President Dodon’s change of orientation, Op-Ed

“No other politician in the Republic of Moldova changed the orientation and political priorities so often and with such amplitude from an opposite pole to the other one. In fact, he still has the chance to return to the point from which he started in 2005, the example of Prime Minister Chicu being a benchmark in this regard”...
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Political chess game


President Igor Dodon has political flair and managed to change his views and political orientation at the right time, depending on conjuncture. There would have been nothing to reproach him for if his political maneuvers hadn’t kept the country in a state of uncertainty and hadn’t run counter to the commitments he undertook solemnly by his electoral program. One of the main promises made by Igor Dodon – to initiate a referendum on the foreign policy course of the Republic of Moldova”, was forgotten, even if its fulfillment was designed to put into practice the main task of the political program of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) – to free the Republic of Moldova from “external administration” where “all the domestic policy decisions are adopted under the continuous control of Brussels”. Four years ago, things seemed very clear for the supporters and opponents of the President and the PSRM – the European integration course was to be replaced with the Eurasian integration one.

But the conjuncture changed in February 2019 and the priorities changed together with it. The President abandoned the Eurasian integration course in favor of a balanced foreign policy. This change of orientation was announced in a somehow neural and even encouraging way. Local and international public opinion was presented a new, but actually very old project concerning the Transnistrian conflict settlement, based on the federalization of the Republic of Moldova. The federalist project was to be implemented in a regional context configured by the Republic of Moldova’s balanced foreign policy so that it was supported by the foreign players involved in the project. Several months later, in June 2019, we understood what exactly the federalist project meant. One of the meetings of the President with the coordinator of the then government Vlad Plahotniuc was devoted particularly to the federalist project whose provisions were to be adjusted to the interests of the Russian Federation. The coordinator had his own interests – to resolve personal problems in the relations with Russia whose nationality he holds in exchange for the acceptance of the federalist project. We all know how the story ended. President Dodon explained that he actually played political chess and he checkmated the coordinator, the latter being forced to flee the country. Consequently, the federalist project remained in suspense and President Dodon turned into the promoter of the balanced foreign policy, without effects for the federalist project. It’s an interesting political chess match! The President’s castling resided in the strengthening of Moldova’s dependence on Russia through the federalization of the country, not through the entry into the fragile Eurasian Union. 

President’s sinuous political path

The aforementioned example shows how ready the President is to resort to risky maneuvers. It’s true that these brought personal political successes in the country, but blocked the normal relations of the country with the neighbors. It’s important that the President’s political maneuvers started with party switching, which he now vehemently condemns. In November 2011, MP Igor Dodon left the parliamentary group of the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM), taking over the administration of the PSRM, on the pretext that he disagreed with the PCRM’s revisionist policy aimed at integrating Moldova into the CIS. A series of memorable actions of Igor Dodon and the PSRM followed and in short these are:

  • 2011 – explanation of the impossibility of joining the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Customs Union - Moldova does not have common borders with this organization;
  • 2012 – assisting of the Alliance for European Integration in electing Nicolae Timofti  as President, invoking the necessity of maintaining political stability that was at risk if the PCRM returned to power in case of the failure to elect the President;
  • 2013 – adoption of the new political program of the PSRM with the title OUR ROAD IS NEAR RUSSIA, BELARUS AND KAZAKHSTAN! (pag.6), despite the previously invoked reason – lack of a common border with the customs union of the three states;
  • 2014 – supporting of the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, which was rewarded by President Putin by his unequivocal support for the PSRM (see main electoral poster) in the parliamentary elections of November, which resulted in the attraction by the PSRM of the largest part of the voters of the PCRM;
  • 2018 – announcing of the working out of a strategic reform plan on Moldova’s entry into the European Union, which forms part of no stratagem, but reflects the amplitude of the President’s political oscillations;
  • 2019 – Designing of the balanced foreign policy conception within the so-called “Comprehensive Package for Moldova”, concerning the Transnistrian settlement.  

The aforementioned perfectly reflects the sinuous character of the political path of President Igor Dodon, the compromises he made to win power and to keep it.

Impact of President’s oscillations on governmental priorities

The oscillating policy of the President also affects the Government that was formed with the support of the PSRM in November 2019. Under the burden of the epidemic and economic crisis caused by COVID-19, Prime Minister Ion Chicu in May 2020 published his own view on the necessity of radically reforming the Republic of Moldova, identifying five major and pressing priorities: 1) justice sector and law enforcement system reform; 2) reformation of education, primarily of the vocational-technical and university education; 3) consolidation of the economy and public finances; 4) consolidation of the agricultural sector, animal-breeding sector and processing industry; 5) territorial-administrative reform. The point is that Premier Chicu sees the solution to these problems in the accession to the EU, considering that Moldova should ultimately join this community.

It is curios, but the priorities of Prime Minister Chicu fully coincide with those of the pro-European opposition, running counter to the declared goals of the PSRM. It goes first of all to the reform of the administrative organization of the country’s territory whose conception was already worked out by the Government. This reform is hastened for the invoked reason that the excessive administrative portioning of the territory wastes hundreds of millions of lei and makes the ensuring of local financial autonomy impossible.

Conclusions

The sinuous political behavior of President Dodon generates confusion. The balanced foreign policy lacks substance as it cannot be used to implement the federalist project. The last is unachievable in the current regional conjecture marked by the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas. This conclusion is supported by the new priorities announced by the Government led by Ion Chicu, which is clearly aimed at implementing the European integration project.  

Normality and political stability could be established in the country if the Republic of Moldova follows a stable development course towards the European integration, as it happened when all the parliamentary parties, all the 101 MPs, on March 24, 2005 signed the Declaration of the Republic of Moldova’s Parliament on the Achievement of the European Integration Objectives. It was the only situation of political consensus in the country, which regrettably lasted for only four years. The largest foreign investments were attracted in that period and Igor Dodon was just coopted into the senior administration, being directly involved in the achievement of the European integration objectives as Deputy Prime Minister and later as minister of economy.

The oscillating, opportunist character of President Dodon’s policies undermines the credibility of the whole political class, making the eventual solid partnerships for promoting coherent political projects aimed at developing Moldova impossible. No other politician in the Republic of Moldova changed the orientation and political priorities so often and with such amplitude from an opposite pole to the other one. In fact, he still has the chance to return to the point from which he started in 2005, the example of Prime Minister Chicu being a benchmark in this regard.

Victor Pelin for IPN

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