Moldova is entering a period of protest in the midst of a pandemic
On December 6th many citizens in Moldova attended protests in order to show their support for President-elect Maia Sandu. This was in response to a new and unofficial coalition in parliament that is now attempting to restrict the new president’s powers and push through a series of controversial laws.
Following Maia Sandu’s record-breaking victory in the Moldovan presidential elections in November, the country waited for the reaction of the current president and his ruling party. At first, apart from the fact that Igor Dodon unsuccessfully challenged the election result, his actions were surprisingly decent. In one of his first post-election addresses, President Dodon stated that he was ready to support a new ‘technocratic’ government proposed by Sandu’s Action and Solidarity Party. This willingness to give up power until the next parliamentary elections seemed surprising. However, this move can actually be interpreted as an attempt to restrict the new president’s ability to tackle the country’s problems. Currently, the economy is in a deplorable state, with a budget deficit of about 12 per cent. The number of COVID-19 cases has also risen to approximative 1700 a day. The opposition parties rejected Dodon’s invitation to participate in government and on December 3rd and 4th a new unofficial majority was formed between the Party of Socialists (Igor Dodon), the Șor Party (whose leader is accused of being the main actor in a billion dollar fraud scheme in 2014) and some former MPs of the Democratic Party. This group voted together on several controversial bills.
In just two days, a series of controversial proposals were passed in the parliament. The first removed the president’s ability to oversee the Intelligence and Security Service in favour of the parliament. A package of laws offering extended rights to Gagauzia (a subtle prelude to federalisation) and the Russian language on the territory of the Republic of Moldova were also introduced by this new majority. The group has even started to lift restrictions on the transmission of Russian propaganda programmes within the country. These began in 2018 during the hybrid war launched by Russia in Ukraine.
The opposition parties tried to stop these new laws. During a heated argument, opposition MPs attempted to block the speakers podium of the parliament. However, the group did not manage to stop the new majority from voting. On December 4th, the opposition organised a protest that demanded a stop to these new laws but this was not successful. In an attempt to rally a larger part of the population, President-elect Sandu went on the national television station and called upon the people to protest on December 6th. The Sunday protest was a peaceful one. It should be remembered that this took place in the middle of a pandemic and in a country where there are practically no beds left for patients in the hospitals. For the opposition and the president-elect, however, this seemed to be the only way to stop the new coalition from capturing state power.
According to the organisers around 50,000 people came to the protest on Sunday (the police estimated that 5000 attended the event). A resolution stating a number of ‘people’s demands’ was adopted during the protest. These demands include the resignation of the government, early parliamentary elections and the annulment of all recently approved laws.
This instability is projected to last for some time in Moldova, as the opposition wants to trigger early elections as soon as possible (without intending to take power until then). Taking power at this stage would not help the opposition. This is because it would give the Socialists time to recover and plan a comeback for the next elections. The opposition cannot afford for this to happen. Considering this fact, the group is ready to continue its campaign until it has removed the Socialists’ Party from power on a long-term basis.
Meanwhile, another protest has been announced for December 10th. This time, it has been organised by Andrei Nastase, another opposition leader and head of the Truth and Dignity Platform.
Alexandru Demianenco is a graduate of the “Hannah Arendt” Promotion at the College of Europe in Natolin, currently working as a consultant in an international organisation accredited in Moldova.
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