Author: Dionis Cenusa
Cooperation between different external factors in supporting policy change in Moldova may be a rarer case on the common geopolitical competition space of Russia, the EU and the US. This consensus of the external actors, not present in the Western Balkans, Ukraine or Georgia, encouraged the Moldovan political forces with contradictory geopolitical preferences to form a governing coalition. Thus, the supporters of Russia – the Socialists, and the promoters of the Western orientation – the ACUM Block, set-up and maintained a common government, though only for about five months. During this period, dialogue with the EU was easily resumed and accelerated, faster and more qualitatively than the warming of the relationship with Russia.
Even though the fall of the PSRM-ACUM government was caused by the major differences in approach for the selection mechanism of the general prosecutor, Russia considers the destabilization of the government and the fall of the government of Maia Sandu were based on the differences in the foreign policy – geopolitical orientation. Such positions of Russia in relation to the Moldovan political context from June to November 2019 can be seen from the analysis of the public statements made by the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. His statements show the exact role that the Russian side has assumed in solving the Moldovan political crisis. Three major elements of incongruence can be observed between Kozak’s expectations regarding the political situation in Moldova, in June, and his later justifications, expressed in November 2019.
- “Moscow hasn’t decided anything” in Moldova, although it influenced the behavior of the Socialists. The Russian official Dmitry Kozak denied the hypothesis that Russia would have intervened in the process of appointing the Maia Sandu government in June 2019. In his view, the creation of the PSRM-ACUM coalition was a pragmatic decision of the Moldovan political forces in a political situation of high emergency. Even if, Kozak claims that Russia didn’t interfere in Moldova’s internal affairs, he openly acknowledges that he “strongly recommended” Socialists and President Dodon to reject the secret post-electoral offers of the Democratic Party to form a coalition in exchange for “federalization of the country ”and deepening Moldovan-Russian relations” (Kommersant, 11 Iunie 2019). Certainly, the Russian side doesn’t have the power to influence all the political actors in Chisinau. However, Kozak openly admitted that he exerted influence on the president and the most voted parliamentary political party, which resulted in the establishment of the coalition between the PSRM and the ACUM Block.
- From the necessary early elections to “avoiding unwanted elections by citizens”. The removing of the regime, described by Russia as “criminal” (Tass, 15 Iunie 2019), but also the “correction” of electoral legislation for a new electoral ballot (Kommersant, 11 Iunie 2019), was the main mission of the PSRM-ACUM coalition, according to Kozak calculations, expressed in June 2019. At a distance of five months, when the government of Maia Sandu fell following a no confidence vote, Kozak radically revised his opinion about early elections. Thus, in June, the snap elections were proposed as a solution to the political crisis, provided that the PSRM-ACUM coalition modifies the electoral legislation, returning to the proportional vote. Already in November the same year, the Russian deputy prime minister appreciates the importance of avoiding early elections while appointing a new government. He even mentioned that the citizens are “pretty annoyed” of elections (Government.ru, 20 Noiembrie 2019). Moreover, previously critical of any collaboration between the Socialists and the Democratic Party, the latter being accused of installing a “criminal” regime, the Russian authorities didn’t condemn in any ways the formation of the government, led by PM Ion Chicu, with the votes of the party that was almost six months ago controlled by the fugitive oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc.
- Temporary but not unstable governing coalition. Initially, Dmitry Kozak’s anticipation was that the ruling PSRM-ACUM coalition would be a short-term construction (Kommersant, 11 Iunie 2019). Nonetheless, the temporary character of the government doesn’t mean that it should be as well politically unstabile. As the “marriage” between the two parties was artificial, it was clear that the “divorce” should be as well coordinated. These projections deduced from Kozak’s statements differ fundamentally from the political developments in the field – the overthrow of the ACUM-led executive and the accusation of the Socialists of concentrating the power, similar to former ruler Vladimir Plahotniuc. In November, Kozak declared that from the very beginning it was known that such a government couldn’t be stable, and the approximately five months of accomplished coalition is above what Moscow expectated (Government.ru, 20 Noiembrie 2019). Moreover, the Russian side avoids talking about the same temporary character of the newly appointed government in Chisinau, which has the minority support of the Socialists in parliament and depends on the goodwill of the Democrats, associated earlier this year by Kozak with the “criminal regime” led by Plahotniuc.
The Moldovan case confirms the perception that the rhetoric of the Russian officials contains multiple incongruities, and the frequent changes of positions characterize the adaptability of the Russian interests to the newly formed political circumstances. Specifically, Russia supports any political developments that strengthen the positions of pro-Russian forces and their alignment with the Russian interests in a targeted country and in the neighboring region. For these reasons, Kozak didn’t see “anything wrong” in the fall of the government of Maia Sandu (Government.ru, November 20, 2019), erected with his support too. On the contrary, he expressed the readiness of Russia to support the new government, which Moscow prefers to see focused on domestic policy and relations with Russia.