Behavior and interests in energy crisis: government, opposition and society. IPN debate

Everyone is concerned about the situation in the energy sector, primarily the real rise and the expected rise in gas rates above the possibilities of many consumers. Everyone already stated their positions and expressed their concerns during a long period of time, repeatedly and by different formulations. This communication process involves three parties – the government with its derivatives, the opposition with its derivatives and society with its derivatives. As regards the positions of the three sides, things are sufficiently clear here. The experts invited to IPN’s public debate centering on the issue discussed primarily the behavior of the three parties and their reasons and declared and undeclared political interests.

Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said a crisis represents the stage of a process that is marked by considerable difficulties of different kinds. “When it goes to the energy crisis, this was felt in September, when the pressure in gas transmission networks decreased considerably and the government had to buy relatively small amounts of gas at exorbitant prices. These circumstances that are new for the Republic of Moldova shocked society and public opinion. Last year, Moldova paid about US$305 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. Towards the end of the year, after the signing of the agreement with Gazprom, there was negotiated a price of US$450 per 1,000 cubic meters. This figure of US$450 was debated in the public sphere.

“It was invoked the fact that the authorities of the Republic of Moldova could have negotiated a better price. For the purpose, they should have made particular political concessions. Society ultimately calmed down, but when the payment date came and Moldovagaz was to pay for gas consumption, we had another phase. We found out that the way in which the contract with Gazprom was negotiated is very specific and we faced the risk of remaining without natural gas if the Republic of Moldova didn’t pay the overdue sum for the previous month and half of the price for the current month by the date of 20,” explained Igor Boțan.

According to him, the Government made effort and identified the money. However, the situation hasn’t improved, but worsened as the formation of the price depends on the market price and the formula cannot be avoided. Respectively, in January the price of gas is of about US$650 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. “A problem appeared, if the population in the Republic of Moldova, the businesses that consume gas can pay such a price, plus the price for electricity. We all know that the enterprise that supplies electricity asked NAER to raise the price almost twice. On the oil market, we see that the prices of gasoline and diesel fuel also go up. It is a conjuncture on the international market of energy resources that seriously affects the Republic of Moldova,” said Igor Boțan. He believes that it is normal for the opposition to level criticism in such conditions, but this does not formulate proposals yet. The population has particular incomes, but the problems in winter become more accentuated and the people could be unable to cope with the higher rates.

Doctor Habilitate of Political Science Aurelia Peru, PR and political communication expert, said the statements made by Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spînu when he returned from the talks were very optimistic as he believed that the signed contract was relatively good for Moldova. The negotiation techniques have two end results: “win-win” and “winner-loser”. “The impact of the contract signed with Gazprom does not match the first variant of talks and we cannot also say that the Moldovan side won. I now wonder again if the contract negotiated in Moscow was commercial or political in character. It seems to be a hybrid contract and this thing should have been presumed, known and anticipated in Chisinau”, explained the expert.

According to her, in the psychology of communication there is the reciprocity law, while at the negotiating table there is the so-called principle “we do if you do”. It is not clear to what extent the Moldovan delegation was ready to implement this formula as not two friends, but rather two opponents, one of which was a very powerful negotiation partner, sat at the negotiating table and the vulnerable point of this partner - like the Transnistrian region, as some say - should have been studied and exploited.

Aurelia Peru noted that persons of higher ranks, like the President or the Prime Minister, should have probably taken part in the talks with Gazprom, as they did in other countries. The communication rules should be taken into account in times of a crisis, while the one who is responsible for the management of the crisis should announce the risk degree from the start, while our officials said the gas prices would decline.

Psychologist Gholamali Mohammadifard, Doctor of Political Science, said the problem does not necessarily reside in communication, but rather in the collective mentality. “It comes to that type of mentality that seems to determinate permanent oscillation between the aggressor and the victim, between the one who defends and the one who attacks, between enemy and friend, between good and bad. The contract on the supply of gas, which is actually an agreement and a balance based on the reality existing in Moldovan society, is perceived through the angle of this oscillation – one takes more, the other takes less. In collective subconscious, it is hard to combat this as one is used to the role of aggressor or to the role of victim and the choice is between always struggling or accepting,” he stated.

According to Gholamali Mohammadifard, the world is now practically in World War III, but in a passive form, owing to COVID-19. There are those existing world crises plus the internal crisis in Moldova. “As I’m far from politics, I cannot say that the government pursued particular personal goals or allowed deviations from the national interest. If we analyze the realities, we see that it was extremely difficult to negotiate in a different way and to obtain another contract than the obtained one in the existing international and national conjuncture,” he noted.  

The psychologist also said that the ruling political class didn’t really have instruments and solutions and this is somehow acceptable in a society that thinks and that has conscious mentality. “But in the current unconscious chaos, this causes struggles. The energy or other types of crises are not the harshest periods experienced by our society. The Moldovans are very resistant. The current crises were turned into intrapsychic conflicts, at the level of interpersonal relations. Those who consider themselves politicians should not turn their intrapsychic conflicts and extend them to the level of interpersonal relations as this is condemnable,” he stated.

The public debate titled “Energy crisis as seen by government, opposition and society. Why does each of the parties behave as they do?” was the 222nd installment of the series “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”. The project is implemented by IPN with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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