Once again the Republic of Moldova is thrown into political chaos by its leaders in Parliament. The ruling coalition of Liberal and Democrat parties has collapsed and the recalcitrant Party of Communists has been able to succeed with a motion of no confidence, leaving Europe’s poorest government without a government for the fourth time in four years. The Prime Minister, Vlad Filat (in picture), is unlikely to be able to form a new government within the three days allowed by the constitution.
At the core of Moldova’s complex political difficulties lies a fragmented party system which, at elections, is unable to produce a single governing majority in parliament. Mr Filat’s Liberal party is the current favorite to take the most votes in a new election but, once again, he is unlikely to command a single majority large enough to form a government. This will leave him trying to deal with minority parties including his erstwhile partner the Democrats, led by Marian Lupu. However, Mr Lupu’s leadership depends on the support of Vlad Plahotniuk who bankrolls the party and, many would say, controls its direction, mainly in the interests of his businesses. Through my brief research on Mr Plahotniuk, I now know what a ‘grey Cardinal’ is.
Mr Plahotniuk could be seen as something of an oligarch, he has also recently come under investigation by Interpol for money laundering and other questionable activities. This appears to have reduced his enthusiasm for closer ties with the European Union and that could be why his party has withdrawn its support for Mr Filat’s west-facing policies. Mr Plahotniuk has good contacts in Moscow and it seems logical to assume that he can easily change his party’s focus to a more easterly direction. Mr Plahotniuk’s business interests and his avoidance of Interpol are now arguably major sources of political and economic instability in the Republic of Moldova.
The other major reason for the government’s collapse yesterday is a major disagreement over the appointment of a new Prosecutor General; the previous holder of the office had to resign after he shot someone dead during a hunting trip. Mr Plahotniuk regards the Justice Ministry and its various assets as his personal fiefdom but Mr Filat had decided to make changes to this situation. In addition, the rivalry between Mr Filat and Mr Plahotniuk has reached boiling point with their two parties in Parliament at war during the past few months.
The third major party, the Party of Communists will be only too happy to facilitate closer ties with Russia and we can expect to see a fiercely contested election in the coming weeks.
It is very interesting to note that an EU delegation comprising the British, Polish and Swedish foreign ministers visited Chisnau less than one month ago to promote greater integration with Western Europe through the EU’s Eastern Partnership Programme. It may seem strange that the current crisis has erupted so soon after that event. However we should remember that what is now the Republic of Moldova was once part of the Soviet Union; a fact that gives Moldova a special place in current Russian foreign policy.
Only the once Soviet Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have joined the EU, and suffered considerable pressure from Moscow for doing so, while Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and others continue to undergo painful post 1989 stresses as their attempts to develop and grow in partnership with the institutions of Western Europe are continually disrupted.
The Republic of Moldova could develop as a kind of East European Hong Kong, an economic bridge, beyond oil and gas, between Russia and the EU. However, as long as this small country remains a symbol of Moscow’s ‘near abroad’, any kind of political and economic transformation seems a very long way off.
By Ronnie Smith, Guest Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
(photo source: Vlad Filat’s website)