The way forward for Moldova after these elections

This Sunday’s elections in Moldova are the easiest choice this country has ever had. It is a choice between good and evil, white and black, future and past.

Moldova’s only oligarch and state captor Vlad Plahotniuc has to let democracy do its work. He must accept the fact he is and never has been wanted by the people. He has to leave – this is the only chance for Moldova to have a new start.

Maia Sandu, the only reliable pro-European presidential candidate would win the elections if Moldova’s state institutions would ensure equal conditions to hold credible, free and fair elections. Instead, evidence suggests that the institutions themselves were used to rig the rules of the game in favor of mainly two candidates – the nominally pro-Russian opposition Igor Dodon and the nominally pro-European candidate Marian Lupu. I emphasize ”nominally”, because neither of them are either pro-Russian or pro-European. Both of them are simply pro-Plahotniuc.

For those who follow these elections, watching the government’s every step, there is no doubt that these elections are already rigged. On the election day they will also steal votes. Maia Sandu will have to win in spite of all that.

The justification that everything is “according to the law” has become a mockery in these elections. The biggest frauds in this country have been made possible by first “adjusting” the legislation. Below are just a few of the most visible ”legal” circumstances that will influence the result of these elections, disadvantaging (but not disqualifying) the only credible opposition.

  • About 100.000 thousand students are barred from exercising their right to vote by an improvised rule that forces students to only vote at the place where they are officially registered (while many of them live in different towns or cities). There is no possible justification for that, given that people from abroad across the globe can vote on additional lists with no prior registration. This government is afraid of what the young people may say.
  • The number of voters in the lists for these elections is higher than the number of citizens this country officially has – an absurd and a clear indication that there are a lot of deceased people that are likely to ”vote” in these elections. There have been numerous cases when deceased people were found by their relatives in the lists. The bureaucrats have excuses and justifications why it is the way it is, while we have arguments that this was a deliberate move.
  • Many anonymous reports from individuals across the country state the same – the employees of the public sector are being intimidated to vote for Marian Lupu, instructed to photograph their vote as proof, being threatened to lose their jobs if they don’t. People across the country are being bullied to attend meetings with the government candidates, against their will. This is how they plan to win in the countryside, where jobs are scarce and the government is the sole job provider.
  • Corrupt political forces, like Dodon and Lupu, prevail financially with money of dubious origin – to put it mildly. State institutions are favoring Dodon by not taking action against clear violations when it became known, as a result of a journalist investigation, that his campaign is being financed from abroad.
  • The Plahotniuc media monopoly, his paid “bloggers” and ”analysits”, are visibly attacking Maia Sandu with manipulative labels, ”news” and ”analyses”, while we see total non-aggression, or even favorable attitude towards Dodon. In this campaign, Dodon has left a lot of questions unanswered about his past, and it is becoming clear by now that Dodon is as corrupt and money-hungry as the members of the so-called pro-European government. It is also ever more visible that Dodon is just another Plahotniuc’s puppet. The only reason why most people do not know Dodon’s true affinity to Plahotniuc is Plahotniuc’s media monopoly and control over the news flows.

If Maia Sandu wins, she will do it in spite of those obstacles.

While the polls, and the society’s general mood suggest there is no way a candidate affiliated with the present power will accede to the second round, this is the best and, perhaps, the only acceptable scenario for Plahotniuc. Having Dodon and Lupu ”fighting” in the second round, any outcome is comfortable for Plahotniuc, while the population is left with no real choice. They hope to make these elections a choice between the East and the West. Their media holding is putting significant effort. In fact, these elections will be for or against Plahotniuc. This is the real election choice.

Yes, Plahotniuc is fooling the West.

Having formally committed to preserve the ”pro-western orientation”, he is now literally bringing to power a nominally pro-Russian force. Why? Because from day one this Government is the least legitimate Government we have ever had and it was only pro-European in words, not in deeds. Neither his ways, nor his past suggests the fact that he is or ever was pro-European. As I was saying before, the “pro-western façade” of this government was intended just to buy time. In crisis of legitimacy, Plahotniuc hopes to legitimize his rule by bringing in a force from formal opposition and strike a deal in the nearest future.

This is not the solution for Moldova.

Plahotniuc’s weakest point is that he cannot afford the risk to stay in opposition not even for one month. His only objective is to remain in power for as long as he lives. Keeping a whole country as a hostage, he demands ransom from the West for maintaining “stability” from which he is the only one to profit. This is not the solution the people need. With his methods and mentality, this person has corrupted and destroyed anything he has ever touched – the justice, the administration, the institutions, the civil society, the mass media, the economy, the financial system.

The solution?

Pressure needs to be put on Plahotniuc, both from outside of the country, and from the inside, to determine him to democratically cede power. This is the only thing that can avoid disaster in this country. No other scenario is promising for the people of this country. His swings with Dodon is just rearranging the furniture on the Titanic, hoping to “calm down” the people. We must not allow the people to be fooled.

I am in no way comparing Georgia’s Saakashvili with Plahotniuc. They are different in every sense and even having these two names in the same sentence is an insult to the first. They have totally different past, skills and especially beliefs. One has served his country to build it, the other has destroyed his country for personal gain. However, the international community expressed repeated concern over the fact that Saakashvili may not cede power once it was anticipated he could lose elections in 2012, and that he would not ensure a peaceful transition of power. Being a true statesman, he did exactly that, accepting the people’s choice. This is exactly what Plahotniuc will never do. For him Moldova is not a country, it is a source of income. This is exactly what he must do because this is what one does in a democracy when people reject him.

Both the people and the international community needs to be ten times more categoric with Plahotniuc and not accept his “guarantees”. By now everybody must see that he is giving out contradicting promises by the day. He is a liar and a crook. He is very good at doing Putin’s job in Moldova, and discrediting the society’s pro-European sentiment. It is time we all admit that one cannot launder 20 billion USD from the Kremlin coffers and not have friends in Moscow.

His lobbyists and party affiliates claim in one voice that without Plahotniuc there will be chaos in the country. There is not much peace now. And in spite of his efforts to clear his image, we don’t buy this suddenly awakened patriotism, after he sucked this country dry the last fifteen years. If his own people don’t believe it, why should you?

They are saying that there is no alternative to the present government. That the alternatives are weak and incompetent. Doesn’t this make the rules of the game extremely easy for Plahotniuc? All he has to do in the next twenty years is keep these alternatives weak and fragile, small and fighting each other, destroy their credibility and discourage people from joining in. Something other dictators have mastered long time ago. He is the problem, not the solution. He is the reason competent people with good intentions avoid joining the government, knowing they will be forced to do things that contradict their beliefs. This country will be just fine without him. If we don’t worry, why should you? In the moment his grip on institutions, mass media and financial flows is eased, the alternatives will gain momentum.

The west has for too long believed his false commitments to ”modernize” Moldova. As years pass, this country is slowly dying out while Plahotniuc’s power is constantly increasing. Is a relation between these two that impossible, I ask? It is time this stops now. These elections are the best opportunity to stop the construction of the “vertical of power” and start dismantling it. A president that is an accomplice – this is the potential disaster, the big threat to this fragile democracy.

Moldova has no future with people like Plahotniuc in power. This is, at least, an empirical observation of this country’s evolution in the last fifteen years when he was, one way or another, in power. It is time he truly leaves, not simply jumps from one boat to the other.




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