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Lack of legitimacy of his power

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · EX-USSR · History 2017 · Moldova 2017 · Nation 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 10 views / 2 comments

GEOMETR.IT  carnegieeurope.eu

 

Moldova, which used to be perceived as one of the most democratic post-Soviet countries, has come to be dominated by one politician.

Power in Moldova has been captured by Vlad Plahotniuc, who is neither a democrat nor a reformer and who, under the cover of false pro-European rhetoric, is petrifying the weaknesses of the state.

Moldova is a small country on the periphery of Europe, but its politics are difficult for outsiders to understand.

Neither the Western expert community nor the EU’s institutions can usually afford to devote enough time to following events in this country. The EU’s domestic challenges make Moldova less noticeable than ever on the foreign radar screens of Brussels and the EU’s member states. It is important, however, to understand the seriousness of situation in this EU neighbor. A wrong diagnosis could lead to bad policy.

By the end of 2015, the oligarch Plahotniuc, the richest man in Moldova and the leader of the Democratic Party, the biggest party in the ruling coalition, had become thenumber one political player in the country. He achieved this position through the skillful removal of his key rivals, including former prime minister Vlad Filat and the businessman Veaceslav Platon, who were sentenced to nine and eighteen years in prison respectively. Then, Plahotniuc succeeded in subordinating Moldova’s parliamentary majority to himself and creating a new government headed by his longtime aide, Pavel Filip.

Plahotniuc’s power is also based on a full takeover of the state apparatus, including control of the judiciary, the Prosecutor General’s Office, and the National Anticorruption Center. No independent institutions remain in Moldova.Plahotniuc’s private business assets, estimated at $2 billion, play a role. Either directly or via proxies, the oligarch owns four of the five nationwide television stations.

Contrary to popular belief, Plahotniuc’s influences are not balanced out by Igor Dodon, the leader of the pro-Russian Socialist Party, who was elected president in November 2016. His prerogatives are merely ceremonial. Furthermore, it seems that—despite their official hostility—Plahotniuc is informally closely cooperating with Dodon. Moldova, which was traditionally perceived asone of the most democratic countries in the post-Soviet area, with genuine political pluralism, has come to be dominated by one politician.

Plahotniuc’s political influence is entirely informal, as he does not hold any public position and serves as merely the chairman of the Democratic Party. But he has quickly managed to destroy the fragile checks and balances and consolidate power in his hands. As a result, the space for politics in Moldova has shrunk to an unprecedentedly small area.

This does not mean that Plahotniuc is not facing any problems. The most serious is the lack of legitimacy of his power. In the eyes of the public, he is associated with large-scale corruption and financial fraud, including the theft of $1 billion from the Moldovan banking sector in 2014. Just 1 percent of voters trust him, while 5 percent support his Democratic Party. Plahotniuc’s crucial task is to improve his image both within the country and abroad.

On the domestic agenda, his actions have focused on preserving his near-monopoly power, which has diminished freedom and undermined political pluralism. The authorities’ fight against corruption is not a goal in itself, but a means to eliminate Plahotniuc’s enemies. The 2016 Corruption Perception Index ranked Moldova 123 out of 176 countries, down from 103 a year before.

Plahotniuc has also pushed for the introduction of a new media code that forces Moldovan TV stations to radically increase the proportion of domestic production they transmit. Officially, this change was intended to reduce the scale of Russian propaganda in the media, but in practice, the new regulations could lead to the liquidation of smaller TV stations. This would further worsen the situation in the Moldovan media, which is already deteriorating rapidly.

However, Plahotniuc would not be able to increase public support for his party by using PR tools alone. Therefore, he is trying to change the electoral system from the current proportional model to a majoritarian system or, in the worst case, to a mixed-member system. This is part of his strategy to win the parliamentary election in 2018.

On his foreign agenda, Plahotniuc seeks to secure support from the EU and the United States by convincing them that the ineffectiveness of the pro-European opposition and the growing popularity of pro-Russian parties make him the sole guarantor of Moldova’s pro-European course. In his regular op-eds for the mainstream media, Plahotniuc presents himself as a charismatic pro-European leader who—with Western support—can successfully oppose rising Russian pressure and implement the reforms that Brussels expects, including those resulting from the landmark EU-Moldova Association Agreement. He is assisted by recognized lobbyists, including the U.S.-based Podesta Group. 

What should the EU’s response to Plahotniuc’s challenge be? It is important to read him correctly and demystify his intentions. Despite his pro-European and pro-reform rhetoric, Plahotniuc is not interested in any genuine modernization of Moldova, which would undermine the informal basis of his power. He has no stable program or ideology, and he could easily take a pro-Russian turn if he decides this is in his political interests.

To implement an effective policy, the EU should see the whole picture realistically and without harmful illusions. At stake is the future of not only this, the poorest country in Europe, but also the EU’s credibility. If the Association Agreement, the EU’s flagship modernization project vis-à-vis its Eastern partners, fails to bear fruit in such a small country as Moldova, how can it succeed elsewhere?

Kamil Całus and Wojciech Konończuk are Eastern Europe analysts at the Center for Eastern Studies (OSW) in Warsaw.

http://carnegieeurope.eu 

GEOMETR.IT

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GEOMETR.IT

 

1. Moldova. Become a ”captured state”?

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · EX-USSR · History 2017 · Moldova 2017 · Nation 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 17 views / 0 comments

GEOMETR.IT  cenusadi.wordpress.com

 

Closer to the end of 2014, the expression “state capture” became a kind of country brand for Moldova. The extra-parliamentary opposition regularly used this phrase to describe the defective governance and infiltration of obscure interests into the government.

The foreign development partners, with very small exceptions, used more veiled formulas when they spoke about “state capture” in Moldova so as to avoid a direct confrontation with the Moldovan authorities, which would have led to the imminent short-circuiting of the dialogue. Consequently, these used the powerful politicization of institutionsas an equivalent.

The idea of state capture was assimilated by the public opinion much easier amid the crisis in the banking system unveiled at the end 2014. This way the phrase became a very popular jargon in national journalism. Other criminal activities committed in the period of the so-called pro-European governments (2009-2016), alongside the thefts in the banking system, also started to be associated with the phenomenon of “state capture”.

Habitually, state capture in Moldova is attributed to the leader of the Democratic Party (PDM), controversial businessman Vladimir Plahotniuc.

Accusing him of complicity in state capture, the opponents call him puppeteer. Namely for this reason, the protests mounted by the pro-European and pro-Russian opposition (RFI, October 2015) in 2015-2016 featured primarily Vladimir Plahotniuc.

Ex-Premier Vlad Filat referred to the implications of the “puppeteer” in his last speech in Parliament,before his arrest in October 2015.

In the stiff competition between different political camps, the notion of “state capture” was maximally narrowed and is often applied in inappropriate contexts or is attributed exclusively to Vladimir Plahotniuc. Many journalists and politicians use it erroneously, in a meaning that is far from its original meaning.

What is actually “state capture”? 

The phenomenon of “state capture” was defined in a more detailed and reasonable form by the International Monetary Fund. According to this, state capture is a form of grand corruption in transition economies that consists in the efforts of firms to shape the laws, policies, and regulations of the state to their own advantage by providing illicit private gains to public officials.

In these countries, so-called oligarchs manipulate policy formation and even shape the emerging rules of the game to their own, very substantial advantage. According to IMF and EBRD assessments of the end of the 1990s, Moldova was among the most captured states, immediately after Azerbaijan (CIDOB, March 2016), outstripping Russia and Ukraine. These assessments centered on the perceptions of the business sector in the ex-Soviet countries of Europe and Central Asia, including former Yugoslavia and countries of the former Socialist block.

So, Moldova is by far not the only country that witnesses aspects of the captured state. This phenomenon is manly evident in countries that gained their independence relatively recently and where political corruption is more powerful than the democratic institutions (elections, rule of law, etc.) that are in a slow process of formation.

However, Moldova is different from the other countries. This is due to the fact that the most important political decisions here are taken by one group of interests, associated usually with the captured state. Thus, there is no competition between different groups of oligarchs and they are not visibly separated from the state here.

https://cenusadi.wordpress.com 

GEOMETR.IT

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GEOMETR.IT

1. An oligarch no-one trusts

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · EX-USSR · Moldova 2017 · Nation 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 24 views / 0 comments

GEOMETR.IT

 

In recent months, the Moldovan parliament passed two bills which aim to change the country’s electoral system. It now seems ever more likely that Moldova will adopt a mixed electoral model and increase the chances of Vlad Plahotniuc, an oligarch (who is the wealthiest and most influential man in Moldova) and leader of the biggest pro-European party in the ruling coalition, to stay in power after the planned 2018 parliamentary elections.

Consolidating power

By the end of 2015 Plahotniuc became the key political and economic decision-maker in his country. Since then, he has effectively and visibly eliminated his key political and business opponents. Most notably, Vlad Filat, the former prime minister, was charged with corruption in June 2016 and sentenced to nine years in prison. Another competitor, businessman Veaceslav Platon, was sentenced to 18 years for large-scale financial fraud in 2017.

The Moldovan justice system has proven its loyalty to Plahotniuc. After removing his opponents the oligarch succeeded at subordinating the parliamentary majority, forming an obedient government led by his trustworthy partner – Pavel Filip – and expanding the range of influence in the state apparatus through institutions which were earlier controlled by groups connected to Filat.

Yet, Plahotniuc, as well as his political grouping, have recorded a very low level of social trust over the last two years. Thus, the oligarch, who does not like making public appearances and until recently has avoided giving any interviews, is for a significant part of the society a semi-mythical figure and a clearly ill-intentioned one.

Common Moldovans widely associate Plahotniuc with numerous corruption scandals including the 2014 billion dollar theft from the Moldovan banking sector and rumours abound of the oligarchs murky criminal past. Not surprisingly, all this has had a negative effect on his popularity.

In April 2017, according to opinion polls, less than one per cent of Moldovans trusted Plahotniuc; his party, the Democratic Party of Moldova, counted only five per cent support, which would not pass the now six-percent threshold if elections were held today.

The low level of support for the oligarch and his party explains Plahotniuc’s recent attempts to change the election system. The current proportional electoral system would indeed not give his party much chance in the 2018 elections. A mixed system, with majority-based elections, however, could significantly alter his party’s chances.

Such a new system would, first and foremost, allow the Democratic Party to formally run independent candidates (in other words not burdened by low rankings). In addition, the financial and media support that they would unofficially receive would strengthen their advantage. Secondly, a majority-based system would allow the truly independent MPs to enter parliament. They, in turn, could be easily convinced to join, temporarily or permanently, with Plahotniuc’s party.

Thirdly, in case of a large number of candidates from one district, the winner would only need to secure a small number of votes, unlike a proportional system. In this case where the winner takes all, even unpopular politicians would have a chance. Finally, the majority system would favour large and rich political groupings, which are the only organisations that are able to run 101 campaigns nationwide (which is total number of seats in the Moldovan parliament). Smaller and poorer (including the pro-European opposition) parties have no such ability. 

Whose victory? 

The proposal to change the electoral system was widely criticised by the opposition, including Dodon’s Socialist Party. However, quite quickly it became clear that Plahotniuc was more interested in a mixed system, and his proposal was only made to up the ante. It was also discussed then that the idea to change the system had been earlier agreed upon with Dodon, who had previously, despite the officially declared hostility towards the ruling majority, supported Plahotniuc on many occasions.

Quite quickly a petition drive was organised and over 800,000 thousand signatures were gathered, even though the honesty of this collection was seriously questioned. In addition, the whole country was decorated with billboards calling for support for the reform while informational spots aired on radio and TV. Opinion polls commissioned by the Democrats indicated widespread support towards the electoral reform.

Finally, on April 18th Dodon unexpectedly announced a compromise of a mixed system (partly proportional, partly single mandate).

The whole situation had one positive dimension: due to Plahotniuc’s game, the Moldovan authorities had fulfilled some of the requirements of the Venice Commission which put forward a condition that the new system be introduced at the latest one year before the elections, after social consultations and a general consensus. The first requirement, meaning the timing of the introduction, was not a problem as the elections are planned for the end of 2018. The signatures collected and published opinion polls became the “evidence” that there was a consensus within the society.

Finally on May 5th 2017, the Moldovan parliament, to a general surprise, passed two bills which stipulated the change of the electoral system into a majority-based one and foresaw an introduction of a mixed system. After the vote a small break was ordered for the legal parliamentary commission which – after a short meeting – announced that both bills could be put together as one.

Additionally surprising was the fact that the basis of the document was a project prepared by the Socialist Party and which was negatively evaluated by the very same commission earlier that day. As a result, Plahotniuc not only made a major step toward the goal he was fighting for from the very beginning (i.e. the mixed system) but also did it in such a way that the western institutions could not voice any criticism. The common vote of the Democrats and the Socialists indeed met the last condition issued by the Venice Commission: a wide political consensus.

Kamil Całus is a senior research fellow at the Warsaw-based Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW).

http://www.neweasterneurope.eu

GEOMETR.IT

* * *

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GEOMETR.IT

2. Neither a democrat nor a reformer

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · EX-USSR · History 2017 · Moldova 2017 · Nation 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 18 views / 0 comments

GEOMETR.IT  carnegieeurope.eu

 

Moldova, which used to be perceived as one of the most democratic post-Soviet countries, has come to be dominated by one politician.

On the domestic agenda, Plahotniuc`s actions have focused on preserving his near-monopoly power, which has diminished freedom and undermined political pluralism. 

The authorities’ fight against corruption is not a goal in itself, but a means to eliminate Plahotniuc’s enemie The2016 Corruption Perception Index ranked Moldova 123 out of 176 countries, down from 103 a year before.

Plahotniuc has also pushed for the introduction of a new media code that forces Moldovan TV stations to radically increase the proportion of domestic production they transmit. Officially, this change was intended to reduce the scale of Russian propaganda in the media, but in practice, the new regulations could lead to the liquidation of smaller TV stations. This would further worsen thesituation in the Moldovan media, which is already deteriorating rapidly.

However, Plahotniuc would not be able to increase public support for his party by using PR tools alone. Therefore, he is trying to change the electoral system from the current proportional model to a majoritarian system or, in the worst case, to a mixed-member system. This is part of his strategy to win the parliamentary election in 2018. 

On his foreign agenda, Plahotniuc seeks to secure support from the EU and the United States by convincing them that the ineffectiveness of the pro-European opposition and the growing popularity of pro-Russian parties make him the sole guarantor of Moldova’s pro-European course.

In his regular op-eds for the mainstream media, Plahotniuc presents himself as a charismatic pro-European leader who—with Western support—can successfully oppose rising Russian pressure and implement the reforms that Brussels expects, including those resulting from the landmark EU-Moldova Association Agreement. He is assisted by recognized lobbyists, including the U.S.-based Podesta Group. 

What should the EUs response to Plahotniucs challenge be? It is important to read him correctly and demystify his intentions. Despite his pro-European and pro-reform rhetoric, Plahotniuc is not interested in any genuine modernization of Moldova, which would undermine the informal basis of his power. He has no stable program or ideology, and he could easily take a pro-Russian turn if he decides this is in his political interests.

To implement an effective policy, the EU should see the whole picture realistically and without harmful illusions. At stake is the future of not only this, the poorest country in Europe, but also the EU’s credibility. If the Association Agreement, the EU’s flagship modernization project vis-à-vis its Eastern partners, fails to bear fruit in such a small country as Moldova, how can it succeed elsewhere?

Kamil Całus and Wojciech Konończuk are Eastern Europe analysts at the Center for Eastern Studies (OSW) in Warsaw.

http://carnegieeurope.eu

GEOMETR.IT

* * *

2017.TOP 15 MARCH

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GEOMETR.IT

Neither a democrat nor a reformer

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · EX-USSR · Moldova 2017 · Nation 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 27 views / 5 comments

GEOMETR.IT  carnegieeurope.eu

 

Moldova, which used to be perceived as one of the most democratic post-Soviet countries, has come to be dominated by one politician.

Power in Moldova has been captured by Vlad Plahotniuc, who is neither a democrat nor a reformer and who, under the cover of false pro-European rhetoric, is petrifying the weaknesses of the state.

Moldova is a small country on the periphery of Europe, but its politics are difficult for outsiders to understand.

Neither the Western expert community nor the EU’s institutions can usually afford to devote enough time to following events in this country. The EU’s domestic challenges make Moldova less noticeable than ever on the foreign radar screens of Brussels and the EU’s member states. It is important, however, to understand the seriousness of situation in this EU neighbor. A wrong diagnosis could lead to bad policy.

By the end of 2015, the oligarch Plahotniuc, the richest man in Moldova and the leader of the Democratic Party, the biggest party in the ruling coalition, had become thenumber one political player in the country. He achieved this position through the skillful removal of his key rivals, including former prime minister Vlad Filat and the businessman Veaceslav Platon, who were sentenced to nine and eighteen years in prison respectively. Then, Plahotniuc succeeded in subordinating Moldova’s parliamentary majority to himself and creating a new government headed by his longtime aide, Pavel Filip.

Plahotniuc’s power is also based on a full takeover of the state apparatus, including control of the judiciary, the Prosecutor General’s Office, and the National Anticorruption Center. No independent institutions remain in Moldova.Plahotniuc’s private business assets, estimated at $2 billion, play a role. Either directly or via proxies, the oligarch owns four of the five nationwide television stations.

Contrary to popular belief, Plahotniuc’s influences are not balanced out by Igor Dodon, the leader of the pro-Russian Socialist Party, who was elected president in November 2016. His prerogatives are merely ceremonial. Furthermore, it seems that—despite their official hostility—Plahotniuc is informally closely cooperating with Dodon. Moldova, which was traditionally perceived asone of the most democratic countries in the post-Soviet area, with genuine political pluralism, has come to be dominated by one politician.

Plahotniuc’s political influence is entirely informal, as he does not hold any public position and serves as merely the chairman of the Democratic Party. But he has quickly managed to destroy the fragile checks and balances and consolidate power in his hands. As a result, the space for politics in Moldova has shrunk to an unprecedentedly small area.

This does not mean that Plahotniuc is not facing any problems. The most serious is the lack of legitimacy of his power. In the eyes of the public, he is associated with large-scale corruption and financial fraud, including the theft of $1 billion from the Moldovan banking sector in 2014. Just 1 percent of voters trust him, while 5 percent support his Democratic Party. Plahotniuc’s crucial task is to improve his image both within the country and abroad.

On the domestic agenda, his actions have focused on preserving his near-monopoly power, which has diminished freedom and undermined political pluralism. The authorities’ fight against corruption is not a goal in itself, but a means to eliminate Plahotniuc’s enemies. The 2016 Corruption Perception Index ranked Moldova 123 out of 176 countries, down from 103 a year before.

Plahotniuc has also pushed for the introduction of a new media code that forces Moldovan TV stations to radically increase the proportion of domestic production they transmit. Officially, this change was intended to reduce the scale of Russian propaganda in the media, but in practice, the new regulations could lead to the liquidation of smaller TV stations. This would further worsen the situation in the Moldovan media, which is already deteriorating rapidly.

However, Plahotniuc would not be able to increase public support for his party by using PR tools alone. Therefore, he is trying to change the electoral system from the current proportional model to a majoritarian system or, in the worst case, to a mixed-member system. This is part of his strategy to win the parliamentary election in 2018.

On his foreign agenda, Plahotniuc seeks to secure support from the EU and the United States by convincing them that the ineffectiveness of the pro-European opposition and the growing popularity of pro-Russian parties make him the sole guarantor of Moldova’s pro-European course. In his regular op-eds for the mainstream media, Plahotniuc presents himself as a charismatic pro-European leader who—with Western support—can successfully oppose rising Russian pressure and implement the reforms that Brussels expects, including those resulting from the landmark EU-Moldova Association Agreement. He is assisted by recognized lobbyists, including the U.S.-based Podesta Group. 

What should the EUs response to Plahotniucs challenge be? It is important to read him correctly and demystify his intentions. Despite his pro-European and pro-reform rhetoric, Plahotniuc is not interested in any genuine modernization of Moldova, which would undermine the informal basis of his power. He has no stable program or ideology, and he could easily take a pro-Russian turn if he decides this is in his political interests.

To implement an effective policy, the EU should see the whole picture realistically and without harmful illusions. At stake is the future of not only this, the poorest country in Europe, but also the EU’s credibility. If the Association Agreement, the EU’s flagship modernization project vis-à-vis its Eastern partners, fails to bear fruit in such a small country as Moldova, how can it succeed elsewhere?

Kamil Całus and Wojciech Konończuk are Eastern Europe analysts at the Center for Eastern Studies (OSW) in Warsaw.

http://carnegieeurope.eu

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Moldova turns its back on Europe

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · EX-USSR · History 2017 · Moldova 2017 · Nation 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 11 views / 6 comments

GEOMETR.IT  express.co.uk

 

The tiny eastern state this week took its first big step towards membership of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), a trade bloc championed by Moscow, rather than moving closer to Brussels.

A former Soviet state, Moldova has been moving towards potential EU membership for decades and signed an association agreement with the bloc just last summer.


Moldova looks to scrap EU trade deal in favour…

But that now seems an age ago following the election of openly pro-Putin president Igor Dodon on December 23, with the emphasis now shifting instead to closer ties with Russia.

Moldova has now been granted observer status of the EAEU, which is the first step on the ladder towards becoming a fully signed up member. The group is currently made up of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

GETTY

Igor Dodon is moving Moldova closer to Vladimir Putin

But the organisation agreed to bring a potential sixth member into the fold following a meeting of ministers held in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek last week.

Mr Dodon said after the announcement: “Moldova is the first country that has received this honour.

“Several countries have put forward initiatives for signing Memorandums of Cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union, Free Trade Agreements or other forms of cooperation with EAEU.”

Under Brussels rules members of the European Union’s single market cannot sign trade agreements with other countries or belong to any other economic bloc.

And pro-EU politicians acted with dismay at the move, with Moldovan Prime Minister Pavel Filip saying it has “no legal value” and that it “falls outside of the legal framework” of Mr Dodon’s authority.

Mr Filip, who faces a general election battle next year, insisted that only MPs could sign such agreements because “it is parliament that is the supreme body that approves the direction of domestic and foreign policy”.

Mr Dodon as argued that the new observer status with the EAEU does not conflict with Moldova’s association agreement with the European Union, which was only signed last June. The deal currently in place between the two does not prevent Moldova from signing trade deals with third parties.

Moldovan citizens can also travel freely within the EU’s Schengen free movement zone as a result of a pact agreed in 2014, whilst Brussels has given the country tens of millions of euros in aid.

But Mr Dodon has previously stated that if his party win’s next year’s parliamentary elections he would like to see the association agreement with the EU scrapped.

http://www.express.co.uk

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