Maia Sandu reached one year after her election to the highest post in the state, after becoming President of the Republic of Moldova in the presidential runoff of November 15, 2020. A new period in the political history of the Republic of Moldova – of state de-capture and de-oligarchization – started then. Maia Sandu beat Igor Dodon, the candidate of the oligarchic and geopolitical interests of Russia, polling over 57% of the vote. She was installed as President on December 24, 2020 and is the first female President of the Republic of Moldova.
Double pretext for summarizing and learning lessons
The distance of a year from Maia Sandu’s victory in the presidential elections coincided with the reaching of 100 days in office by the Gavrilița Government. This is an additional occasion for summing things up and for learning particular preliminary lessons. Half a year ago, presenting the accomplishments of the first six month of her tenure, the President said that she did her best as President and as an individual to increase the wellbeing of all the citizens. The priorities announced then included the provision of the population with COVID-19 vaccine doses, breaking of the international isolation into which the Republic of Moldova was thrown and the fight against corruption. President Maia Sandu also said that a Government and Parliament that would work for the people are necessary at the next stage.
During a long period of the year, the wind of the favorable political circumstances continued to fill the sales of the presidential boat. The consistency and tenacity of President Maia Sandu created a victorious path for the pro-presidential party PAS at the snap parliamentary elections of this summer, bringing the Parliament and Government at the President’s beck and call. From that moment, we can generically speak about the Sandu government, after the victory in the parliamentary elections was the last twitch of the favorable political conjuncture for her. An avalanche of crises later embraced the administration - the President, the parliamentary majority, the government – bringing its public image under threat. Ultimately, the administration had to cope with harsh criticism coming from the political right and also from the intransigent Socialist-Communist opposition. The shortage of political allies of the government also generated concern as this lack cannot be filled by the ordinary ‘praise singers’ of President Maia Sandu and her team.
The list of indubitable accomplishments of President Maia Sandu includes the breaking of isolation and opening up of international support for the Republic of Moldova, which resulted in unprecedented EU economic support – the Economic Recovery Plan to the value of €600 million for a three-year period. The Republic of Moldova became the first Eastern Partnership country that was offered such a plan. The program envisions the allocation of money for supporting the budget and financing infrastructure projects, €100 million for investments in communities, support for small and medium-sized enterprises. During a year, continuing the diplomatic offensive, the President made a number of working visits to Romania, Ukraine, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, the UN and to the most important European institutions in Strasbourg and Brussels. Also, official and working visits to Chisinau were paid by the Presidents of Romania, Poland and Ukraine, the President of the Council of the European Union and others. The €60 million grant offered recently to the Republic of Moldova was an extraordinary manifestation of the EU’s support in front of Russia’s energy blackmail. Against such a background, Russia remains the only foreign policy direction that hasn’t been yet approached by the President.
Owing to the active policy pursued by the President of the Republic of Moldova, generous donations were obtained for the health system for fighting the pandemic. The provision of the population with vaccine doses became a norm. The vaccination campaign of the citizens was stepped up. But shortcomings in this process were also witnessed, primarily related to communication. The government didn’t manage to conduct an extensive information campaign about the benefits of mass vaccination of the population and an explosion in the number of COVID-19 cases followed in autumn. The criticism leveled at the Dodon-Chicu government owing to the inefficiency of the anti-pandemic measures was overshadowed by the anti-records of cases of infection and death under the PAS government. The management of the pandemic crisis became a weak ring in the governmental administration.
The justice sector reform is the key formula of the fight against corruption in the interpretation of the Sandu government. In this sector, the government used the largest part of its energy, with resounding echoes in society. The fight was aimed at clearing the justice system of corrupt persons and persons loyal to the oligarchic interests. On this path, they often abandoned the velvet gloves and acted riskily, sometimes by violating the procedures. The suspension and arrest of prospector general Stoianoglo was the highest-profile case. The justification of such “revolutionary” practices was the necessity of enthroning the rule of law so as to later fully obey all the democratic and legal procedures. This is an explanation with many flaws and these flaws were used by the opposition to criticize the government. Another defect of the justice sector reform signaled by experts was the lack of a well-thought-out concept of the reform. To counteract this criticism, the Ministry of Justice on November 15 published the draft concept for the (extraordinary) external assessment of judges and prosecutors. This way, the external assessment is to be conducted through the agency of an international monitoring mission, an assessment commission consisting of four Assessment Boards and a Special Appeals Board. This last example sowed the government’s capacity to learn on the way, to be receptive to the signals transmitted by the expertise of civil society and to the opposition’s criticism.
The energy crisis came unexpectedly as a serious challenge for the Sandu government. This visibly enlarged the negative manifestations of the chronic economic and social crisis in our country. The recent signing of the contract with Gazprom alleviated the energy crisis, but significantly amplified the effects of the economic crisis. Inflation and the price crisis undoubtedly became the main challenge for the government, which will remain the main one during the next few months as well. Against such a background, the absence of a sustainable economic development concept in the current government’s political baggage becomes more evident. For now, the government at the economic level acts rather like firefighter rather than builder. If such an approach to economic development persists, any reforms in other sectors will lack logical continuity.
By “revolutionary opportunity” principle?
Some of the criticism is generated by the fact that the government does not communicate some of its actions to the general public on time and comprehensibly. This way, a number of experts describe the defective public communication as one of the main shortcomings of the government. The staff policy is also a neuralgic point as society has long waited for the corrupt functionaries from the previous governments to be punished. Even amid such aspirations, an increasing number of persons do not support the way in which the government recruits people for particular public posts, by not fully respecting the logic of decisional transparency. They warn about the danger of diminishing the quality of representative democracy by abusively using the principle of “revolutionary opportunity” in the process of selecting staff. This way, dangerous precedents are set for any of those who will succeed the current government as a considerable part of the posts in the state administration of the second level and down are filled with persons approved by the often changing politicians, with precarious institutional memory. This affects the level of professionalism and quality of the administrative act itself.
One of the lessons during the first year in office of the Sandu government refers to the deficit of the conceptual component of the reform, primarily as regards the economic development. A good terry is a guarantee against many inherent mistakes of any reform. Another lesson is related to the necessity of exponentially increasing the quality of public communication. If the government does not correctly and fully inform the general public about its policies, the opposition will continue to resort to interpretations with negative consequences for the government. One more lesson that imposes itself in an existential way is the imperative of forming a broad political and civic front in support of the European reform that cannot be done successfully only with the forces of one political party. The exaggerated party egoism risks becoming the snag that can thwart the European course of the Republic of Moldova with the inherent risk of the return of the oligarchic system.
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.