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Politics

A leopard never changes its spots or the ambitions of President Igor Dodon

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Recently, a minority government was established in the Republic of Moldova at the initiative of the Moldovan president – Igor Dodon. It was formed of only one party – the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) – which is unofficially led by Igor Dodon (according to the law, the president can’t be a member of a political party). The socialists helped by democrats (the Democratic Party of Moldova – DPM) offered the confidence vote to the Government led by Ion Chicu, who is a closely connected person to the president. Therefore, President Dodon has now more and more influence on the key state institutions for promoting his own vision on how the things should be done in the Republic of Moldova. How is that possible? Let’s take it one by one.

The Parliament

On November 12th, the government led by Maia Sandu fell as a result of the no-confidence motion submitted by PSRM in the Parliament. The representatives of the previous government coalition (PSRM and the political bloc ACUM) couldn’t reach a compromise regarding submitting the list of candidates for the position of Prosecutor General. The no-confidence motion was voted by 63 Members of the Parliament (MPs) – 34 MPs from PSRM and 29 deputies from DPM.

The next day, socialists declared their support for the initiative of President Igor Dodon to create a minority Government. “It will be made up of professionals, apolitical and technocratic people, to ensure the good development and progress of the Republic of Moldova. […] The next Government will be a technocratic one, not a political one. However, the Government will have all the powers to implement the economic and social projects that the PSRM has promoted so far.” it was said in a PSRM statement.

Political experts though, have very big doubts that an apolitical minority government controlled by one political party is possible, from the very beginning, being clear that it will be directly connected to PSRM and President Dodon.

In such a way, beside assuming the responsibility for the minority government in Moldova, PSRM is currently represented by the speaker and the vice-president of the Parliament, as well as by four members of the Permanent Bureau of the legislative power.

The Government

The new prime minister along with the new Government were appointed as quick as lighting, President Dodon said there is no reason to wait 90 days as the law stipulates and Ion Chicu (the former adviser of the President Dodon) was appointed the prime minister of the country. In reality, all of it seemed like a hell of a plan: ruling in a coalition to gain credibility internationally and, at the proper moment, getting rid of it and establishing a new, controllable Government with the support of own political party.

Beside Prime Minister Ion Chicu, there are five more former advisers to the head of state who were appointed Ministers in the new Cabinet, as well as the PSRM lawyer. That is one of the reasons why the newly established Government can’t be categorised as apolitical by political analysts and civil society.

The first signs of attempting to control the Government were openly manifested at the first sitting of the Cabinet of Ministers, which was personally chaired by the President Dodon, even though that challenges the principle of separation of power in a state. The sitting was suddenly and without any explanation held behind closed doors, albeit it was initially announced as public.

“The Government led by Chicu is meant to solve problems certainly in the interests of society, but especially in the interests of the head of state. This is obvious,” declared the analyst Igor Boțan for FRE/RL.

source: gov.md| President Dodon sat on the Prime Minister’s chair, Prime Minister Chicu is on his right.

Former Prime Minister Maia Sandu declared that she had information about negotiations between President Dodon, socialists and democrats to tear down the government since September. “No matter if we had assumed the responsibility (for the  amendments to the Law on Prosecutor’s Office) or not, the government would have been anyway dismissed.[…] I was aware that, once Plahotniuc was away, Dodon would also try to subordinate the state institutions, but we could not fight both Plahotniuc and Dodon at the same time. We had to get rid of the most toxic first. The fact that Dodon subsequently violated the agreements with ACUM, showed his true self,” said Maia Sandu in an interview for G4Media.ro.

The Prosecutor General

The General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO) has a new Prosecutor General – Alexandr Stoianoglo, the only candidate (out of 4 proposed) who previously had a political (DPM) affiliation. President Igor Dodon signed the decree and presented him to the GPO. Everything happened in less than 24 hours since the interviews with candidates were conducted. “The appointment of the Prosecutor General is a long awaited moment, in order to overcome the deadlock of the General Prosecutor’s Office. I reiterate that, nowadays, the Republic of Moldova cannot afford to maintain a key institution in a semi-functional regime,” declared Igor Dodon.

Despite the lawsuit filed by the deputy of Prosecutor General Eduard Bulat against the Ministry of Justice, as well as the allegations made by former Minister of Justice Olesea Stamate, the same list of four candidates for the position of Prosecutor General was transmitted to the Superior Council of Prosecutors (SCP) by the decision of the new Minister of Justice, Fadei Nagacevschi.

More details on the subject here.

“The political situation that took place around the dismissal of the Government led by Sandu and the appointment of the Government led by Chicu was the high stake of President Igor Dodon to obtain and take control of the Prosecutor General, which would give him personal comfort and neutralise any surprise that could have appeared in the case of an independent prosecutor, as well as would ensure him a smooth election campaign and the second term in the next presidential elections,” opinated the economic expert Veaceslav Negruța in a press conference organised by IPN and Radio Moldova.

Media control

Accent TV (one of four TV stations affiliated with PSRM) has been renamed “the First in Moldova” and has obtained the right to re-transmit the broadcasts of the Russian main TV station Pervii Kanal. After the creation of “the First in Moldova” TV channel, Telesistem TV SRL (the founder of Accent TV) requested to the Audiovisual Council (AC) to issue a new broadcast license for the TV station Accent TV. Previously, Prime TV, a TV station affiliated with the former democrat leader Vladimir Plahotniuc, had this exclusive right.

Additionally, two other televisions – NTV Moldova, which re-transmits the Russian NTV channel, and Exclusiv TV, which re-transmits the Russian TV station TNT – are both administered by Exclusiv Media SRL, founded by the PSRM member Corneliu Furculiță.

As a result of these events, several NGOs from Moldova expressed their concern about the latest decisions of the AC, which would, according to them, stimulate media monopolisation in the Republic of Moldova. Also, the NGOs drew the attention of the AC members to the fact that PSRM affiliated TV stations reflect the most important topics on the public agenda by strongly favouring and promoting the PSRM members.

“It may happen that we will have an ideology that dominates the country again. We already had a time when everyone was thinking the same way. This led to nothing. The history repeats itself. When the government is changing, the redistribution of the media market is beginning. It’s sad. It proves that we didn’t develop as a society, as a state or as a political culture,” said the media expert Ion Bunduchi.

**

Igor Dodon is one of the most trusted persons in the Moldovan society. According to the last survey performed by the Public Opinion Fund, 26% of respondents said they trust President Igor Dodon the most. Therefore, having the society’s support, control over media and the most important state institutions, it seems that the plans of President Dodon to gain the second presidential seat and switch to the presidential system have a big potential to become true. But will they?

Photo: gov.md

Society

What is the Moldovans’ budget share spent on food? Comparative figures

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While most of the European countries’ population spend not more than a quarter of their minimum wage on food, Moldovan people allocate 50,1% of it on food expenditures, estimated a study conducted by Picodi.com.

The analysts compared food prices with the minimum wage, by creating a ‘shopping cart’, which included eight basic products designated to cover the daily nutritional needs of an adult: bread, milk, eggs, rice, cheese, meat, fruit and vegetables.

The total estimated value of the included products was 1034 lei, representing 50.1% of the net minimum wage in Moldova – 113 euros. In comparison with Moldova, the lowest minimum wages in the EU countries are in Bulgaria and Romania – 242 euros and 282 euros respectively, Bulgarians and Romanians spending 23,4% and 29,5% of their minimum wage value on food. At the same time, such countries as Luxembourg and Ireland have settled their minimum wage level among the highest in the EU – 1796 euros and 1574 euros per month respectively, the food expenditures in these countries reaching  only 9,5% and 7,3% of the minimum countries’ budget.

According to the national statistics of Moldova, provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the monthly average wage earning in 2018 was 5141.9 lei (about 250 euros at that moment), that being 12% more than in 2017. Also, the consumer price index (CPI) for food products amounted 107.5% in December 2019, as compared to December 2018, while in December 2018 the CPI marked 100.9%, as compared to December 2017.

The same source shows that the average monthly expenditure budget of the population of the Republic of Moldova in 2018 was on average 2407.9 lei per person (117 euros), increasing by 7.0% compared to the previous year. In real terms (with the adjustment to the consumer price index) the population spent on average 3.9% more in 2018 compared to 2017.

The national statistics prove the same thing: most of the Moldovans’ expenses are designated for food purchasing – 43.8%, being followed by the maintenance of the house expenses – 18.2% of the total consumption expenses, clothing and footwear – 10.7%, health services – 5.1%, communications – 4.6%, transportation – 4.0%, housing – 3.8% and education – 0.5%.

In addition, almost 40% of the population of the Republic of Moldova said that their income is only enough for their basic needs, while 24,3% said that the money they earn are not even enough for the basic needs they have, as a survey conducted by the Sociologists and Demographers Association displayed. The biggest concerns of Moldovans are poverty (25,8%), unemployment (23,1%), migration (21,3%) and corruption (19,2%).

Photo: Rob Maxwell |Unsplash

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Politics

Moldova in the last decade// the most prominent political fiascoes the country experienced

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The decisions taken by the Constitutional Court, the expulsion of Turkish teachers, the adoption of the mixed electoral system, the president removed from office “for 5 minutes”, the lack of Government or the doubled Government – there were so many failures in the Moldovan politics in the last 10 years, that it’s hard to count them.

During the last ten years, the citizens of the country have witnessed many changes of the political and state institutions. Moldova.org selected the most relevant events. Here is where we can remember the saying “Every nation has the leaders it deserves.”

1  Decisions of the Constitutional Court from 7 to 9 June 2019

The Constitutional Court of Moldova (CC) announced, on June 7, that the deadline for the Parliament, which was elected on February 24 and validated on March 9, to appoint the new Government expired. The CC calculated that the constitutional term of “three months” provided for the formation of the Government actually means “90 days” and that it expired on June 7, not on June 9. The next day, the political bloc ACUM and the PSRM signed a temporary agreement for the formation of a majority government, Zinaida Greceanii being voted the president of the Parliament and Maia Sandu being appointed the head of the Government.

Immediately thereafter, the CC declared all the laws and decisions adopted by the new Parliament as unconstitutional. On June 9, the Constitutional Court decided to remove President Igor Dodon from office and appointed Pavel Filip as the interim president. After the Democratic Party announced its power withdrawal, on June 15, the CC cancelled its own previously taken decisions.

The Venice Commission published an opinion, stating that the CC violated its own procedures when taking the respective decisions, but also the principle of impartiality towards the political parties. The Commission recalled that the Court’s role is to be equidistant and to act as an impartial arbitrator in the event of a confrontation between political parties.

2 The period of two Governments

Between June 8-15, 2019, the Republic of Moldova had two Governments – the Government appointed by the newly formed majority government, led by Maia Sandu and the previous Government who still remained in power, according to the decision of the CC. Pavel Filip, the so-called interim president, announced the dissolution of the Parliament and the date of future snap elections.

The newly elected Parliament had its first session in the dark, as the technical employees of the building did not come to work that day. The democrats stated that they did’t recognise the new Government and didn’t intend to give up the power. The democrats’ leader Vladimir Plahotniuc accused the socialists of trying to usurp power. A week later, the Democratic Party decided to give up the power in favour of the Government appointed by the ACUM and socialists’ majority.

3 Clandestine interceptions’ scandal

A RISE Moldova investigation has discovered an entire operation of intercepting and chasing the political opponents of the democratic government, which has been carried out in recent years. The operation was carried out under cover of three criminal cases, filed because of inconvenient Facebook messages or statements at press conferences. As a result, it was established that the activities of 52 people, including politicians, representatives of civil society, organisations representatives and journalists, were investigated by prosecutors and police officers.

After coming to power, the ACUM representatives declared that the number of people chased by the former government was much higher. In addition to intercepting phone calls, some of them have also been monitored, as microphones and video cameras were installed in their houses. President Igor Dodon claimed that, in 2018, there were 10 thousand interceptions, out of which 600 at the request of the Information and Security Service (ISS), and 3 300 interception in 2019, out of which 200 were initiated at the request of ISS. Most interceptions were initiated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). Based on the interception scandal, criminal cases were filed against four MIA employees, three prosecutors and four judges.

4 Camouflaged expulsion of Turkish teachers

On September 6, 2018, seven Turkish citizens who were teachers at Horizon High School, were removed from their homes by employees of the ISS and taken in an unknown direction. The state institutions declared the action as “expulsion”, saying that the Turkish nationals were suspected of links with an Islamist group. They have been declared undesirable by the competent bodies and expelled from the territory of the Republic of Moldova.

The Turkish citizens were taken to Turkey by a charter plane and were sentenced to years of imprisonment. Immediately after the expulsion operation, European officials asked the Moldovan authorities “to comply with the rule of law and all judicial procedures” in this case. On June 11, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights issued a conclusion stating that Moldova violated the rights of Turkish citizens and required the government to pay 25 thousand euros for each of the Turkish citizens, whose rights were violated.

5 Cancellation of Andrei Nastase mayoral mandate

In June 2018, the Chișinău District Court cancelled the results of the snap local elections for the mayoral seat of the capital city. The elections were won by the Dignity and Truth Platform Party leader, Andrei Năstase. His mandate was not validated on the grounds that he would have campaigned on social media on the day before elections. Andrei Năstase addressed voters on Facebook and advised them to participate in the vote.

The decision was heavily criticised by local experts, ambassadors and representatives of international forums. The decision remained in force and after being challenged in the higher courts. After one year and three months, the mandate of Andrei Năstase was validated. By that moment other local elections were organised and his rival, socialist Ion Ceban won the mayor seat.

6 The Citizenship by Investments Law


Also in 2018, the Parliament adopted the law on granting citizenship by investments – a mechanism by which foreign citizens could obtain citizenship of the Republic of Moldova. “The Law on Citizenship by Investments of the Republic of Moldova is one of the projects that created favourable conditions for international money laundering,” Transparency International-Moldova states in a report. Such models for granting citizenship are criticized by European officials, and some countries have already given up these programs. In the summer of 2019, the Government instituted a moratorium on this law for a period of four months.

7 The president removed from power “for 5 minutes”

In 2017, the Constitutional Court decided that the president’s refusal to carry out his constitutional duties in appointing a minister represented “a temporary impossibility to exercise his duties” and justified assigning the president of the Parliament or the prime minister as the interim head of state. In other words, the CC decided that the president Igor Dodon had no veto in appointing a minister, and the signature of the head of state on the confirmation decree is only a formal one.

In the period of 2017 to 2018, Igor Dodon was temporarily removed from office for five times, and the respective decrees were signed by the President of the Parliament Andrian Candu. The removal for “five minutes” became a joke of the representatives of civil society and experts who stated that Igor Dodon may claim to be included in the Guinness Book of Records. In December 2018, Igor Dodon stated that he had called for protest in case another removal from power would have taken place.

8 The adoption of the mixed electoral system

In the summer of 2017, the Parliament adopted the law on the mixed voting system. It provided that 50 deputies would be elected on party lists, and 51 – directly by citizens, in single-seat constituencies. The mixed voting system was adopted by the socialists, democrats and popular-Europeans and has been criticised by the Venice Commission, the European Union, the United States and by the political opposition.

After the formation of the new majority government, the Parliament adopted, in the summer of 2019, the return to the proportional representation system, cancelling the mixed voting system.

9 The appointment of the Government led by Pavel Filip

On January 20, 2016, the Parliament where the democrats held the majority, granted a vote of confidence to the candidate Pavel Filip and his Cabinet of Ministers. At that time, neither the draft Government activity program, nor the list of proposed Government members had been made public. The new Government was voted in a session that lasted about 30 minutes, in which the designated PM held a speech for 8 minutes and, in another 2 minutes, presented the Executive’s list. The discussions and debates were omitted.

Moreover, the procedure for taking the oath by the members of the Government also took place on January 20, secretly, at midnight. Thousands of protesters surrounded Parliament, calling for snap parliamentary elections. Subsequently, the protesters entered the Parliament building forcefully, and altercations took place.

10 Ilan Șor became the mayor of Orhei

Being criminally investigated in the “Theft of the century” case and being arrested at home, on June 14, 2015, Ilan Shor won the mayoral elections with 61.97% of the votes. Political analysts described his involvement in politics as an intention to escape house detention.

In 2017, he was sentenced by the first court to 7 and a half years in prison. Despite the accusations, Ilan Șor pleaded not guilty and continued his political activity . Moreover, he also obtained a mandate as a member of the Parliament. In 2019, he received the certificate of integrity to run for parliamentary elections. Later on, Ilan Şor left the country despite the court ban, after the democrats’ power withdrawal.

11 The theft of the century


In 2014, the Republic of Moldova became the scene of an international scandal, following a fraudulent scheme of 1 billion withdrawal from 3 saving banks from Moldova. To save the situation, two governments (led by Iurie Leancă and Chiril Gaburici) took decisions to grant state guarantees for covering the hole in the banking system. To investigate the case, Kroll company was invited.

At the initiative of the political bloc ACUM, a new parliamentary commission was created in order to investigate the banking fraud. It’s conclusions were that the amount of damage could be much higher than initially stated and that the main beneficiaries of the bank robbery were the Vladimir Plahotniuc, Ilan Șor and Vladimir Filat groups.

12 The stolen billion has to be paid by Moldovan citizens in the next 21 years


In 2016, the Government led by Pavel Filip decided to convert the emergency loans, amounting to 13.5 billion Moldovan lei, transferred by the National Bank of Moldova to three affected by the robbery banks, into state debt. Therefore, the citizens of Moldova would have to return in the next 25 years about 21 billion Moldovan lei (including the interest for the emergency loans). It was calculated that every child born in the Republic of Moldova would owe the state 4000 lei (182 euros) from the first day of his life.

13 No president, for almost three years

In 2009, when the former head of state Vladimir Voronin announced his resignation, the Parliament tried twice, but without success, to elect the democratic leader Marian Lupu to this position. In November 2010, due to Parliament’s inability to elect the head of state, snap parliamentary elections were held again. Finally, in March 2012 the candidacy of the former president of the Superior Council of Magistracy, Nicolae Timofti, was voted to be the president. Therefore, the constitutional crisis lasted for about two and a half years (from September 2009 to March 2012).

This text is a translation. The original article can be found here.

Photo: privesc.eu

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Economy

The Chicu government was criticised for its intention to introduce taxes on digital giants. Expert’s opinion

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The Government of Moldova led by Ion Chicu was criticised for the proposal of Ministry of Finance, made after the draft state budget for 2020 was made public, to oblige multinational digital companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Netflix or Airbnb to register legal entities in Moldova and pay VAT on the revenues they earn from Moldovan users.

However, “going alone against the companies that rake in colossal revenues by any standards can undermine the efficiency of the whole enterprise and even affect our relationship with the United States,” it is opinated in a study, which has Vladislav Kaim, the member of the UNCTAD Youth Network and a master student in Economics at Lund University, as the author.

According to the Ministry of Finance estimations, such measures of taxation would bring additional 100 million lei in the state budget. Still, the experts community, political opposition and public reacted rather sceptically and, as a result, the Government had to postpone the entering of the decision in force from 1 January to 1 April, as it is mentioned in the study.

In the context of a union-wide digital services tax, which is aimed to be implemented by the EU in 2020, but also the disagreements between countries with different interests, “Moldova as a small market with no current stake in the future of digital economy even more so cannot afford to act unilaterally,” claimed Kaim.

“The presence of Google, Facebook and other digital giants in the life of Moldovans is ubiquitous. Thus, it is the duty of the government to make sure that our citizens get a fair deal from it, but unilateral measures imposed by a small and one of the poorest countries in Europe against the behemoths who thrive on effects of scale an global reach have a very limited potential of achieving that. Their potential impact on our relationship with the US should also be considered.”

The expert suggested two more strategies for the Moldovan government to choose from, instead of going alone against digital giants without leverage. First, to delay the adoption of the new tax until January 1, 2021, until the EU would establish a permanent solution. “Thus, the Moldovan digital taxation regime will match the one of the biggest single market in the world, which can generate beneficial spillover effects in other spheres – for example, a faster obtaining of the GDPR adequacy decision,” Vladislav Kaim claimed.

In case the executive wants to adopt a more proactive and regional strategy, it could come up with an initiative of a joint Eastern Partnership task force on digital taxation, comprised of representatives of the ministries of economy, fiscal bodies and antitrust regulators. “Aiming for an EaP wide digital service tax in coordination with the processes in the EU will likely be supported by the office of Margrethe Vestager, the vice-president of the European Commission whose mandate lies in this sphere,” specified the author of the study.

The study was produced within the project “Fostering the Adoption and Implementation of Key Reforms”, implemented with the support of National Endowment for Democracy and Watch Dog Moldova.

Photo: DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

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