* A legislative initiative to align Moldova to the Global Magnitsky Act was registered on Thursday, July 26, just hours before the closure of the latest legislative session of the Moldovan parliament.
While the opposition calls for active measures and justice, leaders of the ruling coalition seem to be more interested in a long-term game of chicken, using the investigation more as an instrument in their own political gambits rather than responding to the public dissatisfaction with the fraud.
- This feeds in turn more suspicions about their involvement in the banking fraud. Both EU and US high-level diplomats have already reacted, saying that the “US Embassy is gravely disappointed by today’s passage of legislation that will diminish Moldova’s ability to fight money laundering, and that it (the law) ‘legitimises theft and corruption’, and ‘will damage Moldova’s business climate.”
- The US Embassy ends its communique with an unambiguous statement: “Criminals should be punished, not rewarded.” On the same day, the IMF country office expressed public concerns and stated that the adopted laws run counter to Moldova’s obligations and that tax incentives and a capital amnesty are not in line with the objectives of the fund-supported programme. Moreover, they make the tax system more regressive, undermine tax compliance, and pose significant fiscal risks.
- The EU ambassador also condemned the adoption of the law, saying “it severely undermines dialogue between Moldova and EU.” The World Bank and IMF completed the overall mood by saying that they are deeply concerned by the recently approved package of tax incentives and capital amnesty, as it may undermine the Moldovan government’s commitment to fighting corruption and could have a negative impact on tax compliance, leading to significant fiscal risks. The law is inconsistent with the policy reform program supported by the World Bank Group.
Adopting the ‘capital amnesty’ is certainly a confrontational move by the current elites in Chisinau towards the EU and the US, who were earlier blamed for not showing respect for ‘sovereign decisions’ and may serve as a way to strengthen inner group cohesion. This may seem to be a high-risk decision, but it is largely in line with the style of ‘corporate-thinking’ the Democratic leadership has invested into Moldovan politics over the last decade.
The risks taken recently by the ruling elites of the Democratic party show a strategic direction adopted by the ruling leaders of the Democratic Party to isolate themselves from external ‘unnecessary’ criticism.
On August 1, Parliamentary Speaker Andrian Candu stated that he does not believe an IMF visit to Moldova would be reasonable, although earlier he personally applauded their “objective criteria to assess the results accomplished by the government.”
It would thus confirm a tradition of Moldovan governments to block memorandums with the IMF on the eve of elections, as was the case in October 2014. This spells ‘sovereign democracy’ in the repertoire of the Moldovan ruling elites, which would like to get rid of any conditionality whereby power could slip from their hands. For kleptocratic leaders, this sort of governance is definitely more acceptable, less expensive in their own estimates, but has nothing to do with the ideas of European integration.
Following suit, several CSOs (civil society organisations) condemned in strong terms the ‘rush for gold’ proclaimed by the ruling elites of the Democratic Party, highlighting that it creates outstanding peril in terms of fiscal evasion, high rates of corruption and money-laundering, all affecting the credibility of reforms already implemented in the banking sector.
What comes next?
Adopting a Magnitsky Law in Moldova is not an easy task, but not an impossible one. In fact, Moldova is the 9th state to propose adopting legislation inspired by the Global Magnitsky Accountability Act. Although, few would expect the law to be passed swiftly, it may get some jolts due to the upcoming parliamentary elections, expected to be run at the end of 2018.
There is a decreasing interest amongst the ruling elites to undertake reforms and play according to the rules and obligations undertaken by the Moldovan government towards the EU through the Association Agreement.
Misguided political ambitions may force them to believe they are invincible when they are not. If democrats think it will be easier to dissolve domestic criticism afterwards, this may be a mistake of astronomic size. It is still unclear how far they can go, but it will clearly complicate the economic situation of the country, six months before general elections.
The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.
The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: emerging-europe.com