However, the political crisis which had been caused by Sandu’s predecessor worsened inside the country as the new president came to office. Maia Sandu is the president of the parliamentary republic, where her political opponents constitute the majority in Parliament and they are prepared to block all her initiatives. Moreover, a week before the inauguration ceremony of the new president, the parliament with wanton disregard for procedure voted in favor of 14 populist draft legislations in different areas – ranging from economics to pharmacology. They also adopted the budget for 2021 showing a deficit of 13 million! And this in the context of the already existing economic crisis provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This situation is aggravated by the lack of fully functioning government. The Prime Minister Ion Chicu and three key ministers resigned the day before Sandu’s inauguration, having abandoned the country to its own resources at the height of the pandemic and economic crisis. Thus, in this way he has also caused a political crisis. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova (MFAEI) Aureliu Ciocoi is serving as acting chairman of the government and he has limited powers.
It is impossible to overcome the crisis without support from abroad, especially from the EU. However, here everything once again depends on the existing budget of the country. It has not only a deficit of many million dollars, but it is also not transparent and is conducive to the bribery schemes. So, now the EU has frozen Moldova’s financial support. This was stated by Maia Sandu on January 20 during the press conference dedicated to the results of her visit to Brussels and her meeting with the leadership of the European Union on January 18-19. The only thing the Union has agreed to is to provide Moldova with a € 15 million grant and allocate € 21,4 million for the police reform.
How could Sandu overcome the crisis? People in her surrounding believe that the solution is to hold the early parliamentary elections and in the newly formed parliament, as Sandu herself put it, “the responsible deputies will be able to amend the laws passed by the Socialists and the Șor party deputies”. However, this is easier said than done.
There are two grounds for dissolving the parliament in the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova. The first is when the deputies having consulted with factions, have repeatedly failed to support the government nominated by the president. The second is in case of inactivity of the parliament for three months. The latter option is highly undesirable condition in times of crisis. So, only the first option is available. But, there are aspects to this too.
If the right-wing candidate is proposed for the office of Prime Minister, the parliamentary majority can support the candidacy, so the new government will be responsible for implementing the deficit budget. If Sandu nominates the left-wing candidate and the parliament support the government, the crisis will only get worse – we will witness the confrontation between the government and the president. And although all factions, except the “Pentru Moldova” (which includes the Șor MPs along with several non-party members) have announced that they favored the holding of early elections, there is no guarantee that the Socialist faction will fulfill it.
The pro-presidential Progress and Solidarity Party (PAS) representatives tried to circumvent this point by urging the parliament to dissolve itself. But from the beginning, this idea was not based on reality: the law of Moldova does not mention such a possibility. The representatives of the party were drawing on foreign experience, so it is clear that the Constitutional Court rejected this option. After that, the PAS deputies suggested all their colleagues to sign a declaration pledging not to vote for the government. The Socialists rejected the proposal, and the Șor party labeled it an act of usurpation of power by the President.
In turn, the Socialists have already issued an ultimatum to the President Sandu: by February 1 (when the parliament returns from vacation) to nominate a candidate for the prime minister, otherwise they threaten sanctions against the president. And this literally means taking people outside. The Socialists did not specify what sanctions they meant, but there is an impeachment procedure in Moldova. In order to initiate it, one-third of the deputies’ votes and two-thirds are needed to support it.
In fact, it is more profitable for Sandu to dissolve the parliament as soon as possible – the longer she drags on, the more her potential electorate’s support and initiative will fall. For the Socialists, on the other hand, it is more profitable to prolong the crisis. In this case, they can mobilize their electorate and weaken the president’s image with powerful information attacks that have been going on for several weeks. They became especially widespread after January 21, when the Constitutional Court decided to repeal the law adopted on December 16, 2020 on the use of languages on the territory of the Republic of Moldova. This law “gave” the Russian language the status of the language of interethnic communication. In fact, this law made it the state’s second language. The law was not supported by the relevant commissions, agencies and civil society. It was clear that the Constitutional Court declared it unconstitutional and the only goal pursued by its authors was to incite the interethnic conflict.
However, it would be naive to think that the situation to overcome the crisis will improve if the parliamentary elections are held. According to social opinion polls, four political forces are guaranteed to run for the next parliament – the PAS, the PSRM, the Șor and the Our Party. The only one who can hypothetically be an ally of the PAS is Renato Usatîi, the leader of the Our Party. But he is a very unreliable partner. Other pro-European parties have little chance of getting into the parliament. They got stuck in disputes with each other. Traditionally, the right flank in Moldova is fractured. But the left flank, which is almost entirely pro-Russian, is also separated. Dodon is currently trying to unite it. He encouraged all left-wing parties to work together in a common front under the socialist star.
Whatever the situation in the near future is, Sandu can only fight and try to break out of isolation, learn the information struggle and political maneuvering. If she fails to do so, she loses. And so will Moldova, which will again contribute to its stagnant environment, which it has been enduring in recent years.