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de facto ruler of Moldova Plahotniuc

Plahotniuc’s Moldova: My house is my castle

in Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · Europe 2017 · EX-USSR · Geopolitics · History 2017 · Nation 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 11 views / 5 comments

GEOMETR.IT  icds.ee

The political influence of billionaire businessman Vladimir Plahotniuc expanded seemingly unstoppably in Moldova’s state institutions and political system during the year just past. At the turn of 2015–2016, Plahotniuc moved to designate either himself or a nominee of his own for the vacant post of prime minister, in a controlled coalition. The climactic moment is expected in the second week of January 2016. Plahotniuc is the Democratic Party’s de facto leader, while the party’s official head, Marian Lupu, represents Plahotniuc in inter-party negotiations (Plahotniuc would intervene openly in make-or-break situations).

Although he has a minority party under his direct control (only the fourth-largest parliamentary party, following the November 2014 elections), Plahotniuc is a masterful political operator, apparently equaling his financial mastery. He has now moved close to completing a process of state capture, maximizing his political influence through tactical alliances with other groups, and subduing his remaining opponents through political control of key law enforcement bodies.

Plahotniuc built up his power base under the “pro-Europe” coalition government’s cover, amassing a wide range of instruments and gaining additional ones during 2015. Power instruments currently at his disposal include:

Long-term political alliances. Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party and Mihai Ghimpu’s smaller Liberal Party have operated a real coalition within the nominal coalition, undermining three consecutive Liberal-Democrat prime ministers (Vlad Filat, Iurie Leanca, Valeriu Strelet). The Liberal-Democrats with their European reform agenda were the main obstacle to Plahotniuc’s unlimited ambitions, hence Plahotniuc decided to reduce that party to an obedient rump. Ghimpu coalesced with Plahotniuc to destroy the Liberal-Democrats because these held firmly the political center-right, confining Ghimpu’s party to a niche on the far right (Moldovan definition of Romanian irredentism). Following the removal of Strelet in October 2015, the interim prime minister is the health minister Gheorghe Brega from the Liberal Party, a benign figurehead.

Short-term “situational” alliances. Outside the nominal pro-Europe alliance, Plahotniuc’s party operates ad hoc parliamentary alliances and combinations with the Communist and Socialist parties. He has enlisted these parties for crucial parliamentary votes, e.g. the removal (2013) and arrest (2015) of Filat, removal of Strelet (October 2015), or blocking Liberal-Democrats’ initiatives to release certain law enforcement agencies from subordination to the Parliament. That formal subordination provides cover for Plahotniuc’s de facto control of those agencies (see below), thanks to his ability to manipulate the Parliament itself.

Manipulation of parliamentary processes. The Parliament’s chairmanship was allocated to Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party by agreement among the coalition’s parties. The Parliament’s chairman since January 2015, Andrian Candu, is Plahotniuc’s own godson. Their Democratic Party has an informal deal with the Communist Party since February 2015 that has added 20 Communist votes to the Democratic Party’s 19 votes, Ghimpu’s 13 votes, and 4 “unaffiliated” deputies lured from other parties, including former prime minister “Iurie Leanca’s group” of 3 defectors from Filat’s party. All these amount to a Plahotniuc-controlled majority in the 101-seat parliament. This majority can be employed flexibly as needed. On December 21, 2015, Plahotniuc personally formed a “Social-Democrat Platform” of his own parliamentary group with 14 of the Communist deputies (Infotag, IPN, December 21, 22, 2015). Ghimpu’s party and Leanca’s group can, in turn, abstain from some votes, if they feel uncomfortable voting alongside Communists; in that case the Socialist Party would contribute their own 24 parliamentary votes to provide a “situational” majority (see above).

Control of law enforcement bodies. The governing coalition’s founding agreement had allocated top posts in certain law enforcement institutions to the Democratic Party. As a result, Plahotniuc’s appointees control the Anti-Corruption Center (a militarized agency), the Prosecutor General’s Office with its various branches, the National Commission for Integrity (supposedly it investigates conflicts of interest that involve state officials), and a governmental telecommunications and data center. The Democratic Party also controls parts of the court system, and it took over the Justice Ministry through a government reshuffle in 2015. These institutions have done little about Moldova’s rampant corruption, but have selectively targeted the Liberal-Democrat Party. They raided then-prime minister Filat’s offices and home in 2013, threatening with arrest and prosecution to force his dismissal; they “leaked” audio and video materials of dubious authenticity or legality, purporting to incriminate Liberal-Democrat ministers and other officials during 2013–2015; they hold several of Filat’s relatives in jail since 2014, and Filat himself since October 2015, on charges that the prosecutors have shifted several times since then.

The “kompromat state.” Moldova’s law enforcement bodies are widely believed to be collecting compromising materials (kompromats) on government officials and politicians, rendering many of them vulnerable to political blackmail. Even if such surveillance is not blanket, but selective, it constitutes a political instrument, looming in the background and activated as necessary against Plahotniuc’s opponents. This is a milder version of the Russian or Ukrainian “kompromat state,” whereby collecting such materials is not an anti-corruption activity, but rather a political activity to neutralize rivals or corral allies through carefully timed disclosures. In Moldova’s case, kompromatsare publicized, or hinted at, on an ad hoc basis by Plahotniuc’s television channels (see below) or his temporary ally Renato Usatii. Such cases can take center-stage in Chisinau from time to time, but happen in obscurity in the countryside all the time ahead of elections. When the Prosecutor-General descended on the parliament to request the lifting of Filat’s immunity, the vote was quick, without questions asked, amid palpable fears that most deputies could end up in a similar situation.

Media conglomerate. “General Media Group” is Plahotniuc’s fully owned holding, which includes four television channels with country-wide coverage (Prime, Publika, Channel 3, Channel 4), alongside three radio channels and other media assets. Media Group does not, as a rule, propagandize for Plahotniuc personally, but rather against his opponents. Plahotniuc remains a shadowy figure and has one of the most negative ratings (trust-mistrust) among all Moldovan politicians. Media Group controls an estimated 70 percent of the country’s media market; and thanks to financial power, it employs trolls in large numbers relative to the local media scene.

Economic and financial levers. Under the coalition agreement to divide government posts, Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party controls the Ministry of the Economy and, de facto or with its allies, most of the regulatory and market-oversight agencies (the customs service is a notable exception). That situation enables Plahotniuc’s core group and allied interests to control financial flows and policy decisions in lucrative economic sectors. Energy, the trade in metals, telecommunications, as well as the bakery industry are known to be so controlled. Moldova’s National Bank belongs in the Liberal Party’s quota of politically controlled institutions, but the Bank is known to have passed under Plahotniuc’s influence de facto. This was confirmed on September 21, 2015, when Plahotniuc and his relative, Parliament Chairman Andrian Candu, directed National Bank Governor Dorin Dragutanu and his deputy to resign literally overnight, thus blocking the International Monetary Fund’s scheduled visit and a possible move to unfreeze Moldova-IMF relations (Unimedia, Infotag, September 21, 22, 2015). Following their resignations, Candu launched a search for replacing those two officials, only to claim soon that the search had failed, so that Dragutanu and his deputy remain in their posts at the National Bank thanks to Plahotniuc’s and Candu’s protection. The Bank (along with the other relevant institutions) has failed to detect or explain the billion-dollar theft from Moldova’s banking system.

Local administrations. Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party and its main rival, the Liberal-Democrat Party, finished head-to-head in the elections for local councils that were held country-wide in June 2015. Contrary to these parties’ pre-election agreement, the Democratic Party made post-election alliances with other parties’ councilors in numerous districts and towns, ensuring the election of Democratic mayors instead of Liberal-Democrat ones in many districts and towns. The local alliances had been supposed to mirror the governing alliance in Chisinau, but the Democratic Party scuttled that alliance at the local levels in June, presaging its scuttling in Chisinau in October, when the Democratic Party and its new allies joined forces to arrest Vlad Filat and remove then–prime minister Valeriu Strelet. Meanwhile, those maneuvers at local levels have established a significant advantage for the Democratic Party in the next parliamentary elections.

Constitutional Court. This court’s six justices are appointed by quotas of the three governing parties. The quotas guarantee a majority of four justices from the Democratic and Liberal parties, out of six. Moreover, the Court’s chairman Alexandru Tanase, originally delegated by the Liberal-Democrats, has since become a political player in his own right. Meanwhile the remaining seat (the sixth), “belonging” to the Liberal-Democrat quota, remains vacant because the other two parties are blocking the rival party’s nomination. On December 29, 2015, the Constitutional Court ruled that President Nicolae Timofti is obligated to accept a nominee for the vacant post of prime minister who would be presented to him by a constituted majority of the parliament’s deputies (51 out of 101). Plahotniuc was at that moment personally assembling such a majority using his parliamentary allies, including the Communists with their decisive 21 votes. And it was a group of 14 Communists, now officially on Plahotniuc’s ”Social-Democrat Platform” (see above), who petitioned the Court urgently for this ruling. President Timofti is now heavily pressured to rubber-stamp that nominee before January 14, 2016 (Unimedia, Ziarul National, December 30, 2015; January 7, 2016).

https://www.icds.ee

GEOMETR.IT

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GEOMETR.IT 

The talented Mr Plahotniuc

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · Europe 2017 · EX-USSR · Geopolitics · History 2017 · Nation 2017 · Person 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 49 views / 7 comments

GEOMETR.IT   intellinews.com

The controversy centres on Vladimir Plahotniuc, Moldova’s richest man and now first deputy speaker of parliament. Plahotniuc, with a fortune estimated at $1.7bn (according to Ukrainian paper Delo ), was for a long time a name without a face.

The businessman accumulated his wealth behind the scenes during Communist Vladimir Voronin’s presidency in 2001-2008, apparently by means of energy trading, control of petrol retailer Moldpetrom, real estate operations and banking, with ties to Voronin and Voronin’s son Oleg believed crucial to his success. But while at the time public attention focused on Oleg Voronin, insiders pointed to Plahotniuc as the real mover.

They have been since proved right. When Voronin reached the end of his second term as president in 2009, Plahotniuc seems to have switched allegiance to Voronin’s anticipated successor Marin Lupu, a popular politician from the reformist wing of the Communist Party of Moldova.

But Voronin unexpectedly passed over Lupu when deciding whom he would support as successor. When parliamentary elections in April 2009 resulted in a hung parliament, Lupu split from the Communists to head the Democratic Party, a hitherto moribund part of the opposition camp, thus becoming kingmaker for the opposition. Plahotniuc followed him, becoming the Democratic Party’s main sponsor.

Then in 2010, the man whose name had only been a rumour became almost overnight a public figure, helped by the fact that he also controls the country’s largest TV channel, Prime. When fresh elections were finally called for November 2010, Plahotniuc popped up at number-two spot on the Democratic Party’s electoral list only weeks before polling day.

This time round, with Lupu again playing a kingmaker role in the post-election horse-trading, Lupu became speaker of parliament and acting president — and Plahotniuc first deputy speaker of parliament, marking a meteoric entry into politics.

And just as importantly, Plahotniuc’s baby, the Democratic Party, is in charge of the economic bloc in the government, with its man Valeriu Lazar as deputy prime minister and economy minister. Lazar’s remit includes state-owned companies, and the thorny questions of raising their tariffs that are kept low as indirect social subsidies, as well of their privatisation, as demanded by Moldova’s international lenders.

You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to see that having the country’s richest man, with a shadowy background, in a position to directly influence privatisation of the family silver is not likely to inspire public confidence, even if the strongest calls for privatisation are coming from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). «It raises questions about where politics stop and business starts. There are fears expressed in the media that Mr Plahotniuc could manage any privatisation for his own benefit,» says Alex Oprunenco, political expert at think-tank Expert Grup.

Oprunenco points out that the intermingling of politics and business is not limited to Plahotniuc — Prime Minister Vlad Filat is also often named as one of the country’s richest men.

Calling up trouble

Public suspicion of Plahotniuc’s influence on state companies seemed confirmed in January when state-owned Moldtelecom, Moldova’s fixed-line telecommunications operator, announced a sharp rise of domestic tariffs — by two or three times according to price category. Moldtelecom, still under Voronin-era management, is a profitable company that pays large sums into the budget, while at the same time domestic tariffs are held low as a subsidy to the rural population and pensioners.

Moldtelecom’s management justified the tariff hike as a reasonable step towards the abolition of cross-subsidisation. The company makes its money from international calls, thanks to the huge number of Moldovans living and working abroad, and has traditionally kept these high to subsidise the low domestic rates. At the same time as raising domestic prices, it cut the international rates, a move it called «rebalancing.»

Moldovans are sceptical. The population are currently reeling under the double-whammy of soaring food prices and hiked energy prices due to IMF demands, at the same time that public sector wages have been frozen. Moreover, the post-election political climate remains highly charged, with the Democratic Party the focus of flak from the now oppositional Communists, as well as a silent rival to Prime Minister Filat’s Liberal Democratic party. «The struggle over Moldtelecom could unplug the whole coalition,» says Oprunenco.

Prime Minister Filat immediately distanced himself from the tariff hike, saying he saw in it the «the influence of certain business circles,» a clear reference to Plahotniuc, and Economy Minister Lazar started to backtrack, saying while the decision might be justified, the timing was not. The new tariffs were due to apply from March 1, but Moldova’s anti-monopoly agency suspended the decision in February.

But hardly had the government backed down on this issue, it found itself wrestling with another Moldtelecom scandal, this time more directly Plahotniuc-related. It transpired on February 24 that over the course of the previous two weeks, Moldtelecom, together with 13 other large companies — including the Moldovan postal service, Chisinau airport and the health and education ministries — had transferred bank accounts hitherto held with the state-owned savings bank Banca de Economii, to the private Victoria bank, the country’s largest private bank, which Plahotniuc ran until entering parliament in November.

The details of this sudden migration of bank accounts are still unclear. Plahotniuc disputes the claim, saying that Victoria Bank has had some Moldtelecom accounts since 2007; Plahotniuc’s office wouldn’t comment to bne. Other companies have said that Victoria bank simply offers better conditions. Ex-president Voronin is using the story to accuse the government of destabilising both Banca de Economii and Moldtelecom in the run-up to privatising them to insider interests. ie. Plahotniuc. «The problem is that with Plahotniuc there in the Democratic Party, people are prepared to believe the worst, and his presence there makes opposition claims about wrongdoing more credible,» says Cornel Ciurea of think-tank VIITORUL. «But it does all look very strange.»

What’s in a name

On a personal level, Platoniuc’s appointment and heightened profile has done nothing to reassure the public about the mysterious oligarch. At the same time as the ongoing political battles over Moldtelecom, Plahotniuc has had his own personal scandal to deal with. In January, Romanian investigative journalists discovered that Plahotniuc — who like many Moldovan politicians, including Filat, also has Romanian citizenship — had recently changed his name in Romania from Plahotniuc to Ulinici. Thus he had effectively acquired a second legal identity in Moldova’s neighbour, and used it to register real estate there.

Plahotniuc claimed to the press that the name change was intended for the benefit of his son who is studying in Romania and who, Plahotniuc claims, faces discrimination over his Slavic surname. The excuse predictably convinced absolutely no one, but instead left Moldovans wondering quite literally: Who is Mr. Plahotniuc?

http://www.intellinews.com

Gagauzia: hair-trigger situation — 2

in Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · Europe 2017 · EX-USSR · Geopolitics · History 2017 · Nation 2017 · Person 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 40 views / 4 comments

GEOMETR.IT css.ethz.ch

John R. Haines is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and Executive Director of FPRI’s Princeton Committee. Much of his current research is focused on Russia and its near abroad, with a special interest in nationalist and separatist movements. As a private investor and entrepreneur, he is currently focused on the question of nuclear smuggling and terrorism, and the development of technologies to discover, detect, and characterize concealed fissile material.

Dumitru Diacov—the founder of Moldova’s socialist Democratic Party[18] (Partidul Democrat din Moldova)—said the following in an August 2016 interview with Radio Europa Liberă:[19]

Speaking in a strictly legal context, Moldova today is a federal republic if one takes into account Gagauzia’s status as an autonomous territory. Sometimes we cling to legalisms or to one word or another instead of focusing on how to think about the fundamental problem of the country’s territorial integrity. If you don’t have a strong economy, if you don’t have a strong military, then what should you do if you need to attract tangible resources and investment opportunities? You have to use diplomatic skills, to use the language in question.[20]

Vadim Krasnoselsky[21] reacted swiftly to Mr. Diacov. Transdniestria, he said, agreed to federalization in 2003 (under terms of the Kozak Memorandum[22]) only to see it rejected by Chişinău. “The Supreme Council [of the PMR] has no intention of discussing Transdniestria’s status as part of a federal or confederated Moldova” since its proper status “is what we already have—independence.” The only configuration acceptable to the Transdniestria is integration with Russia, added Vice-Speaker Galina Antyufeeva.[23] Ivan Burgudji responded that “there was no legitimate government of the Republic of Moldova” after the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic fell.

In the interim, the people of Gagauzia formed their own independent Gagauz Republic on 19 August 1990. Transdniestria did the same on 2 September. And only after another year was the Republic of Moldova formed on the remainder on the territory. Were it not for the fact that Gagauzia entered [the Republic of Moldova] as an autonomous region, we would now be like Transdniestri

Burgudji added that if Moldova “does not fulfill its commitments [to devolve certain powers to Gagauzia], then we need to go back to the framework of the independent Republic of Gagauzia . . . While on paper we appear to have a lot of authority, in reality we do not.” According to Halk Topluşu deputy Sergey Cimpoies,

[T]he Chisinau authorities have adopted a different tactic with regard to Gagauzia. Instead of open confrontation, they smile, they promise . . . Dmitriy Konstantinov [Halk Topluşu Speaker] and Irina Vlah for over a year have used one particular tactic—the two of them, they discuss problems . . . and meet with the Moldovan leadership, and something is whispered and we don’t really know what’s been agreed. The results we see are negative. I can’t blame them—they’re only renting their official powers . . . But I don’t recall any duo during Gagauzia’s existence who have been as weak politically as they are today

There are, of course, other points of view. Condemning Chişinău’s “unconditional surrender” (bezogovorochnaya sdacha), Serhiy Ilchenko argues that Moldova de facto acceded to Russian pressure to transition the country to a federal-type governing structure (which he believes has unfavorable implications for his country, Ukraine.

Moldova’s unification with Romania has been a persistent theme since early 1990s. Mircea Snegur, Moldova’s first president, tirelessly fostered the idea of unification, declaring in an August 1991 Le Figaro interview:

Independence is of course a temporary condition. At first, there will be two Romanian states, but this will not last long. I repeat again that the independence of the Soviet Moldova is a step, not an end.

The issue retook center stage in February 1993 when Chișinău asked Romania to replace its envoy, Mr. Bistreanu, because of incendiary public statements in which he characterized Moldova as a “temporary” country and future part of Romania.

Gagauzi resistance to Romanian hegemony is deep and longstanding.[30] It is rooted in the mass resettlement of Orthodox Christian Gagauzis at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. They left the Ottoman-controlled Dobrudja region of modern-day Romania and Bulgaria for Tsarist Russia-controlled southern Moldova and the Odessa region.

The forced migration of the Gagauz was a critical juncture in the formation of their pro-Russian political culture because this event had a significant effect on the lives of the absolute majority of Gagauz.

A 1990 survey found fewer than one in five Gaugazi supported Moldova’s independence from the Soviet Union (it was an even lower 13% in Transdniestria), while Moldovans were almost unanimous at the time across all regions (94-98%) in opposing the country’s unification with Romania.[32] Gagauzi self-identification with the Soviet Union distinguishes them from other Russian Turkic peoples like the Crimean Tatars.

Wake Up, Romania?

The Gagauzi have long worried about the dual effects of thinly veiled pro-Romanian sympathies held by some Moldovan leaders and Romanian revanchist ambitions in Moldova.

The Gagauzi and Transdniestrians were initially concerned that the pan-Romanian euphoria which swept the republic during the second half of 1989 would lead to their forced “romanianization” and a quick union of Moldova and Romania. [Moldova’s] new language laws were of particular concern.[34]

Among pan-Romanianists, Charles King writes, “[the word] ‘Moldovan’ should be no more than a regional identity in a reconstituted ‘Greater Romania’.”[35] This attitude manifests in maps of the country’s “historic” regions that invariably show modern Moldova as part of Romania.

Historic Regions of Romania (Source: burbuja.info)

Gagauzi concerns over Romanian revanchism masquerading as Moldovan nationalism are not baseless. Consider this declaration from Moldova’s Grand National Assembly (Marea Adunare Națională) held in August 1990 around the time the country declared independence from the Soviet Union. Some 300,000 people attended the mass demonstration.

There is but one formal language that is both spoken and written within the territory of the Socialist Republic of Romania and that of the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic. There is only one proper alphabet of this language, the Latin alphabet. [. . .] The Grand National Assembly determines to restore the historical name of our people, one which we have borne through the ages—the ROMANIAN name—and the name of our language—the ROMANIAN LANGUAGE.[36] [Emphasis in original]

Romanian revanchists[37] have their own view of the metaphorical bone in the throat. Consider this 2012 commentary titled “Historic Romania is a bone in the throat” directed at Moldova’s then prime minister, Vladimir Filat:[38]

A lot of people are puzzled over how a man who studied in Romania and later came into power now is against his own people . . . We all know those who are against historic Romania. [. . .] After two years of gridlock, Comrade Putin and Comrade Chiril agreed Russia would contribute to President Filal’s election campaign. Of course, this ‘gift’ was conditioned on continuing the policy of exterminating the Bessarabian Romanians . . . Once you acquire a taste for power you sign treaties with the devil so as to keep yourself in control, Russia in this case being the devil. 

Its author writes elsewhere:

The Gagauz unfortunately were and are victims of Russian imperialism, whom the Russians use to destabilize the situation in eastern Moldova . . . Their actions over the last twenty years have favored the Russian occupiers. They came to our land, we have them a home, and they behaved like a cowardly mob, spitting on all that is holy in this small country. So what to do? The only solution to the problem of this minority group is union…It will very likely become this first ethnic minority in Romania to disappear over the next generation.

The United States amidst this tumult blundered undiplomatically into Moldova’s tempestuous domestic politics in August managing to alienate Moldovans and NATO ally Romania at the same time. A commentary by Lelia Munteanu, senior editor of the Romanian daily Gândul, sounded a warning:

Ambassador James Pettit is too experienced to fail to express in precise terms the State Department’s position. The key words are ‘Transdniestria special status’. In other words, the United States, our strategic partner, has reached an agreement with Russia on Moldova, an understanding in which Germany no doubt participated.

The reference is to Ambassador Pettit’s August 26 interview with the Moldovan television station Moldova-1, during which he said the following:

Romanian press accounts were no less strident. Announcing “Wake up, Romania!” (Deșteaptă-te Române!), Cortidianul questioned whether Romania could rely on NATO to come to its defense in the event of Russian aggression from the direction of Moldova:

The diplomat actually argues for Moscow’s antagonistic policy toward Romania, which seeks a Greater Moldova by keeping the country, formed with our Bessarabia, outside of Romania . . . We may legitimately ask then: should we provide military bases to the American as well as other NATO allies, each of which have their own agendas, expecting them to defend us, in the hypothetical, but not as unlikely as it may seem, chance that Russian army occupies Bessarabia in order to attack Romania from a unified ‘Moldovan state’ which, independent and sovereign, will ‘of its own volition’ join Russia?

“A strategic partnership is not built on whispers, insidious silences, and swallowing the geopolitical frog.”[45] That colorful opinion belongs to the Romanian sociologist and Moldova scholar, Dan Dungaciu, whose reflections were published in the Romanian daily Adevărul under the headline “Defend me, Lord, from my friends.

He believes the practical effect of Ambassador Pettit’s recommendations is to raise a “velvet curtain” between Moldova and Romania (elsewhere, he calls it “a geopolitical curtain across the Prut) dividing the two countries “into separate spaces” and leading ultimately to Moldova’s “Transdniestrianization.” He also criticizes that lack of “synchronized” American diplomacy vis–à–vis Moldova and Romania; something which reflects, he maintains, that American diplomats who cover Moldova do not also cover Romania, but instead, Ukraine and Belarus.

Ambassador Pettit, he continued, “opened this Pandora’s Box by his unwise intervention,” which Russia will exploit “to stir up anti-Americanism.”

As the Gândul commentary noted, Germany also weighed in. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier “asked Moldova and Transdniestria to approach a solution to the decades-old conflict in the former Soviet republic by a policy of small steps.”Die Saarbrücker Zeitung had this perspective:

In crossing the Dniester River, Frank-Walter Steinmeier briefly lost his office: he is no longer German Foreign Minister—at least for a few hours. That happened the moment the top German diplomat arrived in the Republic of Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region. Since Germany does not recognize the independence of land beyond the Dniester, he is there not as Foreign Minister, but only in his capacity as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s acting chair for conflict mediation . . .

A statue of Lenin reaches into the sky before the seat of parliament and the government. The Transdniestrian leadership welcomed Steinmeier in the Soviet style building, resplendant with its hammer and sickle on the wall. If the OSCE Steinmeier is back in Moldova and meets the Foreign Minister Steinmeier, he will have to tell him about it.

http://www.fpri.org

GEOMETR.IT

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Gagauzia: hair-trigger situation— 12.04.2017

GEOMETR.IT 

Our man in Moldova. Is he ?

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · Europe 2017 · EX-USSR · Geopolitics · History 2017 · Nation 2017 · Person 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 9 views / 4 comments

GEOMETR.IT   balcanicaucaso.org

In courting the country’s most loathed oligarch, the EU and US will only lose the sympathy of ordinary Moldovans

21/10/2016 —  Eleanor KnottMihai Popșoi

(This article has been originally published by Open Democracy  on the 10th of October)

In the midst of the UK referendum to leave the EU, Moldova’s most hated oligarch, Vlad Plahotniuc, put pen to paper. In a recent, stirringly pro-European piece for Politico, Plahotniuc stressed that: “Moldova belongs in the European Union, now more than ever”.

Plahotniuc and his allies have recently become more visible in the west, with several visits to the US and an op-ed by Moldova’s prime minister Pavel Filip in The Hill.

Instability in Moldova is typically explained away by geopolitics, with the country positioned on a rift between the west and Russia. It’s a fear many of the country’s nominally “pro-Western” politicians have readily exploited.

Whatever the the fear of “losing Moldova” to Russia, it cannot justify supporting Plahotniuc, an opportunistic oligarch who is pursuing a policy of unchecked state capture. This policy of appeasement may be a short term victory for the EU and US, but in the longer term will only further erode the already-waning pro-western, and pro-European, sentiment in Moldova.

In July, a sizeable $600,000 contract was signed between Moldova’s Democratic Party, of which Plahotniuc is vice president, and Podesta, a US lobbying firm. Time will tell if it’s paid off.

Whether ordinary Moldovans can afford it is another matter. Financially, Moldova is yet to recover from one of the largest banking heists in history. This event saw $1 billion dollars (15% of the country’s GDP) disappear from the country’s three banks in late 2014.

The heist wasn’t so much the cause of today’s political impasse. Rather, it was a symptom of a much longer crisis, of a system which made such theft possible in the first place.

This banking crisis led to the collapse of two pro-European coalition governments. In February 2016, Vlad Plahotniuc formed a ruling coalition led by Moldova’s prime minister Pavel Filip. This government is highly disliked by a majority of the public, who loath the influence of Plahotniuc — Moldova’s wealthiest and most hated oligarch.

Moldova’s Grey Cardinal

Perhaps readers of Politico should get to know the article’s author a bit better.

Vlad Plahotniuc is widely considered to be Moldova’s wealthiest person. However, the full extent of Plahotniuc’s assets and wealth remains unknown. He owes his financial standing to a privileged position in the inner circle of former Communist President, Vladimir Voronin. However Plahotniuc remained in the shadows of Moldovan politics while building an economic empire through commercial raiding. Moldovan media did not even have a photo of Moldova’s richest man until 2010.

Once the Communist Party lost power in 2009 and a pro-European coalition emerged from Moldova’s so-called “Twitter Revolution”, Plahotniuc began to appear in Moldovan politics. He was quick to change his allegiances by sponsoring the then-opposition Democratic Party, of which he is now deputy chairman. The oligarch was also instrumental in promoting his protégées in key state offices, including the judiciary and law enforcement.

Coupled with his media empire (he owns Moldova’s main TV channels), Plahotniuc’s influence is now unchallenged. His fortunes rose with the October 2015 arrest of Vlad Filat, Moldova’s ex-prime minister and former leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. Filat also happened to be Plathotniuc’s main political and oligarchic rival. After eight months in custody, Filat was convicted in July 2016 to nine years in prison for his connection to the one billion dollar theft.

In July 2016, a Moldovan banker, Veaceslav Platon, was arrested in Ukraine in connection with the banking theft and, despite possession of Ukrainian citizenship, was nonetheless hastily extradited to Moldova. Platon is now in pre-trial detention. This turn of events contrasts to the fate of Ilan Shor, another wealthy Moldovan-Israeli businessman considered the central figure in the banking heist, who was arrested back in 2015, but was then allowed to run for mayor of Orhei, a town not far from Moldova’s capital. He ended up winning with a landslide.

Still, days before Filat’s conviction in July 2016, Shor (who is the main prosecutorial witness in both Filat and Platon’s cases) was re-arrested, only to be released in early August to house arrest, suggesting that Moldova’s authorities are willing to punish some more than others.

Plahotniuc’s friends in the west

Despite being opposed by large popular protests since May 2015, Plahotniuc has gained the support of Moldova’s key partners in Washington and Bucharest, Moldova’s main ally within the EU.

In May 2016, the oligarch visited the US, where his meeting with assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland left many Moldovans flabbergasted. The US ambassador to Moldova had to justify the meeting saying that it was the Moldovans who voted for this government and that the US has to work with it. Even so, Plahotniuc does not currently hold public office. To top it off, the trip wasn’t official — Plahotniuc travelled on a tourist visa.

Diplomatic euphemisms aside, many in the pro-western camp felt disheartened by this display of realpolitik, which seemed an appeasement at best. Meanwhile, pro-Russian forces were quick to seize the opportunity of presenting it as a full-blown endorsement. Russian media even portrayed Plahotniuc’s trip as western interference in Moldovan presidential elections.

Corruption versus realpolitik

This month, Moldova will hold its first direct presidential elections since 1996. However these elections are unlikely to end the political, and economic, crisis that is gripping this post-Soviet state.

According to recent polls, at least three candidates have a real shot at the presidency, Plahotniuc’s protégé, Democratic Party chairman Marian Lupu just behind. The strongest candidate is Igor Dodon, leader of the pro-Russian Socialist Party, who is likely to face a centre-right candidate in the run-offs, unless the right fails to agree on a single candidate and paves the way for a Plahotniuc-backed candidate.

The two main forces on the right are Maia Sandu and Andrei Năstase who are currently dueling to be the single unifying candidate (on the 15th of October Năstase withdraw and announced his support to Maia Sandu — editor’s note). Sandu, a Harvard-educated and former World Bank employee, is a former education minister and heads the newly created Action and Solidarity Party. Năstase is a protest leader and prominent lawyer who heads the rival Dignity and Truth Platform Party.

[…]

Moldova’s partners should not turn their back on the country and its people just because a vilified oligarch has outfoxed his opposition and captured power. Instead, Moldova needs stronger incentives to reform via political conditionality.

Unless there is a concerted effort to play good cop, bad cop in Moldova, the US and EU should compare notes more effectively if they want to remain credible as an alternative to Russia in the region.

https://www.balcanicaucaso.org

GEOMETR.IT

* * *

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GEOMETR.IT    

1. Gagauzia: hair-trigger situation

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · Europe 2017 · EX-USSR · Geopolitics · History 2017 · Nation 2017 · Person 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 13 views / 4 comments

GEOMETR.IT css.ethz.ch

John R. Haines is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and Executive Director of FPRI’s Princeton Committee. Much of his current research is focused on Russia and its near abroad, with a special interest in nationalist and separatist movements. As a private investor and entrepreneur, he is currently focused on the question of nuclear smuggling and terrorism, and the development of technologies to discover, detect, and characterize concealed fissile material.

He is also a Trustee of FPRI. Flag of Moldova Romania’s first envoy to the then-newly independent Moldova set off a firestorm of criticism in August that has yet to die down.

Reflecting on his role in Moldova’s transition from Soviet republic to nation-state, Ion Bistreanu observed that Moldova’s “biggest mistake,” he assessed, was to accede to Gagauzia’s autonomy: [Russia] no matter what cannot prevail in Transdniestria as easily as it did in Abkhazia and Ossetia, whether today, tomorrow or in ten or twenty years. After all the declarations, they cannot get a Crimea-type solution [in Transdniestria] .

. . Perhaps that’s why they’ve been so quiet, because there’s nothing they can do. But it’s good to keep a nearby place ‘hot’, so to speak, in order to apply pressure. The Russians in my view haven’t forgotten an idea from the 1990s, something apparent in how they’ve seized onto federalization in Ukraine and Moldova. At the time, the idea was, I remember [Anatoly] Lukanov saying in 1990, ‘you have three republics’: Gagauzia, Transdniestria, and Moldova. And something like that exists today. I think one of Moldova’s biggest mistakes was to grant Gagauzia autonomous status in 1994, something that clearly can’t be taken back. And Transdniestria will accept nothing less than everything Gagauzia has, which as we know includes regional autonomy. That’s the big problem.

Mr. Bistreanu’s comments did not receive a charitable hearing in Gagauzia (or for that matter, in Moldova’’s separatist Transdniestria). The news portal Yedinaya Gagauz offered this acerbic summation of what he had to say 1/24 —“Gagauzia’s special legal status” in Mr. Bistreanu’s view “is like a bone in the throat.”[3] Given Gagauzis’ animadversion toward Romanian revanchism (real and imagined ) and creeping encroachment on its autonomous status by the Moldovan government in Chișinău, political leaders of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia intend that bone to remain well lodged.

While Russia remains an outspoken supporter of Gagauzian autonomy—something it sees as instrumental to force a federal structure on Moldova—Turkish soft power intrusions are increasingly worrisome to Moscow. Of special concern is Russian Tatars’ willing role as an instrument of Turkish soft power in the eastern Balkans. Today, it continues to be true that the autonomous territory’s compact footprint belies its ability as Margaret Thatcher once said of Europe generally, “to produce more history than they can consume locally.

“History Condemned Moldova to be a State”Gagauzia—Gagaúz Yerí in the eponymous Gagauz language, or Gagaúziya in its lingua franca, Russian—is an assemblage of four small noncontiguous territories in southern Moldova.

Known formally as the Republic of Moldova’s Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, it encompasses an area only two-thirds the size of Hong Kong or about half of the size of Rhode Island. With a minuscule population (161,000) the territory is of little consequence economically or otherwise, save one thing: it sits by historical accident atop a geopolitical fracture line where Russian, Turkish and Western geopolitical interests collide.

The Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia has, indeed, proved a “bone in the throat” of Moldova’s Romanianleaning majority. Its People’s Assembly (Halk Topluşu) is pushing back hard against what it sees as Chișinău’s concerted effort to challenge territorial laws. The Chișinău government has targeted the autonomous territory’s electoral and broadcasting codes, tax code, and the legal status of Halk Topluşu members.[8]

In mid-August, Ivan Burgudji—who, depending on one’s point of view, is either a criminal terrorist or a vigorous proponent of Gaugauzi autonomy[9]—forcefully denounced the State Chancellery’s (Cancelaria de Stat) “corrupt 2/24 practice” of nullifying laws enacted by the Halk Topluş Mr. Burgudji claimed territorial laws “have equal legal status” with national laws under the provisions of the Moldovan constitution guaranteeing ATU-Gagauzia’s autonomous status and prevail when there is a conflict of laws.

“All this is done with one goal in mind—to scale back the rights and powers of Gagauzia, relegating us to the status of an ordinary administrative unit,”[10] he said, threatening to convene a September meeting “to discuss whether it was worthwhile for ATU-Gagauzia to participate in the upcoming Moldovan elections”—a reference to the country’s October 30 presidential election.[11] Much of the ambiguity over the meaning of the word “autonomous” is rooted in the 1994 Law on Special Legal Status of Gagauzia.

While it outlined key provisions of the territory’s autonomy status—for example, it delineated the territory’s administrative boundaries and the authority of its legislative and executive branches—the 1994 autonomy statute provides little guidance as to how the national and territorial governments are meant to decide where proper authority and responsibility reside on policy and governance matters.[12] The Chișinău government has tried more than once to defuse what it sees as the “threat” posed by Gagauzi autonomy by electing to take small measures—one slice at a time,[13] in one view—and has produced a flurry of national laws that ostensibly are incompatible with the 1994 autonomy statute.

GEOMETR.IT

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GEOMETR.IT    

Gagauzia. IRINA VLAH — Woman in power

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · Europe 2017 · EX-USSR · Geopolitics · History 2017 · Nation 2017 · Person 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 30 views / 6 comments

GEOMETR.IT jamestown.org

On December 4, Moldova’s Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia held the second round of its legislative election. The People’s Assembly (Gagauzia’s legislature) is composed of 35 members elected for a four-year term in 35 single member districts. A winner needs to gain at least 50 percent plus one vote to be elected. Of the 126 candidates registered in the race, 17 won in the first round and 15 in the runoffs. Another two districts are yet to hold their runoffs, and one district will hold a repeated election due to low turnout, which failed to reach the 33 percent threshold (Gagauzinfo.md, December 5).

The overall turnout was 42.8 percent, which was about one percent lower than in the first round. The apathy can be explained by the fact that this election has been overshadowed by the presidential election in Moldova organized just three weeks earlier. The Constitutional Court has not validated the outcome of the presidential election yet, as it waits for the conclusion of the post-electoral legal battles over the election results.

This adds further anxiety to the Gagauz voters, as 99 percent of them supported the president-elect, former Socialists Party leader, Igor Dodon, mainly due to his pro-Russian message. However, this time, the Socialists failed to capitalize on their earlier electoral success in the region. In fact, the Socialists were met with hostility at town hall meetings, being told, “We supported the president, but we can manage things locally on our own” (Budjakonline.md, November 28).

Of the 32 Gagauz legislators already elected, only four are women, while 16 are incumbents, the majority being under the age of 50 (com, December 6). Yet, most importantly, of the 32 legislators, only nine are affiliated with a political party (seven socialists and two democrats), the rest being independents.

This indicates a very high distrust among Gagauz voters toward the national political parties. Consequently, as regional parties are not allowed under the Moldovan law (out of fear that they could spur secessionism), the Gagauz are voting in droves for independents, who are most often local businessmen, bureaucrats or intellectuals.

However, once elected, these independents tend to align themselves with one of several political power houses in the region, including the camp supported by the current governor Irina Vlah, the camp of the former governor Mihail Formuzal, the Democratic party camp led by former Mayor of Comrat (the capital of Gagauzia), Nicolai Dudoglo, and finally, the Party of Socialists, which took over the electorate that the communists used to hold in the region.

Governor Vlah was also elected with the support of the Socialists, so it is likely that a coalition between Vlah’s supporters and Dodon’s Socialists will form the future majority in the Assembly. The current speaker Dmitrii Konstantinov (a defector from the Democratic Party) is likely to hold on to his position if he is able to bring a couple more votes to the future coalition. Yet, unlike four years ago, when the Democratic Party was able to convert a large number of independents to its side and create a majority, albeit short-lived, this time the Democrats appear uninterested in investing heavily in shaping the future majority in the Gagauz legislature (Gagauzinfo.md, December 6). 

The reluctance of the ruling Democratic Party, which considers itself pro-European, could be explained by the public relations fiasco it suffered in 2014, when its own members in Gagauzia had to support the region’s referendum staged by local nationalists, aided by Russia, in the hope of precluding Moldova from signing the Association Agreement with the EU.

The referendum of February 2, 2014, considered illegal by the Moldovan authorizes, preceded the one in Crimes by just over a month. With a turnout of over 70 percent, voters almost unanimously (98.4 percent) supported closer integration with the Russia-led Customs Union, while 97.2 percent firmly stood against closer ties with the EU.

In addition, when asked about Gagauzia’s future should Moldova lose its sovereignty, 98.9 percent agreed that Gagauzia should have the right to independence (Gagauzinfo.md, February 3, 2014). It remains unclear to this day whether the third question implied Moldova’s potential unification with Romania or it referred to the country’s supposable accession to NATO and especially the EU. Either way, despite Moldova having signed and ratified the Association Agreement with the EU, Gagauzia remains a stronghold of pro-Russian sentiment in Moldova and, by the virtue of the 2014 illegal “self-determination” referendum, it can serve as a destabilizing factor in the country.

The fact that president-elect Igor Dodon stated that Moldova’s integration into the European Union is only possible without Gagauzia and Transnistria provides further evidence (Interfax.ru, November 21).

This legislative election is unlikely to change much in Gagauzia as the legislators, who are serving only part time, keeping their day jobs, lack the resources and prerogatives to significantly improve the conditions in the autonomous region. In terms of geopolitical discourse, they will remain hostages of their electorate, who are heavily influenced by the Russian media, despite receiving large amounts of aid from the European Union and its member states, and virtually none from Russia (Moldnova.md, September 8).

Importantly, the Moldovan authorities have done little to integrate the Gagauz into the national political and social life. Until Chisinau makes it a national priority to address the grievances of the Gagauz autonomous region, which remains one of the poorest regions in one of the poorest countries in Europe, there is little prospect for better relations between Gagauzia and the rest of Moldova and, certainly, fewer chances of re-integration with Transnistria.

https://jamestown.org

GEOMETR.IT

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Plahotniuc, the richest man from Moldova

in Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · Europe 2017 · EX-USSR · Geopolitics · History 2017 · Nation 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 38 views / 7 comments

GEOMETR.IT   jurnal.md

The sight of a billionaire businessman capturing power is familiar to the citizens of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. A big part of Eastern Europe lives in a place where business and politics fuse, and politics is much more about how to build businesses rather than build institutions, writes the expert in the Eastern European space Thomas de Waal, Senior at the Carnegie Europe Center, in an analysis published in the Financial Times.

“Since Donald Trump won the US election, there has been anxiety over what the tycoon’s victory means for eastern Europe. Even before Mr Trump won the White House, much of eastern Europe was living in Trumpland, where business and politics are fused and politics is more about making deals than building institutions. The sight of a billionaire businessman capturing power is familiar to the citizens of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. Each is run, formally or informally, by a wealthy tycoon”, affirms the political expert.

Bidzina Ivanishvili, the former prime minister and the godfather of the ruling party Georgian Dream, is estimated to be worth about $5bn, more than one-third of Georgia’s gross domestic product. At the same time, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is one of the wealthiest men in his country.

In Moldova, the oligarch who has captured the power is Vladimir Plahotniuc, writes the Financial Times.

“Vladimir Plahotniuc, Moldova’s richest man, is also its de facto leader, while Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, is one of the wealthiest men in his country. For years, Moldova was known as eastern Europe’s “champion of reform”. It was granted visa-free travel and an association agreement with the EU before any of its neighbours. Yet on November 13 Moldova apparently rejected Europe by electing Igor Dodon, a pro-Russian socialist, to the post of president, a position with limited constitutional powers but symbolic importance”, Thomas de Waal claims.

According to the expert, the reason for this protest vote is systemic corruption which the EU and US failed to check and which culminated in the revelation in 2015 that $1bn, equivalent to one-sixth of Moldova’s GDP, had been siphoned from three banks, with the alleged connivance of top officials.

“Iurie Leanca, Moldova’s then head of government, responded to the scandal by saying that he was “just a prime minister”. That is because real power in Moldova lies with Mr Plahotniuc. Even if Moldova does not tilt back geopolitically towards Moscow, it risks a situation just as bad — being an unreformed grey zone on the margins of Europe”, the expert writes.

Ukraine presents a similar challenge but on a much bigger scale, is also told in the analysis. “Mr Poroshenko has instigated more reforms in two years than his predecessors did in 20, overhauling the police force, the energy sector and the public procurement system. But he also displays a firm resolve not to reform any institutions that could threaten him personally.

Opinion polls routinely show that corruption has eroded the trust of Ukrainians in their leaders. Recent asset declarations by officials — with the prime minister declaring no fewer than 12 luxury watches — only reinforce this weary cynicism, which could empower populist or pro-Russian parties at the next election”, is also told in the analysis published by the Financial Times.

http://jurnal.md

GEOMETR.IT

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2017.TOP 2017 MARCH

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GEOMETR.IT

Quo vadis Moldova with Vlad Plahotniuc

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · Europe 2017 · EX-USSR · Geopolitics · History 2017 · Nation 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 27 views / 6 comments

GEOMETR.IT deschide.md

Vlad Plahotniuc’s election as president of PD is associated by analysts with a coming «to light» of this character which so far has coordinated everything from the shadow. Some opinion leaders consider that it is a brave decision which speaks of Plahotniuc who wants to turn PD into an alternative force for PSRM. Others argue that the decision he has assumed only reveals his ambition. About the effects of this decision, the opinion leader prefer to be limited at «we’ll see».

Here is what says Cristi Hrituc, expert on electoral campaign strategies and ex-presidential adviser of Basescu: Plahotniuc’s decision to take over the presidency of PD is extremely brave. The fact that he chooses to change the role of «puppet master» who operates from the shadow for the role of «star» leading in the spotlight, demonstrates that Plahotniuc risks everything, trying with this decision to change the paradigm that he was in until now.

Perhaps the movementis  made especially for the political environment in the EU. Plahotniuc wants to prove that he is the one who keeps Moldova on the West path, he is the main opponent of Dodon, he and the Democratic Party represent an alternative to the PSRM.

If Moldova will have economic growth, and Filip government will perform, positive effects will be felt in the share of trust that will have Plahoniuc. It’s a risky move, as the most hated man in Moldova to take over the presidency of his party, but probably the PDM leader is counting on the fact that in two years he will succeed in improving the living standards of Moldovans, which will make a big difference in the next election. I think the PDM strategy for the next period will be: «We accomplish, we work for the people, Dodon only talks.» Governmental levers, administrative levers will be the PDM asset.

For the Western chancelleries the most matters that Moldova to be predictable, stable politically and to respect its commitments. Plahotniuc knows these things. If he can succeed at making Moldova again the «EU successful project» he will have the necessary support. It sounds cynical, but in politics matters the pragmatic interest and sometimes less the stains of the image.

Deschide.MD: But do you think that Vlad Plahotniuc will share the «laurels» with PL, or rather will try to distance himself from Mihai Ghimpu, based on a parliamentary majority where only PD to be a party with legal papers?

Cristi Hrituc: Ghimpu does not represent anything from an electoral perspective. His time has passed. He lost the unionist audience. Over time, the PL leader many times put in danger the government. He is not a stable partner. Perhaps when Plahotniuc will have a stable parliamentary majority, very safe, he will remove Ghimpu out of the government formula, especially if he will play the card that he played before: on horseback and on foot, meaning in government as well as in opposition. If PL would reform, if they would come up with a credible leader and would be a loyal partner of the government then it could stay in the present formula. If not, then at the first opportunity that will arise, PDM will throw it out. Any analysis that we make is based on the fact that Plahotniuc is extremely pragmatic and cool. He will not hesitate to take every step to achieve his political goal and his goal now is that PDM to be the main and alternative political force to PSRM.

I also asked an opinion from Mr. Vasile Butnaru, director of Radio Free Europe, who preferred not to give forecasts but some of the findings from what already happened:

Vasile Botnaru: Finally Plahotniuc stepped forward. It remains unclear from the analysis if he is satisfied or not too much by Marian Lupu. Official he thanked him, but in reality we do not know if he acknowledges his contributions for the party. The fact that he decided to come to light means that he is more ambitious. Namely he «decided» is the right verb! He did not accept this function, he was not persuaded or other options. He decided.

Deschide.MD: But how this decision will affect the work of the parliamentary majority?

Vasile Botnaru: I just analyze. Surely, Plahotniuc has taken into account that he will be able to control the Parliament and Government and other institutions, but whether that happens or not, we shall see.

Another opinion we asked from the former PM Ion Sturza, who is a claimed protester of Vlad Plahotniuc and his actions.

Ion Sturza: It is an internal decision of PD. I hope he assumes it. A kind of «normality», those who decide, will also answer. For some the public spotlight is a form to shine, for others — to burn. We shall see!

Deschide.MD: Do you think that Vlad Plahotniuc will share his merits with PL? Or this party will be distanced from the parliamentary majority and Government, and Vlad Plahotniuc will create a coalition in which only PD will be with legal papers?

Ion Sturza: I don’t think that Mihai Ghimpu has much to say in the Moldovan politics. Dividing the merits I think is a joke. PD does not share with anybody, anything!

https://deschide.md

GEOMETR.IT

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2017. TOP 2017 MARCH

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GAGAUZIANS: ETHNOS OF WHITE ROOSTER

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · Europe 2017 · EX-USSR · Geopolitics · History 2017 · Nation 2017 · Person 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 35 views / 4 comments

GEOMETR.IT  en.theoutlook.com

A poor peasant lived in a remote Gagauzian village, and wealth of his was his three sons …» so begins one of the folk tales composed by the Gagauz people. This Turkic people really lived a not wealthy life, roamed the villages, feed sheep… When a family gathered together to have some rest, old and young composed legends in their own way explaining the phenomena of nature noted by a curious and observant eye: why crows are afraid of people, why geese gabble, why an ant has thin waist, and what happens when you put fox and wolf in one harness.

Cobweb of History: Who are the Gagauz?

The Gagauz people came through many hardships on the historical way, but still managed to preserve to the present day their ethnic identity of the 13th century. However, scientists have not come to a common opinion in the question of who the Gagauzians are.

One of the theories has it that they are the «re-educated» Pechenegs, not defeated in battles with Rus. According to another version, the Seljuk Turks, who did not obey to the Sultan of Turkey, seized several important geographic objects, namely Iran, Kurdistan, Minor Asia, followed by Armenia and Georgia, and then Central Asian states were defeated. However, eventually, the history says about justice, and about the fact that it is impossible for a long time to own the land, which does not really belong to anyone. Once, the Seljuks were defeated and lost the conquered territories. Cooperated with the Polovtsy — another warlike people who did not satisfy their claims to the lands of others, the Seljuks called themselves the Gagauz.

Finally, there is a third theory, according to which the ancestors of the Bulgarians, who lived in the area of Central Asia, settled in Europe as a result of the Great Migration. Those who elected Balkan Peninsula as their residence, got the name of the Gagauz.

True or not, it is difficult to find out, as all historical documents confirming the fact of the existence of the Gagauz people are very ancient. There are a little more than twenty theories of origin of Gagauz people. One thing is certain: Gagauz ethnic group is unique because it is the only nation that origins from the Turks, and that adopted the Christian Orthodox religion. In addition, most historians agree that the Gagauz people had their own red flag with an image of a white rooster on it.

Currently the Gagauz people occupy the territory, which left a trace in history under the name of Budjak and includes the southern regions of Moldova and the south-western region of the Odessa region in Ukraine. As for the modern flag of Gagauzia, an image of a rooster decors the banner, which changed its colour from red to blue.

Although a wolf’s head established itself firmly at the centre of a banner, and white roosters occupy a modest bit of space on the sides, the Gagauzians like to emphasize the primacy of a rooster in the ornament, saying that this bird is the embodiment of justice, a quality that residents of Gagauzia value most.

Thriving rituals

The Gagauzians celebrate two national holidays: November 8th is a Demetrius (Kasim) Day, and May 6th is a George (Hiderlez) Day.

Kasim (translated from Turkish as «November») for stockbreeders was not an easy day: everything suggests that winter comes, during which they will have to ensure the preservation of livestock. This day, the Gagauz sacrificed a sheep, and the ritual was called Kurban (by the way, this tradition is peculiar to Islam). In order to distinguish between the religious rites, the Gagauz determined their type of Kurban by the word Allahlik. Later, when the Christian Orthodox religion was adopted as the official religion, the Gagauz timed Kasim to a Demetrius Day.

This day believers celebrate the Christian martyr Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki (also known as Demetrius the Myrrh-giver) and ask him for courage and patience. In addition, the Gagauz people believe in the healing abilities of Demetrius, and so pray to him about curing eye diseases and the returning sight to blind people.

Kasim served as some kind of starting point from which the Gagauz time starts ticking. Thus, the Gagauzians started sowing on the 111th day after the holiday, no matter what surprises nature throws.

Another festival celebrated in a more joyful atmosphere, is called Hiderlez: many years ago this day herdsmen drove the animals to pasture. Centuries passed, and the Gagauz people still follow the ancient customs, and begin the harvest on forty days after Hiderlez. In the Orthodox tradition, this day people recall the patron of agriculture and animal husbandry St. George, despite the fact that in all the mythological legends this legendary warrior did not have any of these professions, but is known as the winner of the pagan dragon.

How is Hiderlez celebrated today? In the Gagauz families it is a custom to kill ruminant animals such as lambs, rams; this is a sacrifice, a tribute to old customs.

The Gagauz: struggle for culture

In the Soviet era, there were attempts to hide the Gagauz language from the people. First, in 1957 it was allowed to teach it in schools, but not for a long time — five years later the lessons were banned, and again an ancient tongue got into timetable a couple of years before the collapse of the USSR.

It did not contribute to an increase of the ethnos and promotion of its culture: according to the census, in the Soviet Union the number of the Gagauz reached 300 thousand, but now the nation, divided by the borders of the two countries can not boast such a number: 157 thousand of the Gagauzians live in Moldova, and in Ukraine there are almost 29 thousand of them. Scientists suggest that the cause is that now not all people with the Gagauz roots wish to associate themselves with this ethnic group.

According to the members of cultural communities collecting Gagauz folklore, once scientists have travelled to Ukraine and found in the Zaporozhye Oblast two villages Oleksandrivka and Dimitrovka where residents belong to the Gagauz ethnic group. However, in the course of the conversation it became clear that they seriously consider themselves indigenous Bulgarians! The strange thing about this is that, according to linguists, it is practically impossible to confuse Bulgarian language, which belongs to the Slavic group, with the Gagauz language, which takes its origin from the Turkic. This is not the case with the Turkish and Azerbaijani languages, which have the pronunciation closest to that of the Gagauzian tongue.

The value the Gagauzians never forgot about is a religion. At all times there were arranged horrible persecution of the Orthodox among which were many Gagauzian people. So, it is the representatives of this ethnic group who nobly protected the temples and did not allow to displace the faith of their ancestors from the world map. Maybe that is the reason that you can find many Orthodox priests among the Gagauz.

NO wonder it`s not so easy to struggle for their roots and try to build up civil society and country at the same time. Current government with Irina Vlah in charge of it  seems , at least , to be trying to do some steps in order to bring some improvement to the region

http://en.theoutlook.com.ua

GEOMETR.IT

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2017. TOP – 15 MARCH

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Gagauzia: Flashback to Irina Vlah`s way

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · Europe 2017 · EX-USSR · Geopolitics · History 2017 · Nation 2017 · Person 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 50 views / 6 comments

GEOMETR.IT  e-democracy.md

On 15 April, the ceremony of inauguration of Irina Vlah, winner of the electoral competition of 22 March, took place in Comrat. The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici, Speaker of Parliament Andrian Candu, Central Electoral Commission (CEC) Chairman Iurie Ciocan, and Metropolitan of Moldova Vladimir. Their participation in the governor inauguration is a positive sign.

The governor of Gagauzia is an in-office member of the government, so the presence of the prime minister at the inauguration of his future colleague perfectly fits politico-administrative customs. The presence of the head of the legislative body has its own logic, too, especially since for years it seemed that the harmonization of relations between the center and the Gagauz autonomy should take place through legislative harmonization. In addition, given the parochial political culture of our society, the presence and blessing of Metropolitan Vladimir was also appropriate.

President Nicolae Timofti, however, did not participate in the inauguration, despite having been publicly invited. Officials from presidential administration let it be understood that the relation between the center and the autonomy would become ambiguous if the country’s president were present at the governor’s inauguration. In fact, within his three years in office, President Timofti has never visited the Gagauz autonomy, although relations between Chisinau and Comrat went through tense phases, when they should have been loosened up, including by means of working visits. The formula found by the presidential administration is that the governor’s inauguration will be followed by oath before the president and then the president’s working visit to Comrat.

After elections, it is important that the situation and relations evolve to normality. In fact, the critical attitudes of Irina Vlah towards “Euro-integrator” members of the Chisinau government dissolved immediately after her victory in elections. Post-electoral meetings with Prime Minister Gaburici and Speaker of Parliament Candu were truly constructive and positive, focused on discussing the immediate priorities for the Gagauz autonomy and relations with the center.

In her inaugural speech, Irina Vlah underlined that after elections, political problems step behind those administrative and social. She mentioned that she would be “the bashkan of all people of the autonomy, without any ethnic or party differences”, promising to be “a guarantor of peace and stability in the region, with a prosperous and consolidated society”. Also, it should be mentioned that the support and friendship of the Russian Federation and Turkey were brought up as a background to saying that “we should not forget about the support of the European Union, either”.

Therefore, one may say that at the start of her term in office Governor Irina Vlah showed pragmatism, somewhat to the detriment of adherence to principles, clearly, if adherence to principles matters to politicians. Irina Vlah’s pragmatism became obvious a week before the inauguration ceremony, when still as an MP she refused to support the motion of no confidence that had come from the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) against Gaburici’s government. It should be mentioned that Irina Vlah’s support of the motion of no confidence would have been decisive for the initiation of the process. It is curious that even the PSRM allegedly insisted that Vlah refuse to sign the motion (which would not lead to dissolution of the government anyway), in order to ensure that she had the necessary comfort in relations with the cabinet of ministers.

The critics of the newly-elected governor and of the PSRM indicate that they give priority to practical interests before the pre-electoral positions based on principles. In this context, critics also mention a possible tacit inclination of Governor Irina Vlah towards the European integration vector, if the Eurasian vector, which she had earlier declared as a priority, fails to remarkably manifest itself, although Irina Vlah insisted on underlying that she is still a pro-Russian politician.

The latter observation is not accidental. Irina Vlah’s post-electoral pragmatism in relation to central authorities revealed the complaints of Gagauz elite representatives. They publicly formulate their reasons: if all ten candidates for the position of governor of Gagauzia declared themselves pro-Russian and sincere supporters of the Eurasian integration vector, then what were the criteria according to which Russian officials chose to bet on Irina Vlah?

Was it not humiliating for the other nine candidates to not be recognized as sufficiently pro-Russian? In this context, Member of the People’s Assembly Ivan Burgudji says that the governor elections were not actually won by Irina Vlah, but by Russian officials, who supported Irina Vlah on the basis of some unclear criteria, and that in such conditions even the Barbie doll could have won the elections.

Even more interesting is the attitude of counter-candidateRU from the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM), Nicolai Dudoglo: “We saw members of the State Duma of the Russian Federation come to Gagauzia, as well as artists and athletes. We saw declarations of some serious Russian politicians, but even so our team worked and obtained a good result. Despite the fact that the bashkan of Gagauzia was not elected, but appointed, our team recognizes these elections.

Russia made great efforts, and we are her friends. That is why we will not challenge the results of these elections, although I am sure that if votes were recounted, there would probably be not even 50 percent.” It means that even the main election losers find that the distortion of results in the elections in Gagauzia as a result of involvement of some Russian decision makers is acceptable. It is better to lose the competition in non-free and unfair elections than to challenge the involvement of the external factor, obviously, if that factor is of Russian origin.

Finally, now, after clear signals that Governor Irina Vlah wants normal relations with Chisinau, the intrigue moves to Comrat. Will Irina Vlah be able to establish normal relations with local influential circles in the People’s Assembly, represented by such politicians as Ivan Burgudji or Nicolai Dudoglo, when they believe her victory was undeserved but still acceptable due to the involvement of the Russian factor?

The governor’s relations with the People’s Assembly are very important for the good functioning of the politico-administrative machine in Gagauzia, and the majority of the People’s Assembly was or still is affiliated to one of the leaders of the PDM, Vlad Plahotniuc, who is, according to Irina Vlah, “the biggest problem of the Republic of Moldova”. Or maybe we should also expect a manifestation of pragmatisms from Governor Irina Vlah in her relations with those who know how to solve the problems that they themselves create?

http://www.e-democracy.md

GEOMETR.IT

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2017. TOP – 15 MARCH

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