A lot of political confusion has happened in Chisinau over the last days: the newly formed coalition government composed of the political bloc ACUM and the Socialist Party of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) with its informal leader – President Dodon, aim to free Moldova of oligarchy and corruption. However, replacing the democrat PM Pavel Filip isn’t easy, as Filip himself is appointed by the Constitutional Court (CC) as interim head of state. He already signed for dissolving the Parliament, announcing snap elections on September 6th.
No matter how confusing this might be, the background is obviously about the usurpation of power by the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc who is the leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM) and, by far, the richest man in the country. Plahotniuc is the one who also controls the CC of Moldova, as he appointed the ‘right’ people as judges there. The CC has actively been following Plahotniuc’s orders by constantly annulling every decision made by the new Parliament.
In order to cease the Democratic Party’s pressures and influence, the socialists have finally joined forces with the pro-Europeans from ACUM Bloc. However, according to the Moldovan CC, the deputies failed to form a coalition government within the period prescribed by the constitution. As the constitutional judges said, the deadline expired on Friday. Thereupon, they demanded the dissolution of the parliament. Nevertheless, the deputies met on Saturday. One of the most absurd parliamentary meetings from a couple of days ago turned out to be one of the most crucial one in the history of the Moldovan democracy. On June 8th, the parliament has voted for appointing the ACUM member of the Parliament (MP), Maia Sandu, the prime minister of Moldova and the socialist MP, Zinaida Greceanii, the speaker of the Parliament, during the Saturday’s special session. The decisions were almost immediately declared ‘unconstitutional’ by the CC.
The European Union has taken a “good note of the decisions taken yesterday by the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, including on the formation of the government coalition,” shows the statement by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn on the political situation in the Republic of Moldova. The Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, requested an urgent opinion from the Venice Commission on the latest decisions of the Constitutional Court, including on the conditions of the dissolution of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova. The NATO spokesperson commented the situation, stating that “NATO is following with concern the political crisis in the Republic of Moldova, calling on all political forces in the country to exercise calm and restraint, and to resolve their differences through dialogue, in full respect of the rule of law”. On the other hand, Amnesty International Moldova is deeply worried about the intimidation made recently by journalists and some representatives of parliamentary parties. At the same time, the organization urges all state authorities to comply with the rule of law and international conventions and not to commit abuses.
The Council of Europe calls on all political forces in Moldova to act responsibly now. Political problems should resolved by the country’s democratically elected representatives in Parliament. We are ready to assist Moldova with the necessary reforms. #ECHR #RuleofLaw @coe
— Daniel Holtgen (@CoESpokesperson) June 9, 2019
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) June 9, 2019
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) June 9, 2019
— Anders Åslund (@anders_aslund) June 9, 2019
What is happening in #Moldova is essentially a coup attempt. An interest group that controls most state institutions is attempting a hostile and unlawful takeover of power from a lawfully elected government. This is my understanding of the situation. THREAD.
— András Tóth-Czifra (@NoYardstick) June 9, 2019
The essense of the crisis in Moldova is that the oligarchic power is doing whatever to prevent a government formed by majority in the parliament. Firm @eu_eeas @eu_near line necessary. https://t.co/kdyMubnQ7c
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) June 9, 2019
Now news from Chisinau are awful. EU should react.Mold Parliamentarians speak about state capture.Citizens fear violent escalations.Personalized sanctions ag those behind escalations? @JosephDaul @ManfredWeber @guyverhofstadt @petras_petras @UdoBullmann @ph_lamberts @sandumaiamd https://t.co/AH36GsRZeM
— Rebecca Harms (@RebHarms) June 9, 2019
.@PDMoldova must immediately and peacefully ensure the transfer of power to the parliament and government that represent the majority of the will of the people. As of yesterday, #Moldova is no longer a captured state and it’s time he accepts this.
— Joseph Daul (@JosephDaul) June 9, 2019
Statement by #OSCE Chairperson-in-Office @MiroslavLajcak calls on all political forces in the Republic of Moldova to overcome current political crisis through dialogue, on basis of Constitution and respect for democratic principles and rule of law. https://t.co/yaLBwZiCR2
— OSCE (@OSCE) June 9, 2019
The U.S. calls on all Moldovan parties to show restraint and to agree on a path forward through political dialogue. Ensuring a prosperous and democratic future for Moldova and its citizens is a shared goal the United States will continue to support. https://t.co/uOOMjIRHki pic.twitter.com/IK0Zf9rNps
— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) June 9, 2019
Fully support #Moldova ‘s new government led by @sandumaiamd, based on a democratically elected Parliament. Call for swift & smooth transfer of power, in line with Moldova’s commitments to international standards. @filip_pavel @PDMoldova @FedericaMog“
— davidmcallister (@davidmcallister) June 10, 2019
The staged DPM protests with tents in front of Moldova’s official buildings escalated…
On Sunday morning, the streets of Chisinau were surprised by circulating columns of minibusses. People from various districts of the Republic of Moldova came to Chisinau to take part in a public protest organized by the DPM. People said anonymously that their arrival to the capital was organized by representatives of the DPM. Being afraid to speak about it because of the risk of losing their jobs, the citizens declared that they were offered free transportation, free food, and water. On the other hand, some of them had the nerve to claim that they came to defend their country “against traitors and those who made an alliance in the Parliament at night.”
The Democratic Party, through their staged protest demanding Igor Dodon’s immediate resignation for “the country betrayal”, approved a resolution to this effect, which they took to the Presidency, to hand over to Igor Dodon. There, the protesters were ordered to throw five turkeys over the presidential fence, birds which laid paralyzed, dying on the ground for the entire day.
Karl Luganov, the president of the Human Society Association, says the democrats’ gesture to throw turkeys over the presidential fence is miserable, writes ZdG.
Article 2221 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Moldova provides that the cruel treatment or torture of animals that have caused their mutilation or death in the public or in the presence of minors shall be punished by a fine in the amount of 750 to 1350 conventional units and with unpaid work community benefit from 180 to 240 hours or one to three years in prison.
To this question, Igor Dodon answered that there are two solutions for the political turmoil created in the country.
“The process has already started. What has happened previously will not happen anymore. That’s it,” says Dodon.
According to him, a solution is to call the massive people on the street. Only not for now, as there is a risk of mass disorder. Igor Dodon says he urges all his supporters not to come out on the street as long as the Democratic Party protests are going on.
On the other hand, Maia Sandu thanked the European Union for the support, and addressed a message to the General Police Inspectorate, the General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations and the Department of Carabineer Troops, asking them to abide by the law.
“Peacefully, by obeying the law, the government must come into office. I order you to do your duty to the country and the citizens,” communicated the leader of the ACUM bloc.
Still, “the national army does not interfere in the political crisis and will remain outside political games,” says the official statement of the department.
“In accordance with Article 108 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, the armed forces are subject exclusively to the will of the people in order to guarantee the sovereignty, independence, unity, territorial integrity of the country and constitutional democracy.”
Furthermore, the Ministry of Defense communicated that access to all military units and institutions of the Ministry of Defense is prohibited to anyone except the institution’s personnel.
Why is everything that’s happening so important?
First of all, publishing the Kroll-2 report is one of the actions of the anti-oligarchic package proposed by the ACUM bloc. There are more actions and each of them is strategic.
Even though both the ACUM bloc and the Socialist Party entered the parliament and have reached a common denominator with essentially anti-corruption statements, we – citizens – have no guarantee that there are no Socialist Party members within the Kroll-2 report, who are kept under great secrecy by the Democratic Party. Therefore, as the MP, Dumitru Alaiba, said, this document must first be published in order to minimize the risk that someone who is involved in the main agenda, in some way or another, benefits from the theft of the century.
Citizens do not yet trust the political class, which means that the vision of freeing Moldova from corruption and oligarchy is a major step towards a democratic future.
Will the Moldovan President (re)join the dark side?
Following the political events that took place over the past few days, President Igor Dodon summoned a meeting with the counselors and heads of the President’s office.
“I mentioned the necessity of updating the composition of the Supreme Security Council and calling it urgently. Moreover, today, I will invite the diplomatic corps accredited to the Republic of Moldova to discuss the current situation in the country. We reiterated the importance of promulgating the laws recently adopted by the new parliamentary majority composed of the PSRM and ‘ACUM’,” wrote Dodon on his Facebook page.
The meeting was convened by Igor Dodon in the context in which, this weekend, the Constitutional Court took several decisions criticized by lawyers, which declared the government led by Maia Sandu unconstitutional, but also by which Igor Dodon was temporarily suspended from office.
Will the Moldovan President (re)join the dark side? Dodon has already claimed that Plahotniuc will try to get rid of him, perhaps just like he got rid of Vlad Filat back when the ex-PM betrayed their “friendship.”
In conclusion, the president claims there are three ways that Plahotniuc can get rid of him:
“What the General Prosecutor’s Office is doing and what is going on, Shor, others who now write to the Prosecutor’s Office … According to the law, they have the right to waive the immunity of the president, only by Parliament’s vote,” Dodon said.
- family threats
“There are messages that he’ll arrest my family and children so I that could write my leave request for personal reasons. Their hope is that I will take my family and run out of the country. I’d like to let him know that I won’t give in, and there will be no need of writing me any leave request, regardless of all the dirt and blackmail that will come to me in next hours, days. Do not touch the family, Mr. Plahotniuc,” added Dodon.
- “physical liquidation”
“I could also consider physical liquidation,” said Dodon in an interview.
EU official: “It’s been a long time we’ve been patient. We will judge the Government’s actions objectively.”
Director for Russia, Eastern partnership, Central Asia and OSCE, and Deputy Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia at the European External Action Service (EEAS), Luc Pierre Devigne, paid a visit to Chișinău today to participate in the 5th meeting of the EU-Moldova Association Committee.
He addressed a message to the Moldovan government during a press conference, criticising the way the reforms were implemented in the country, especially the way the famous bank fraud from Moldova, called also “the theft of the century” was investigated. Devigne considers inadmissible the fact that, after five years, the persons and companies that were involved in the fraud were not held accountable.
“It is unacceptable that after the theft of the billion was uncovered and deeply investigated by a leading financial investigation team – the Kroll company, whose findings were made publicly available, the investigation was still not finalised on various pretexts. We cannot believe that it is legally not possible to prosecute such a fraud.[…] It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that justice works in the country. We want to see an open and transparent process that includes not only the Government, but also the consultation of opposition, civil society and the EU institutions recommendations.” said Devigne.
The EU official told the Moldovan politicians: “It’s time for actions. It’s been a long time we’ve been supportive, we’ve been patient. Now, we will judge the Government’s actions objectively.”
“The EU has always supported the Republic of Moldova, but the EU cannot substitute for good governance and the actions that should be taken by the Government. Our support is not unconditional.”
He said that European assistance will depend on how laws and democratic standards will be respected in Moldova. Particularly, Luc Pierre Devigne mentioned that the Republic of Moldova should join the Anticorruption Network for an effective fight against corruption, strengthen independent media and improve the quality of life in the case of the Moldovan citizens.
Luc Pierre Devigne also referred to the subject of the Citizenship by Investment Law, on which the Government applied a moratorium, but only until February 24, 2020. The official was disappointed that people who obtained such kind of citizenship remained anonymous. “We do not see this as compatible with a serious and secure visa liberalisation regime. It’s a security issue.” highlighted Devigne.
One of the central messages of the EU delegation to Moldova concerned the importance of boosting the cooperation between Moldova and the community bloc.
At the same time, the Moldovan authorities reiterated their commitment to comply with the recommendations of international organisations such as the OSCE and the Venice Commission, and to ensure public consultations on major projects.
Who is going to pay back the stolen billion? President Dodon proposed a new legislative measure
A new legislative initiative was announced by the president of state, Igor Dodon. According to him, the burden of the robbed billion from the banking system placed on the shoulders of citizens will be reduced.
In October 2016, the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova voted a bill, called unofficially “the Law of a Billion”, providing for the conversion into state debt of emergency loans of 13.5 billion lei, disbursed by the National Bank of Moldova (NBM) to the bankrupted banks involved in the “Great Moldovan Bank Robbery” that happened in 2014. The state debt, including the interest, was to be returned by the Moldovan citizens out of their paid taxes, over the next 25 years. The first payment of 668 million lei was made in October 2017. In 2018, another 827 million lei were paid. By 2041, a total of 24.5 billion lei will be paid. More details here.
“We promised previously to reduce or exclude the burden put on the shoulders of citizens following the stolen billion. At this stage we found the mechanisms needed to reduce this burden by 5-6 billion lei, so 25% – 30% of it. The project was also discussed with our external partners from the IMF, and is to be approved by the Government in the next few days, as well as submitted to Parliament for approval,” declared Dodon.
The whole mechanism idea is to transfer half of the profit of the National Bank of Moldova to the state budget.
The NBM management declared that the president’s legislative initiative is balanced and that it has been discussed with the experts from the IMF as well. “Such a distribution is possible by amending the Law on the National Bank of Moldova in order to introduce a model of phased and partial distribution of profits to the state budget until the level of 10% of the capital of the NBM is reached. This would be in line with international practices and could ensure the balance between the distribution of profits to the state budget and the gradual capitalisation of the National Bank,” declared the NBM representatives.
The mechanism proposed by President Dodon is not new for the Republic of Moldova. It was previously implemented and afterwards dropped out in 2003. “We already had such a mechanism. After 2003, this practice was stopped, as it was considered that the NBM profit should remain with the NBM in order to strengthen the capacity of the institution, so that it can intervene on the currency or monetary market in case of a crisis,” claimed the economic expert Veaceslav Ioniță.
According to the economic expert, the solution proposed by the head of state could have negative consequences in the event of an economic crisis, when the NBM would have to intervene and the Government would have to cover the NBM’s financial needs. The expert said the president’s solution could raise several questions from the IMF: “I think we will have to provide explanations to the IMF because it was the IMF that said not to take the NBM profit in the state budget, and we are going back to what it was.”
The Dodon’s initiative was also criticised by the political opposition of the government. “The transfer of some income from one pocket of the state to another does not mean easing the burden placed on citizens. The solution for the Law (of a Billion) is to recover the money from those who stole it. […] The tactic of Igor Dodon is actually removing the money from the National Bank’s reserves to finance the huge expenses of the current government in the election year. The Moldovan Government has never planned to spend so much money, that has uncertain funding sources,” said former Minister of Finance Natalia Gavriliță.
Photo: unknown source
The Turkish teachers’ expulsion case – is the mystery solved?
Few days ago, Prosecutor General Alexandru Stoianoglo announced in a press conference that a criminal case, filed against the former director of the Information and Security Service (ISS), Vasile Botnari, for abuse of service in the expulsion under supervision of Turkish teachers from Moldova, was sent to the court.
According to the prosecutor general of Moldova, the entire operation of removal of Turkish citizens from the country was arranged, coordinated and managed directly by Botnari. Other persons earlier figuring in the same criminal prosecution – two former ISS deputy directors and the head of the Bureau of Migration and Asylum (BMA) – were declared as executing the ISS director orders without knowing that they were illegal, as Stoianoglo stated.
The former ISS director was the only one who has admitted his guilt, even though the other parts’ involvement in the case is evident, as a sic.md article pointed out.
The probation office declared that the ISS has taken over the removal actions in the absence of a written request from the BMA or a collaboration agreement in this regard, that is while the BMA is the only institution competent to organise and carry out the necessary activities in order to remove foreign citizens from the country.
“The fact that Vasile Botnari played a key role in the removal of the seven Turkish teachers from Moldova is clear. The moment he admits his entire guilt as some kind of scapegoat is clear. It is hard to believe though that prosecutors are so naive. […] And is ridiculous that absolutely no one else will be held responsible for one of the most shameful and criminal moments in the contemporary history of Moldova,” stated the sic.md article.
The former head of the BMA, Olga Poalelungi, removed from office in September 2019, and accused of expulsion under supervision of Turkish teachers, was reinstated to the former position. That happened despite the fact that her signature stands on the decision of the BMA, according to which the Turkish citizens were declared undesirable on the territory of the Republic of Moldova.
In September 2018, seven Turkish teachers from Orizont Lyceums were arrested in a joint operation conducted by the Moldovan and Turkish secret services. They were taken directly to Chisinau Airport, where a charter plane was waiting for them and immediately took them to Turkey. Their families had no knowledge of their fate for several weeks.
Reputable international media portals, such as Reuters, wrote about the case of the expulsion under supervision of seven Turkish citizens. “The detainees were teachers and officials at a network of schools originally set up by the movement of U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, which Turkish authorities hold responsible for a failed 2016 coup in Turkey,” is mentioned in the Reuters article.
Moldova’s ISS stated, at that moment, that foreign nationals were expelled because they posed a threat to national security. It is worth mentioning that all Turkish citizens who were improperly removed from the territory of the Republic of Moldova were sentenced to prison in Turkey. “The Moldovan authorities didn’t just violate these individuals’ rights once by deporting them – they put them on a fast-track to further human rights violations such as an unfair trial.” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia in a statement.
By its decision of June 11, 2019, the ECtHR found a violation of Articles 5.1 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and forced the Government of the Republic of Moldova to pay 25 000 euros for five Turkish citizens, whose rights were violated, the total amount for the compensation of the moral damage being of 125 000 euros.
Igor Dodon and (his) Presidency
On December 31, 2019, during the visit of the President of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Dodon, in Ankara, the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, officially thanked Dodon for the fact that the Moldovan authorities expelled the Turkish teachers from Moldova and brought them to the Turkish authorities.
President Igor Dodon several time denied that expelling citizens at the behest of the Turkish authorities was one of the conditions attached to Ankara’s donation to the renovation of the Moldovan presidential building.
The renovation of the presidential building was carried out by a Turkish construction company called Sonbay, according to an announcement of the Embassy of Turkey in the Republic of Moldova. The Embassy stated that, “the repair of the Presidency building represents a donation offered to the Moldovan people by the Turkish people,” as it was cited by ZdG.
Initially, the construction company announced that a sum of 7 180 000 euros will be used for reconstruction. Shortly after the Moldovan press announced the amount of the investment, the information was deleted from the company’s website.
Bușra Zeynep Șen, a teacher of Turkish origin from the International High School of Informatics in Bucharest, who is also Turgay Șen’s daughter – the former president of the Orizont Lyceums from the Republic of Moldova – was detained by police, based on a warrant issued by the Turkish authorities in December 2019.
Turgay Șen was detained at Chisinau Airport in March 2018, then heard for 7 hours at the Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Organised Crime and Special Cases and banned from leaving the country for a period. At that time, Turgay Șen declared that the criminal case against him was filed at the indication of the Moldovan leaders, in the interest of the Turkish authoritarian regime, in response to the donation for the restoration of the Presidency building.
Bușra’s lawyer explained to the Romanian media that the teacher was accused of being part of a terrorist group, while she already was employed as a teacher in Bucharest. Moreover, the Turkish citizen was tried in her absence in Turkey.
Fortunately, the extradition of Bușra Zeynep Șen was rejected. “From studying the warrant, I appreciate that extradition is required for political and social reasons, which violates human rights. The Prosecutor’s Office called for the extradition request to be rejected,” claimed the case prosecutor.
Bușra Zeynep Șen said for Moldova.org that all Turkish citizens living abroad became extremely vigilant after all the Turkish Government’s actions. However, Bușra never thought that the Turkish authorities would go through these procedures for her. “I am a 24-years-person. I lived in Turkey four years only, when I studied at the university. What could I have done to make them work so hard to get me back?” the woman wondered.
According to a press release published on the website of the State Information Agency from Moldova, the national mechanisms that regulate the status of foreigners are focused on identifying the reasons for removing the foreigners from the Republic of Moldova, rather than ensuring the necessary protection for them, the legal norms do not offer effective guarantees to the applicants for protection, and the administrative bodies often abuse the assigned prerogatives.