Gagauz crisis – developer of moral decadence. Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

“In fact, the main problem resides not in the criminal skills of Ilan Shor, but rather in the state of affairs in Moldovan society. The point is Gagauzia became the fiefdom of a criminal character only after the same path was covered by: Orhei district, which is mainly inhabited by Moldovan/Romanian ethnics; Taraclia district, which is mostly populated by Bulgarian ethnics; the municipality of Balti, which is primarily inhabited by Ukrainian and Russian ethnics, which was close to becoming the fiefdom of Shor too...”

Dreamland will be governed online, from Promised Land

In the Gagauz autonomous unit, the prospect of the region being governed online, from outside the Republic of Moldova, has taken a clear shape. Actually, this is not a surprise. We must admit that public opinion was informed beforehand that by voting for candidate Yevgenia Gutsul in the governor election, the people vote for Ilan Shor. Respectively, formally no one should have objections to the post-electoral actions of the fugitive swindler, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail and who won the governor election from a distance, online. Moreover, immediately after the election, the legitimacy of Ilan Shor’s pretensions were confirmed by the chairman of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia (PAG), Dmitry Constantinov, who went to visit the winner in Israel so as to agree the action plan for governing the region online.

Naturally, the online governing actions started with the investiture of the governor of Gagauzia, which was organized and financed by Ilan Shor. At least, the PAG didn’t adopt any decision on the financing of the investing procedure. The public procedure for presenting the composition of the Executive Committee, which is subordinated to the governor, followed and this was also directed by Ilan Shor, ignoring the legal procedures regarding the consulting of the PAG (see article 51(6) of the Statutes of Gagauzia). For the PAG deputies not to try and influence the composition of the Executive Committee, a people’s demonstration was mounted in support of the composition of the Gagauz executive, as this was decided by an international company employed by Ilan Shor. In such circumstances, a group of deputies of the PAG however tried to oppose, relatively timidly: “The financially motivated supporters of the Shor Party asked that the People’s Assembly should immediately approve the composition of the Executive Committee whose list was announced one day earlier by Mister Shor from a TV monitor. I underline that this was done not by the governor, but by Mister Shor, ignoring the provisions of the Statutes of Gagauzia”. The given opposition actually caused a sensation.

Blackmail, favorite procedure of Shor in confrontation with PAG

In an absolutely impertinent manner, the PAG deputies’ attempt to oppose was immediately countered by one of the representatives selected by Ilan Shor: “The PAG will confirm the composition of the Executive Committee or the governor will dissolve this”. As they say, tertum non datur. For the PAG deputies not to think that an eventual confrontation with Ilan Shor’s interests is a joke, the latter warned these in a manner typical of his mentor Vlad Plahotniuc, that he could resort to blackmail: “I said that I will not allow nepotism and that, among others, the composition of the Executive Committee will be formed based on the selection of professionals! But when I saw Constantinov’s list of candidates, this was full of lovers, relatives and even children of deputies. Consequently, I decisively opposed the approval of such a composition by Constantinov”.

The irony of fate is that in the confrontation with the PAG chairman, Ilan Shor has a credit of legitimacy that is incomparably higher than that of Constantinov. The point is over 27,000 people voted for Shor’s puppet Yevgenia Gutsul in the governor election. This is approximately 90 times more than the votes for the election of Dmitry Constantinov as PAG deputy, the latter garnering only about 300 votes. This way, Shor feels entitled to set down the rules of the game and the main intrigue of the regional policy – the right to keep secret or to reveal the names of the PAG deputies who wanted to promote their lovers and relatives in the composition of the Executive Committee.

As we convinced ourselves, Ilan Shor’s blackmail against the PAG deputies is complex and has three components: a) street pressure by swiftly convoking paid demonstrations of thousands of supporters; b) threatening with the dissolution of the PAG; c) threatening with the revealing of information about the private life of PAG deputies. In reply, one of the PAG deputies, Gheorghi Leichu, said the threatening with the dissolution of the region legislative body is premature and a compromise should be reached. According to Liechu: “The right to dissolve the People’s Assembly can be applied only if the decisions adopted by this are illegal. If the People’s Assembly’s decisions are legal, based on the provisions of the legislation, the governor can dissolve only himself/herself and no illegal decision by the Bashkan will be accepted either by the deputies or by courts of law. Those people who promote this idea should clearly realize this. The idea of imposing by force…, will not work for you lads. There are legal requirements”.

Gagauz language, stone of hindrance to Shorlatans

The PAG deputy chairman is somehow right. In an unexpected way, the rescuing element for the PAG in the confrontation with Shor became the Local law on the extension of the sphere of application of the Gagauz language that was adopted on October 26, 2018. Under Article 26 of the given law, which centers on the requirements concerning the use of the Gagauz language by public figures: “The deputies of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia, members of the Executive Committee, officials, public authorities, managers of the law enforcement agencies and judicial bodies, as from 2021 should know the Gagauz language and should use it in accordance with the need to fulfill their official duties. The heads of the main divisions that form part of the Executive Committee of Gagauzia, which is approved by the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia, are obliged to know the Gagauz language and this requirement is a preliminary condition for confirmation in a post. In such circumstances, when 1/3 of those who were named by Ilan Shor as members of the Executive Committee do not know the Gagauz language, the PAG can challenge the eventual dissolution of the regional legislative body in the Appeals Court, etc.

It should be noted that Ilan Shor’s blackmail against the PAG motivated the deputies to combine forces so as to resist the pressure. In this regard, against such a background, a first reading was given to the draft law on sector departments of the Executive Committee of Gagauzia, which imposes additional conditions for obtaining the post of head of departments of the Executive Committee. Respectively, a department head should fulfill the following requirements: a) be a citizen of the Republic of Moldova; b) have the domicile on the territory of ATU Gagauzia; c) be under no judicial protection measures; d) have higher education matching the sector management profile; e) have at least three years of experience in the competence area of the relevant department; f) know the Gagauz language; have impeccable reputation. The new conditions narrow further the maneuvering field for Ilan Shor’s ambitions to fully control the Executive Committee. Evidently, the newly elected governor of Gagauzia – the substituent of Ilan Shor – will never promulgate such a law. But it is curios that the PAG had the courage to raise so high the level for the qualities of the potential members of the Executive Committee. What is more curious is that the given clause about the irreproachable reputation is generally disqualifying for any person promoted by Ilan Shor. The latter, in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Moldova, is the head of an organized criminal group. There can be no doubts about Ilan Shor’s integrity in principle. He told the investigation bodies that he bribed a former Prime Minister with $250 million. He also admitted in public that he pays for the organization of protests for destabilizing the sociopolitical situation in the country.

Given the aforementioned, we reach the conclusion that in three months of the election of the new governor of Gagauzia, we actually have a regional crisis that we cannot know how it will be solved. On the one hand, formally Ilan Shor’s blackmail can be combated by applying the legal requirements invoked by the PAG deputies. On the other hand, for now we cannot know how efficient the blackmail with regard to the private life of the PAG deputies, to which Ilan Shor makes reference, can be. We also cannot know how the courts of law will behave if the dispute between the governor and the PAG continues. The recent arrest of a Shorlatan envoy for attempt to bribe the mayor of Ocnița suggests that the financial resources possessed by Ilan Shor are for now interminable. If he can waste $30,000 for motivating the change of the political affiliation of a mayor, he can have resources not only for motivating the neophytes of the national renaissance. Experience shows that regrettably, the exhibition of the financial potential of the Shorlatans can in principle influence also the political will of PAG deputies and the balance of justice in Moldova.

Consequences of fishing in muddy water...  

The developments generate questions – how can the obscure financial resources of Ilan Shor influence the political life in Gagauzia and can jeopardize it? Probably, Ilan Shor’s success is mainly determined by the strategy of the regional elites concerning fishing in muddy water. There are many such examples. This way, practically all the challengers of Ilan Shor’s substituent Yevgenia Gutsul for governor publicly complained about the fragrant violation of the electoral legislation – illegal financing, massive voter corruption, involvement of persons from outside the country, etc. But none of them dared to challenge the violations in the Central Election Commission of Gagauzia (CECG) or in court, For example, opponent Sergei Cimpoieș publicity admitted that the election was sheer travesty. Former governor Mihail Formuzal, who was also a contender, expressed himself in a figurative way: “The tender contest was held! Lot No. 1 – Gagauzia. Sold!".

The main challenger, the representative of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM), Grigori Uzun, preferred to remain silent. One of the party’s leaders, Vlad Batrîncea, spoke instead of him: “From our viewpoint, Yevgenia Gutsul was supported by Moscow ...If Uzun in this campaign had struggled against Gutsul, the result would have been different... In the very harsh conditions when all the elites of Gagauzia worked for Shor’s candidate, Uzun obtained a decent result”. Recently, Vlad Batrîncea’s viewpoint was confirmed by the leader of the PSRM, Igor Dodon, who publicly stated (see min 47.30-48.50) that the governor election in Gagauzia was held with multiple violations: “But we didn’t go to challenge them as we respected the opinion of the Gagauz people. But I didn’t see such a campaign ever. We have had experience since 2009. I think we had about 20 different national and local campaigns. But I didn’t see something like this... sharing out money…. Believe me, I saw many things. I have my own opinion about what happened in Gagauzia... and these promises and these concerts and live videos... They violated everything they could violate. But we didn’t challenge and I think we took a correct decision as the people of Gagauzia ultimately chose. When they need to choose, they allow to be influenced.... It is their choice”. This is an interesting attitude to the electoral process! Why shouldn’t this not be extended to the presidential, parliamentary and other elections? In the future, why should they protest and challenge the eventual rigging of national elections? In fact, it is not surprising why Igor Dodon and the PSRM have such an attitude to the regional elections. They supported the union of regional elites in Gagauzia against the central administration also during the illegal referendum of February 2, 2014. For this, Dodon was awarded. Respectively, this time again Igor Dodon expressed his dissatisfaction only with central authorities’ attempts to intervene and bring the unprecedented wrongdoings to an end, not yet with the committed violations.

The central authorities’ intervention wasn’t convincing even if it occurred following the public opinion’s call. Right before the election day, one of the most famous opinion leaders from the region expressed his indignation at the inaction of the CECG: “It should be noted that the closer is the Gagauz governor election, the higher is the number of flagrant violations, cases of direct ignoring by some of the contenders of Article 111 of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, the Law on the special legal status of Gagauz, the Statutes of Gagauzia and the Electoral Code of Gagauzia… The CECG does not pay any attention and does not react to the serious violations of the electoral legislation, as if we do not have an election campaign, but trade on the stock exchange to see who pays more for the electors’ vote. But the responsible central authorities’ attempt to intervene and end the violations of the electoral legislation met with vehement protests on the part of the whole regional political elite, the PAG deputies making a common front in favor of the one who won the election by illegal ways.

This way, it became evident once again that in any case, for the regional elites it is more important to combine forces against the central administration than to obey the law norms, even at the cost of subduing Gagauzia’s interests to the interests of a known swindler, like Ilan Shor. Respectively, the profoundness and scale of the consequences will be yet seen.


For now, in three months of the Gagauz governor election, the dreamland promised by Ilan Shor risks turning into a banal conflict zone. Surely, Shor’s money could serve as an alleviating remedy to the conflict. It is yet hard to believe that international support for the development of Gagauzia will return to the previous level, at least until the region is the fiefdom of a criminal.

In fact, the main problem resides not in the criminal skills of Ilan Shor, but rather in the state of affairs in Moldovan society. The point is Gagauzia became the fiefdom of a criminal character only after the same path was covered by: Orhei district, which is mainly inhabited by Moldovan/Romanian ethnics; Taraclia district, which is mostly populated by Bulgarian ethnics; the municipality of Balti, which is primarily inhabited by Ukrainian and Russian ethnics, which was close to becoming the fiefdom of Shor too. In general, according to the results of the previous elections and to opinion polls, Ilan Shor and his criminal group have hundreds of thousands of supporters. The recent election in Gagauzia, followed by the regional political crisis, is only a developer of the moral decadence level in Moldovans society, no matter what the causes of decadence are – chronic poverty; recent regional security crisis; poor governance at centru level, etc. No matter what they say, it is definite that a large segment of Moldovan society considers that stealing of very large amounts, as Ilan Shor did, is a virtue, not a vice or a sin. It’s true that love for thieves is conditional. It covers only those thieves who are willing to share what they gain with the potential supporters. They steal, but give us too!

It is amazing that the authorities of a society where a considerable section of society admits that stealing is a virtue insist on the promotion of the country’s integration into the European Union (EU). It is even more surprising that the EU is ready to support such a country. Miracles happen this way and make life interesting in the poorest country of Europe.

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