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bne IntelliNews – BALKAN BLOG: Embattled pro-EU authorities in Moldova opt for drastic and risky measures

“It is always easier to fight for your principles than to respect them,” Alfred Adler, an early 20th century Austrian psychotherapist, once said.

The quote from Adler, considered the first community psychologist, is very relevant for the pro-EU Moldovan authorities who now control all state institutions. Indeed, it is equally relevant to all post-communist regimes seeking to carry out justice reforms using limited instruments and within the clear boundaries of democracy.

Just like they suspended chief anti-corruption prosecutor Alexandr Stoianoglo over a year ago on the basis of cursory accusations sketched out overnight by one of their MPs (the MP later admitted to having drafted them based on media reports), the Action Party and Solidarity (PAS) of President Maia Sandu gives the impression that he now wants to ban the Shor party (and the socialist party too if possible) overnight, shut down the website which leaked conversations published between Justice Minister Sergei Litvinenco and his partners in the Superior Council of Prosecutors (CSP) and imprison those involved in the plot for life.

The conversations published by focus on how PAS representatives within the CSP coordinated to help their candidate win the competition to become the chief anti-corruption prosecutor. It’s unclear if their actions were critical to the outcome of the contest – but that doesn’t matter. It was not the competition for the head of the customs or environment agency, nor for the manager of public parks in Chisinau (quite important positions too), but for the person who was supposed to lead the national fight against Corruption.

Veronica Dragalin, the candidate allegedly promoted by Litvinenco and her CSP partners, has the best possible track record and credibility. But for some reason this was not enough for Litvinenco who, through his actions, showed that he was the first to doubt his merits. And why he never thought she could win the job purely on merit is relevant to the way Moldova’s pro-EU authorities think and work. Dragalin did not comment on the leaked conversations. But his mission against “perceived corruption” has just become more complicated.

She was selected by the same CSP which was “deeply restructured” (including changing its operating law) in an effort to ease Stoianoglo’s negative assessment and possibly enable her dismissal. Right now, Sandu is still weighing whether that would be a wise move.

Adler’s work emphasized the importance of nurturing feelings of belonging and striving for superiority.

His work would serve the authorities in Chisinau, who are facing street protests. Blaming Shor party leader Ilan Shor is the most obvious and easy thing to do – and Dragalin is taking steps to dismantle the organization behind the weekly protests in Chisinau. But this has its drawbacks (banning political parties is a shortcut to autocracy) and it is far from enough to stop the protests. Sandu’s mission is to address protesters who aren’t being paid by Shor – and their numbers are growing in direct proportion to the gas and electricity prices.

First challenge: street protests

The thousands of people gathering in the streets of Chisinau and other cities every weekend, as well as leaked Telegram conversations that appear to reveal political control over the judiciary, have prompted pro-EU authorities in Chisinau to take sweeping action against opposition parties and public figures. considered as threats.

The government is seeking to ban the Shor party and review the financial affairs of all associates fugitive businessmen and politicians Shor and Vlad Plahotniuc, as well as associates of Igor Chaika, the Russian business partner of former President Igor Dodon’s brother.

In separate developments that should not in principle be linked to the executive or legislative branches, or to pro-EU political parties, prosecutors look for at the headquarters of the Socialist Party (PSRM) on November 11 to collect new evidence concerning the illegal financing of the party.

The charges against the PSRM are similar to those against the Shor party: illegal financing of criminal groups and money laundering. However, a call for the PSRM to be banned would also raise concerns among independent civil society NGOs who have previously reported problematic decisions by pro-EU authorities.

Not a simple NGO, the Venice Commission criticized the pro-EU Moldovan authorities on the content of the CSP law and how it was amended. The PAS changed the law to give the CSP the right to subjectively assess chief prosecutors, which opens the door to political interference.

Banning the Shor party (a measure currently being assessed by the Constitutional Court at the government’s request) is an even more risky measure that can be considered a restriction on freedom of expression. The Shor party can be a political vehicle for Ilan Shor, but political parties, in general, are separate entities from their members or leaders.

“There is a Venice Commission decision on the banning of political parties, which calls on member states to be very careful about this,” explained Igor Botan, executive director of the Association for Participatory Democracy (ADEPT ), last year – when pro-EU authorities were considering banning Shor’s party for the first time.

Even if Ilan Shor is given a final sentence for his involvement in the so-called “billion dollar bank fraud” and prosecutors manage to show that the money Shor stole was used to finance the party, that would not be enough for the Constitutional Court to ban the party, he explained.

Second challenge:

Leaks in Moldova is the most significant negative development, after the weekly rallies organized by the Shor Party and the PSRM, used by the opposition parties (or rather their hidden supporters) for the pro-EU authorities.

The latest set of conversations includes alleged evidence arrangements made under the table to appoint Dragalin.

Igor Munteanu, a former diplomat and founder of the independent think tank Viitorul, more recently founder of the pro-EU and pro-NATO party CUB, suggested that the authenticity of the published conversations should be checked – and that the evidence should be carefully assessed, if valid. .

Third challenge: the cloning of pro-EU parties

Speaking of Munteanu, he and his party are relevant for the third line of attack developed by the opposition in Moldova. An increasing number of self-proclaimed pro-EU political parties are expressing views that undermine the credibility of pro-EU authorities or create a state of tension.

Sandu and Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita say they have evidence that Shor’s rallies are backed by Russia, but it’s unclear how many other politicians have Russian ties.

Muntean recently suggested that the time has come for Moldova to take aggressive action against the breakaway region of Transnistria, by blocking all natural gas supplies to the region. By contrast, authorities in Chisinau managed to maintain constant negotiations with Transnistria which, until it refused to supply electricity after November 1, also avoided any escalation. Sandu and his party have consistently advocated for a peaceful settlement of the situation in Transnistria.

Munteanu and his party too called on the government of Gavrilita to resignquestioning his good faith.

Former prime minister candidate Mariana Durlesteanu (who previously ran on the PAS ticket) is another self-proclaimed pro-EU and democratic-leaning politician who plans to start her own party. In 2021, Durlesteanu refused the nomination to the Prime Minister just in time to allow President Dodon to appoint his own candidate. She also criticized pro-EU authorities.

Other parties are gearing up to support Moldova’s “statality” – an ideology meaning bilateral relations with Russia and the EU but not EU membership. One of these parties is the Statalitate, with a discreet leadership, linked by the media to Russia.

The mayor of Chisinau, Ion Ceban, a former member of the Socialist Party, is also in the process of creating his own party. Ceban became mayor of Chisinau after a controversial court ruling disqualified his pro-EU rival – even though the latter got more votes.

None of the new parties already formed have a demonstrated link to Russia, but all are critical of the methods used by the current pro-EU authorities, with particular emphasis on the government’s performance in the year since taking office.