In Chisinau, the center of the capital city for weeks during weekends has been in the custody of protesters animated and directed by the parliamentary Shor Party that was recently joined by several parties that are minuscule on the Moldovan political arena. The protest organizers permanently invoke a number of tens of thousands of participants in these street protests, while the police with the same immutability set the number of protesters at not more than 10,000. This competition of figures seems delightful only at first sight. In reality, the fight is given for the public perception of the level of dissatisfaction existing in society and, hence, for what is called legitimacy of the protest.
The question that causes major interest in society refers to the correct assessment for the broad public of the Shor Party’s protest: is it animated mainly with ill-gotten gains or is caused by the natural dissatisfaction existing in Moldovan society about the continuously worsening precarious social conditions? In fact, this is not at all a rhetorical question. The answer to this question comes to justify the government’s legitimate attitude to the street protest and the prospects of its extension and amplification in society. In fact, it goes to the quality of public problems in Moldovan society today, this being in its essence correlated with the national interests. It worsened to such an extent that it managed to shift emphases from a false agenda that is foreign to the authentic interests of the citizens.
For comparison: France has been also affected in this period by a number of strikes and protests that involved tens of thousands of people. This way, in the morning of October 16, the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris was occupied by a crowded with placards and flags that came together from all over France. It was one of the largest French protests staged after the pandemic to condemn the increase in prices, while protesters’ main demands oscillated from increasing salaries and taxing superprofits to fighting climate change. The French people’s protests were organized by the New Ecological and Social People’s Union, a left-wing alliance of political parties, led by Jean Luc Melenchon, the extreme-left manager of France Unbowed, La France Insoumise, its leader being one of the challengers of Emanuel Macron in the last presidential elections in France. In Paris, the organizers also said that the protests involved 140,000 people, while the police counted only 30,000. This is one of the few similitudes of the protests mounted in Paris and in Chisinau.
Under the burden of nostalgia
In the established European democracies, public protests, when they erupt, are mostly based on reasons centering on social problems – living standards, pays, purchasing power, benefits of public services, limitation of state power and enlargement of individual rights, etc. In Chisinau, the protesters mobilized by the Shor Party almost fully abandoned the social agenda, completely focusing on the slogan “Down with Maia Sandu”. This demand that is dominant in the current protests in Chisinau hides the real stake of the organizers who, against the background of the fight against corruption conducted by the current government, pursue the goal of own salvation in the perspective of the act of justice. It may seem that the tired female pensioners brought all together from the villages and towns of the Republic of Moldova, who became the main inhabitants of the tents pitched on the streets of Chisinau, in the protest should demand higher pensions and social benefits, lower gas rates and cheaper firewood. But they are brought to Chisinau and are paid for night not to formulate such demands. The social drama of the poorest section of Moldovan society is used with unimaginable cynicism to save the skin of personages accused of swindle and corruption, such as Shor and his company.
The reason related to the Western-type political culture, which makes the French or German people take to the streets and which influences, for example, people’s preoccupations with the higher fuel prices or the precarious workplace security conditions, or situations related to harassment at the workplace etc., for now leaves the Moldovans indifferent. They continue to be hostage to the old political culture assumed in the Soviet period, when the social reactions were mostly manifested by outbursts of momentary frustrations, when economic and social issues seemed to belong to the private sphere rather than to the public one. Finally, unlike the Western people, the Moldovan citizens “cope” alone, as they can, being sure that the norm of life resides in the practice when the state and the chiefs steal and it is therefore prudent for them to use the opportunity to also gain something illegally. The Moldovan contaminated by nostalgia for the Soviet past becomes involved in the protest not in order to achieve a common goal, but to solve individual problems. This comes to the demonstration not to protest but to collect the participation allowance. The Shor protesters’ reaction to the accusations of corruption made against Ilan Shor is a conclusive example of such purely Moldovan attitude – “Yes, Shor stole, but he shares out with us”.
Shortage of social solidarity
Unlike the Western societal practices, in Moldovan society there is a pressing shortage of social solidarity. In recognized democracies, the institutions that are highly efficient in cultivating social solidarity include the trade unions. Not at all accidentally, in the West namely the trade unions are the main organizers and managers of large protest movements that became highly-efficient mechanisms for overcoming the social deviances of the class of employers or of the political class. In our country, the trade unions of the former “school of communism” of the Soviet period developed into real caricatures of communism amid capitalism. Taught in the Soviet past to get along with the potentates, the Moldovan trade unionists stay quietly at the table of benefits together with employers and coddle the politicians also together with these. The situation in which large groups of people in the West show full solidarity, while in Moldovan society, the practice of individual “coping” dominates against rudimentary social solidarity, derives from here.
This nostalgic attitude of the Moldovan citizens for mental and behavioral practices inherited from the Soviet period is successfully used not only by the shrewd national oligarchs in conflict with the law but also by Moldova’s non-friends from outside. Amid the undeclared war waged by Russia on Ukraine, Moscow shows increased interest in the domestic political situation in the Republic of Moldova. The international and Moldovan press report an increasing number of incendiary revelations about the Russian intelligence services’ insolvent in destabilization in Moldova, including by propaganda and other kinds of support for the “Shor Party’s protests” mounted in central Chisinau. In a functional Western-type democracy, such challenges coming from outside are immediately counteracted by operational legislative intervention and by punitive measures on the part of the responsible state bodies. In the rather imitative Moldovan democracy, the reaction of the public and of civil society to such deviations related to national security is annoyingly late.
When and where will we become part of Europe?
The war in Ukraine opened the door to the EU candidate status for the Republic of Moldova unexpectedly swiftly. But the path to a full-fledged EU member status for the Moldovan state didn’t become shorter as a result. And it does not go only to the necessity of doing profound and long-term reforms in all the spheres of life of the Moldovans. A radical change in collective mentality, in behavioral reactions in Moldovan society in accordance with the standards of the European lifestyle is also necessary. During 30 years of independent development, the European reforms in Moldova earthward the Prut were mainly stagnant. Consequently, Moldovan society remains closely attached to the norms of conduct of the Soviet lifestyle. Continuing to be separated from its normal national civilizational development space, the Republic of Moldova through multiple ties remains attached to the former Eurasian metropolis, generating this way dangerous uncertainty as to its European future. The most suitable method of detaching oneself from the noxious inheritance of the Socialist lifestyle was proven by the German national reunification model when the Germans from the communist eastern Germany contaminated by the mental and behavioral practices of the Socialist society, who returned to the conditions of the democratic west-German state and the values of liberal democracy, relatively swiftly got rid of the false equalitarian behavioral model, becoming an integral part of the European civilization. This is illustrative experience that deserves to be borrowed and implemented by the Romanians from both sides of the Prut.
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.