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Political Moldova: Fight of Moscow, Brussels and Washington for Plahotniuc’s “controlling stake”

Vlad Plahotniuc. Photo: 1news.md

The street protests, the Constitutional Court’s permission to organize a nationwide presidential election, the splits inside opposition – all that was just passing news but all that comes from the wish of Moscow, Washington and Brussels to get oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc’s “control stake” in Moldova.

Board of Directors

De jure, Vladimir (Vlad) Plahotniuc is an MP and First Deputy Chairman of the Democratic Party (the chairman is Marian Lupu). De facto, Plahotniuc is one of the richest businessmen in Moldova, who controls four TV and three radio channels, lots of newspapers and web-sites and has a strong say in the government.

Besides his own Democratic Party (19 MPs), he controls the parliamentary groups of Mihai Ghimpu’s Liberal Party (13 MPs) and Vladimir Voronin’s Party of Communists (7 MPs). The scandal over the robbery of one billion US dollars from three leading Moldova banks has helped Plahotniuc to neutralize his key rival, oligarch Vladimir Filat. So, now he can lay his hand on Filat’s Liberal-Democratic parliamentary group (12 MPs).

Situational allies

Since Sept 2015, Moldovan opposition has been protesting. One look at the protesting forces is enough to see that they are just situational allies. So, their union cannot be stable. Today Moldovan opposition is a union of parliamentary and non-parliamentary forces.

Igor Dodon’s Party of Socialists is the only parliamentary opposition force in Moldova. The Socialists won the last parliamentary elections and now have 24 seats in the parliament. However, they have failed to form a coalition as Plahotniuc controls most of the 101 seats. Still they have two key advantages, popularity and the parliamentary tribute.

Dodon’s key rival is Renato Usatii, a former businessman, owner of a company in Nizhniy Novgorod. It was he who in May 2014 made public a criminal scheme for robbing one billion US dollars from three leading Moldovan banks. That bomb exploded in the spring 2015 and in Oct 2015 Usatii appeared with a video picturing Prime Minister Vladimir Filat and businessman Ilan Shor discussing the scheme. As a result, Filat is now in custody, while Shor is still in business and in the office of Mayor of Orhei (a town 40 km north of Chisinau).

Our Party was successful during local elections: it won in 12 towns, with Usatii winning the post of mayor of Bălți, one of the economic centers of Moldova. Dodon and Usatii are both pro-Russian, just like Communist Grigory Petrenko from Our Home is Moldova. But in the autumn 2015 Petrenko was imprisoned and is not in the game any more.

The third driving force in the opposition is the Civil Platform DA. Its formal leader is Andrei Nastase. The platform was a response to people’s protests against the bank robbery case. Established as a movement, in late 2015, the platform turned into a political party.

Unlike pro-Russian Dodon and Usatii, the Platform DA is pro-European. Its coordinators, Victor and Viorel Țopa are Plahotniuc’s enemies. So, it is logical that they support an opposition force. Today both Țopas are in Germany, hiding from criminal charges by Moldovan authorities.

What interests do the opposition forces in Moldova have? Why can’t they all be together? Recent news reels have shown a quarrel between Dodon and Usatii over the Constitutional Court’s permission to organize a nationwide presidential election (until now the president in Moldova has been elected by the parliament).

In 2014, the Moldovan authorities signed an association agreement with the EU. So, the street protests led by the Party of Socialists and Our Party are the Kremlin’s belated counteraction to prevent full western control in Moldova. In their turn, thee Americans and the Europeans are worried to see that Plahotniuc and his team have so much power in Moldova. So, their Platform DA is a way for them to put the association process onto the right track.

And there are also the Romanian leaders are open about their wish to see Moldova unified with their country. This is why they are so eager in pushing the association project. This is a good cover for them to realize their plans.

Oleh Khavich, Director of the Institute for Western Ukrainian Studies (Chernivtsi, Ukraine):

The strategic process in Moldova over the last six years has been its gradual incorporation into Romania, while in terms of tactics, this post-Soviet republic is a battle field for three political groups – Vlad Plahotniuc and his team, pro-Russian forces and the US-EU-sponsored Platform DA. In form, the protests of the Party of Socialists-Our arty and the Platform DA are similar, in essence, these are two different processes. Dodon, Usatii and Petrenko are pro-Russian. Igor Dodon represents the parliamentary opposition - his Party of Socialists won the last parliamentary elections in Nov 2014.

Renato Usatii is the most active non-parliamentary oppositionist in Moldova. He enjoys popularity in the north of Moldova and is the mayor of Moldova’s second biggest city, Bălți. His Platform DA is a weapon in the hands of the United States and Europe against Plahotniuc’s oligarchic regime – even though it was they who helped that regime to come into power.

Plahotniuc owns all one can own in Moldova – he controls most of the MPs, the key parties (Democratic Party, Liberal Party, Party of Communists), the Prime Minister, the President, the Prosecutor General and the Supreme Court. The trigger of the protests, the bank robbery case, is quite a confusing story. The key figure here is Ilan Shor, Plahotniuc’s business partner and Mayor of Orhei (Central Moldova). There are videos picturing him discussing different criminal schemes with Prime Minister Vlad Filat, but unlike Filat, who is already in custody, he is just a witness in this case.

Concerning the long-term goals of the street protesters, the activities of Igor Dodon’s Party of Socialists and Renato Usatii’s Our Party are just the Kremlin’s attempt to keep Moldova from turning its face towards the European Union and Romania, while the DA Platform is the attempt of the United States and Europe to make this process move the way they like. In the meantime, Romania is trying to use the cover of European integration for incorporating Moldova.

Sergey Slobodchuk, specially for EADaily

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