it from its political class and sometimes even encourages this to take action that rather distances not approaches the “prosperity objective”…”

Moldovan society continues to be divided according to a number of criteria and in this regard remains on barricades. The barricades are surely conventional at the current moment, but with the risk of becoming real, if the same society does not have will and capacity to understand why it happens so and what should be done to change things. According to the tendencies shown by the latest opinion polls, the division of society continues to grow. Eventually, owing to this perception, the parliamentary majority recently voted a bill that enables the army to intervene in case of protests in the first reading.

“Bread and circuses”, we come from Rome

A part of the reasons for the current state of affairs are related to the performance of the political class that is in a long-term transition, but another part depends on what society itself wants and can, including for the motive stated in the well-known proverb “Every country has the government (political class) it deserves”. Moreover, according to the same polls, now society is more predisposed than ever to “give birth”, to promote and support politicians and political currents that have fewer chances and tools to solve the problems that this considers vital for itself. The same surveys reveal that the population in the list of vital necessities includes mainly financial and social problems like “lower prices and costs”, “higher salaries”, “more workplaces” etc. under the common title “prosperity”. The conclusion concerning society’s predisposition to support politicians and parties that are “rather useless” to the vital goals derives from the perception that the given society is too easily influenced by strictly political mottoes and slogans, which are most often far from the real problems of the people. And this happens because neither society nor the population and political class are sufficiently prepared to understand very well by what ways “prosperity” comes in a “normal” country.

The Republic of Moldova has now two components of the power, two important political players popular with the public, who know well how to use this status in their favor, while society easily yields to provocations (manipulations). On the one hand, there is the government that controls Parliament and the Cabinet, led by the Democratic Party (PDM). On the other hand, there is the main parliamentary opposition force, the Party of Socialists (PSRM), led by its informal leader, President Igor Dodon.

Stolen US$ 1 billion, powers and “prosperity”

The essence of the policy pursued by the PSRM and President Dodon mainly resides in the four matters of the recently proposed consultative referendum: “abrogation of the law that makes the repayment of the stolen US$ 1 billion the people’s burden”; empowerment of the President to dissolve Parliament and announce early parliamentary elections; reduction in the number of MPs from 101 to 71 and studying of the History of Moldova in schools. Skipping the necessity and utility of the referendum itself, we should yet admit that none of the raised issues, even if the plebiscite is successful, brings the wanted “prosperity”, either directly or indirectly. And the reason is:

The abrogation of the law that makes the repayment of the stolen US$ 1 billion the people’s burden does not mean that the embezzled money will be automatically restored, here and now, to the state and the people. It is rather a political wish than a real economic, financial, legal and other kind of possibility. For attempts to be made to achieve it, the political and, eventually, administrative, police, judicial, prosecutors’ power should be replaced. But this can happen in a not very near future, if it will happen in general, and thus we cannot speak about a real source close to “prosperity”. Now yet, in the absence of a real alternative for filling the enormous financial gap, the abrogation of the law could lead to the immediate and inevitable deterioration in the relations with foreign donors, especially the IMF, the EU and the World Bank, and also with a part of the bilateral donors, and this can cause an imminent economic, social and political collapse in the Republic of Moldova.

This first issue was most probably placed in the referendum questionnaire as bait for the second – additional powers and early elections, with the political target of gaining sufficient power to radically change particular things in the country, eventually as regards “prosperity”. But in this case either the welfare cannot come too swiftly by itself, if we take into account the fact that eight years in power with a very comfortable majority wasn’t enough for the Party of Communists (PCRM) and neither the current government was capable of ensuring this in an almost as long period. The first matter could have been placed in a common context as an attractive element for the third and fourth issues or maybe all the four issues serve as an attraction point for securing only the second issue, concerning additional powers? And nothing of what the people want concerning “prosperity”. Nevertheless, polls show there are many potential supporters of the strictly political projects of the PSRM that come from the “non-prosperity” area.

The Socialist opposition behaves so in a sufficiently natural way, in political meaning, including because it is not in power, but wants to be and because its leader, President Igor Dodon, is limited in powers to be able to initiate and ensure the implementation of less political projects, if we admit that together, the PSRM and the President, have the capacity to formulate and implement swiftly ideas closer to the “prosperity” imperatives of society. But why does society behave like how it behaves?

“Uninominal prosperity”?

The government, or the PDM, has more possibilities (political, administrative, financial etc.) to implement projects close to “prosperity” and possibly has done something in this regard in the recent past. But the volumes and paces of this “something” are absolutely insufficient for the population, during a year and several months that remained until the election campaign prior to the ordinary parliamentary elections, not speaking about the early ones, to perceive these activities as manifestation of “prosperity”. Another proverb says “weighing the pig doesn’t make it fatter”, even if the PDM shows ambition and insists on counting the time in power as of the start of 2016, not from 2009. While national and international practice shows that the pre-electoral and electoral periods are not the most beneficial ones for any type of reforms, including in the social and economic spheres, because they require big sacrifices of the government and the population as well, if they are real, not simulated.

And then the PDM finds a political replacement for “prosperity”. The campaign “to inform about uninominal voting”, respectively to replace the electoral system, is an unprecedentedly well-planned and financed one. This preparation is again based on the predisposition of a large part of society, which is confirmed by polls, to support the new political project of the PDM, even if this part, as the other part of society, has other vital problems to deal with, from outside the political sphere, with the title of financial and social “prosperity”.

We again do not now refer to the necessity and utility of replacing the electoral system, but to the reasons why society behaves as it behaves? And why the political class, if it is conscious of these reasons, acts as it acts?

Democracy or prosperity, egg or hen?

Possibly because society does not (yet?) have the habit to notice the mandatory interdependence between the longed “prosperity” and the level of democracy in the country, as a mandatory condition for developing the economy and other sources of “prosperity”. In fact, this is not only an opinion as one of the latest polls confirmed the existence of this scale of inversed values in the heads of Moldovans, about 70% of whom give priority to the economic, personal and family prosperity and only about 25% consider the advancing of democracy is a priority.

Plainly speaking, Moldovan society is not yet ready to understand that there are no prosperous societies and people in non-democratic states and Moldova can no way be an exception. And with this misapprehension, Moldovan society comes to know what it wants – “prosperity”, but does not know what and how to ask it from its political class and sometimes even encourages this to take action that rather distances not approaches the “prosperity objective”. Lets’ take things one by one:

Permanent torpor, from Snegur to Dodon

The Moldovans express readiness to support, in one case, more powers for one person, even for the Head of State, while in another case more powers for another 101 persons, future MPs chosen according to the slogan “your vote, your MP”. It seems that this happens because of an old mentality that is older than the Soviet one, by which the people continue to look for “idols”, “fathers” and “voivods” in particular persons whom they would idolize and would then inevitably remove from the pedestal formed in the own imagination only, replacing these with others, who are usually the antipodes of the previous. It happened so in the case of Mircea Snegur and Mircea Druc or the “man from the tree” who were later replaced by Dumitru Motpan, Andrei Sangheli and Petru Luchinski, followed by Vladimir Voronoin, Vladimir Filat and Mihai Ghimpu, and now Igor Dodon. Moldova’s contemporary 25-year-old history shows that this road of “idols” leads nowhere, including as regards the longed “prosperity”. Why?

Because the persons come and go, the same person can change the views and orientations and this is human and normal. Only the independent institutions of the state remain constant, or better said, should remain constant in a democratic society and these should lead the country and the people according to objective democratic laws and rules, not according to the capacities and subjective views of some persons, even some of the most well-intentioned ones. It is so in all the countries that ensure prosperity for most of its people. The Moldovans for now prefer to withdraw powers from institutions and offer them mainly to persons. In our case, one the one hand, the importance of Parliament, Government, independent agencies and other state institutions is undermined in favor of the President. On the other hand, the role of the institute of political party is diminished in favor of separate persons and this if things go as the initiators of the replacement of the electoral system promise they would go. 

Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you

Respectively, society could and should demand that the politicians, alongside “prosperity”, if not before it, should provide independent and professional democratic institutions, which would ensure the prosperity not only in economic sense and not only at the level of person and family. The economy and other areas that generate “prosperity” function normally only in the conditions of democratic, genuine rule of law. The money earned in the economy is not stolen or is stolen less than in Moldova. And this means asking for more justice and less corruption, more free press and less political subordination of state institutions, seeking the development and democratization of parties as entities representation different people and social groups and decentralization of power so that each person from the most distant village feels equal in rights and in chances of “prosperity” with the inhabitants of the capital city, for example. And this regardless of how the demands are imposed – at referendums or elections, uninominal or proportional, at public debates or street protests. For their part, only these institutions are really able to build roads and schools in villages, to increase pensions and salaries, to create jobs and, in general, to bring “prosperity” to Moldovans.

We cannot say that Moldovan society fully lacks the “instinct of democracy” as a promoter of the “instinct of prosperity”.

Let’s remember the Great National Assembles of the period of national emancipation that brought together up to one third of the adult population of the former MSSR. Only before the dissolution, started the USSSR to satisfy more financial and social needs. There was a particular level of safety in today and tomorrow for children and the adult members of the family. And the protests gathered together a lot of people who mainly demanded freedom, language and alphabet. As it turned out, many of these later didn’t really care about the linguistic and national victories. And we thus can presume that the people were driven to the streets by the protest spirit against bans, constraints and all kinds of restrictions, in terms of the basic democratic human rights and freedoms: rights to opinion, to fee movement, to own faith, to language, to identity etc. Maybe for the same reasons, the opposition movement of 2009 enjoyed so much social support and so many hopes were put in the parties that seized then power. But these hopes were mainly destroyed by the same parties…

The administration of the PCRM, which had been in power until 2009, could have remained sincerely angry on “ungrateful Moldovans” who, in that period, enjoyed a particular level of stability and predictability of the situation, including as regards a particular level of “prosperity”, which was in a very slow, but clear ascendant. The given administration and its supporters might haven’t yet understood that they were tricked by the less democratic character of Moldovan society under Communist rule, when almost all things were decided by one person or one party, at internal level, while at foreign level the largest number of people could travel only clandestinely, mainly in search for a job, or a few number of people, but with a lot of money. And this means again shortage of democracy, democratic freedoms and values, without which genuine “prosperity” cannot come.

Renewal or replacement of political class

It’s true that the declared goals of the two examined initiatives – the referendum and uninominal voting system – also refer more or less to the democratization of society. These both seem to be pursuing the goal of renewing the political class as an instrument of the country’s future development. But in one case, it’s not at all clear how the quantitative transformation (reduction in the number of MPs from 101 to 71) can ensure qualitative transformations inside the political class. In the second case, it’s not clear if the initiators, the PDM, refer to themselves as well when they speak about the poor quality of the current political class, which necessitates “renewal” and which, for its part, is rather synonymous with “replacement”. If not, this is slightly cynical and arrogant behavior towards other politicians and parties. If yes, they could convince us of the sincerity of their initiative by an announcement made at a particular stage of the debates on the new electoral system – that the PDM, at least its heavyweights, will not take part in the future parliamentary elections, either majority or proportional, so as to offer society the possibility of starting the renewal of the political class from a white sheet, non-discriminating and non-favoring anyone. Can anyone imagine something like this after the PDM repeatedly declared that it will become the most important political party in the Republic of Moldova?  

In fact, the genuine democratic reforms are simpler and cheaper to do and with bigger and swifter effects for “prosperity” than in other areas. Essential here is the sincerity and will of the political class, especially the power. The rest, in the form of models, expertise and financing, is offered by the development partners, especially the European Union.

Looking two ways to find Sunday

But Moldovan society is less prepared here too to understand the real sources of its “prosperity”. The last polls continues to confirm the parity of the pro-Eastern and pro-Western options of Moldovan citizens, with particular variations, in objective conditions, when the influences coming from the East cannot be univocally described as support or assistance.

Yes, Moldovan society is justified to have such behavior as the declared pro-European governments  rather discredited the European idea in Moldova than promoted it, but the baby cannot be thrown out with the bathwater also because alongside models, expertise and financing, the EU now more harshly insists on particular conditions of using these, the first of which, according to the last meeting of the EU-Moldova Association Council, consists in the fact that the support should center on the needs of the people (or their “prosperity”).

Owing to this misapprehension by Moldovan society, fueled powerfully by particular actions and initiatives of the power, which is now bi-cephalous in Moldova, the country’s pro-European course is subject probably to the biggest risk since its appearance in the Republic of Moldova as a political idea, not only since 2009.

Surely, the people are always right, but they should also have a better self-conservation feeling, especially in their relationship with politics and politicians.

Valeriu Vasilică, IPN

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