Opposition bites the lure. Who put it? Who will be caught? IPN reports

We expect the Moldovan authorities to take appropriate measures to ensure that the results of the Chisinau mayoral elections, as recognised also by national and international observers and reflecting the will of the voters, are respected....”.

Moldovan society entered a phase with significant turbulence whose ending cannot be anticipated. The formal reason is the invalidation of the Chisinau early mayoral elections that aroused harsh reactions not only inside the country, but also outside it. Respectively, the consequences of the current political crisis can have both an internal component and an external one.

The political crisis of this period is based on a reason that does not have a precedent in the country’s history – the invalidation of the votes of about 250,000 electors and a rarer format, when two of at least three parties of the conflict didn’t have evident participations in the discussions on the controversial subject of the invalidation, at least at the first stage. This should eventually mean that they do not recognize the involvement of which they are accused by the third party. Who are actually the real players of the current crisis and what is the role of each of these? What goals can they pursue?

Courageous or disproportionate judiciary?

The crises was triggered by the Moldovan judiciary or, more exactly, by the group of judges who approved the invalidation of the elections in the three courts of law, until an irrevocable judgement was passed. The positon formulated by the judge of the ordinary court Rodica Berdilo, who published this on social networking sites (only) yesterday, deserves to be taken into consideration. She said she did her job in accordance with the law, independently of any influence from outside, underlining the key word ”NO” of the legal provision saying NO electoral agitation is allowed on the election day and a day before this. But the absolute majority of national experts and foreign officials who took attitude to this unordinary case do not share this judge and the other judges’ conviction that the opponents resorted to electoral agitation, not to calls urging the people to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The method by which the judges calculated the impact of what they classed as “electoral agitation” on the election outcome generates too many doubts for an extraordinary case like this. In fact, the judge and her colleagues of the Centru branch of the Chisinau City Court, who defended her in their postings on Facebook, didn’t explain how they determined the influence of Facebook on the election results, their message being pronouncedly emotive and declarative. In fact, neither now nor when other official positions were formulated, nobody tried to say if it was a courageous unprecedented act of professionalism on the part of judges or unprecedented distorted implementation of the law in relation to an administrative violation that is punished with less than US$100.

Thus, the positon of judges would have been better understood if they had ensured the public character of their work in all the hearings of (in)validation, at least for the press. But this wasn’t done. Why, if everything is clean and legal? The row of “reasonable suspicions” can be opened with, but cannot be limited to:
- so as not to reveal particular state secrets or secrets of the inquiry;
- so as to protect such an important case from too much fuss;
- so as to hide the insufficient training in managing cases of unprecedented seriousness and complexity;
- so as not to disclose the existence of political orders about which they speak insistently and not only in this case...

The judiciary, including the regulatory and self-regulation juridical bodies, didn’t react and didn’t examine the so many facts and analytical materials available from different internal and external sources at any of the case trying stages and this is strange. It seems that the few reactions of several judges were emerged yesterday only because their names appeared on the protesters’ list of demands: “Dismissal and prosecution of the president of the Supreme Court of Justice and the other judges responsible for the abusive decisions to annul the elections: Luiza Gafton, Victor Burduh, Vlad Clima, Ecaterina Palanciuc, Ala Malii, Valentin Lastavetski, Rodica Berdilo”.

Government washes its hands of it?

The government, another real or invoked participant of the crisis generated by the election invalidation, unjustifiably had only a few public positons on this unprecedented issue: the fugitive statements made by the spokesman for the Democratic Party (PDM) at the request of the press; an assessment by the Prime Minister in a Cabinet meeting; a posting by the Speaker of Parliament on a social networking site; an interview by the Democratic leader Vlad Plahotniuc for the paper “Timpul” and that’s all. None of these can be treated as the official positon of the government or the main ruling party. Accidentally or not, in the hottest period related to the invalidation of elections, the PDM interrupted its series of weekly meetings that have been mandatory for a long period and where the most important themes related to the life of society and the activity of the government, including of the Cabinet and Parliament, are discussed and the decision taken there are made public.

This way, the PDM could aim to show that it has no connection with the election invalidation, that the opposition is not right when it accuses the party’s leader of bringing under control all the state institutions in general and justice in particular.

If what the PDM wants to say it’s true, it should want and state publicly why the general perception is exactly the opposite and is typical not only for the relevant players of the national civil society, but also for almost all the relevant officials and institutions of the development partners? Practically, we had only one position in support of the Moldovan government in the period, of MEP Victor Bostinaru. All the others, up to the highest levels, including the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Iohannes Hahn, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and many others drew the government’s attention either to the political inference in justice or to the responsibility borne by the government for the functioning of the rule of law, the quality and independence of the judiciary stipulated in the Association Agreement with the EU or to both of these.

In this situation, the government chose not to become involved and not to react, invoking the independence of the judiciary. But it recently found it possible and identified the instruments needed to interfere in the activity of another independent authority - the National Agency for Energy Regulation. As a result of the government’s  interference, the rise in fuel prices was stopped. The elections affect the people’s interests much more, but nothing was done in his case.

This time the government chose the washing of hands tactic, including in relation to the foreign partners, by the model of a historical character known for his deed committed more than 2,000 years ago. This time the victim is the people’s vote.

Why did the government choose the given tactic:
- To offer one more chance for distinguishing oneself to the pro-European opposition of the right with which it said it wants to form government coalitions after the parliamentary elections of this yeaned;
- To prevent the “non-cooperative” opposition from having access to the influential resources offered by the post of mayor general of the most important locality in the country;
- To use the forces of this opposition in long-term resourceful activities from the perspective of the parliamentary elections;
- To use the scheme tested now in the courts of law for obtaining maximally favorable results for oneself in the upcoming elections;
- Or for other purposes that could emerge in time.

Advantages and risks of Resistance Movement

The political opposition considered it necessary to react as it reacted. But this looks rather like the biting of the lure put by someone. Is the opposition able to understand and to combat the not always exhibited scenarios of the “fisherman/fishermen”?

At this stage, the chosen tactic seems to be a winning one also because it is based on the logic of participation by wronged people in a lage protest movement that was called “national resistance” and that includes the formulation of clear demands for current and potential supporters:
1. Validation of elections;
2. Annulment of the mixed electoral system;
3. Dismissal and prosecution of the president of the judges responsible for the abusive decisions to annul the elections.

The extension of the list of demands, beside the demand to validate the elections, can generate additional support to the one that exists now, especially owing to point 2 that could be backed by the development partners that have been until now frustrated by the ignoring by the Moldovan government of the recommendations of the Venice Commission. If the development partners until now abided by the principle “we work with the power that really exists in the country”, the EU and the U.S. could appreciate the “alternative offer” formulated these days by the opposition in a clear way, both for the foreign partners and for Moldovan society. But the way from offer to “acquisition” is as long as up to the stars.

By the call to create the new National Resistance Movement, the political opposition entered a game with only two ways out: complete victory or total and definitive failure. The previous experience gives it not many chances of winning if we consider the all kinds of capacities of the opponent or opponents. But gives it chances anyway and Andrei Nastase’s victory in the elections in Chisinau is a conclusive proof.

But the biggest rival in the opposition’s move to shift emphasizes from political parties to a national movement could be not the political opponents, with or without the support of the state institutions, but rather the own experience and capacity to unite the supporters. For example, this should assess and make pubic, with eventual assumption of the blame, the reasons for the diminution of the protest movement of 2015-2016. It could also need to show capacity to replace or complement the street protests’ message that is accepted by a part of the supporters unconditionally with a more profound message based on analyses and arguments agreed by less prepared categories of society and the yet undecided ones. The presentation of real evidence of capture of state institutions, including of the judiciary, by persons who are massively and permanently accused of this could serve as a relevant sample. Without these and other adjustments, the large protest movement could diminish again and this would mean the political demise of the opposition parties that are now in the center of the protest activities and want to be the current government’s alternative.  

The goals of the opposition are clearer than the aforementioned goals of the judiciary and the government. For now, these coincide with the three demands, plus the logical goal of removing the current government and of taking over.

In fact, the government has exactly the same final goal – to remove the opposition from its way towards keeping and strengthening its power in Moldova.

“What should we do with the vote yet...?”

In this regard, all the three parties involved in the current political crisis could take the call formulated in the Mogherini-Hahn statement as an orientation and control point: “We expect the Moldovan authorities to take appropriate measures to ensure that the results of the Chisinau mayoral elections, as recognised also by national and international observers and reflecting the will of the voters, are respected...”.

Valeriu Vasilică, IPN

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