Moldova, Explained by ZdG. November 4, 2019.

HAPPENING THIS WEEK

Greetings from Chișinău, on a post-election day! In a historic win for the Socialist Party, Ion Ceban becomes the first pro-Eastern mayor of this European city. With 29 percent of the vote for Democratic Party mayors around the country, Vlad Plahotniuc’s former party ousted from government during the June political crisis, still maintains a strong political leadership.  In other news, our weekly feature gives you the scoop on the five month long quest to name the country’s next Prosecutor General, which is down to four candidates. Also last week, oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, involved in the Billion case, was announced in international and interstate search. All of that and more in this week’s newsletter. Happy reading!

THIS WEEK’S FEATURE

PROSECUTOR WANTED: After the July resignation of the Prosecutor General, the quest for a new person to head the Prosecutor’s Office enters its fifth month.  Early on, the ACUM Bloc of the governing coalition put on the table the option to have foreign candidates in hope for a qualified, high integrity top prosecutor, however the Socialist Party opted for an internal contest and the “European Prosecutor” option was off the table. ZdG scooped the CVs and the declarations of assets of the four runners up in the contest for the Prosecutor General position, with three former prosecutors and one outsider in the list. 

FROM THE EDITORS

EXECUTIVE COMMENTARY: The local elections are over. It is the first time that the Chișinău City Hall will be led by a pro-Eastern mayor, Ivan Ceban of the Socialist Party. He declared that he will suspend his membership in the Socialist Party once his mandate is validated. The question remains, will he also “suspend” the actions and behaviors typical of this party in the past? 

The Socialist Party splintered from the previously influential Communist Party, a continuator of policies such as lack of transparency, restrictions in access to information, clientelism and phobia to European values. 

ZdG’s Executive Director Alina Radu argues that the new mayor’s actions in the City Hall depend significantly on the new composition of the Municipal Council, Chișinău’s decision making body. Out of the 51 seats in the Council, the Socialists hold 22 mandates. The Chișinău Municipal operates on a simple majority basis, and to obtain it, Ceban needs four more councillors. Who could  they be? The Shor Party holds two seats, the Democratic Party holds two seats, and the Communists Party has one? At the national level, the Socialist Party is officially in a ruling coalition with the ACUM Bloc, which won 19 seats at the city level. Further on the pro-European side of the political spectrum, the Liberal Party, gained three seats, the National Unity Party got one seat and the New Force Movement also secured one seat. 

The coming days will make it clear whether the fragile alliance between the ACUM Bloc and the Socialist Party will be able to form a majority within the Chișinău Municipal Council. And if the alliance proves to be strong, Mayor Ceban will have to be fully transparent and comply with anti-corruption norms, respecting European standards. And if not, the ACUM Governance could be affected by Igor Dodon’s decisions in the governing coalition.  Is the Socialist Party ready to assume the government at this stage? We hope that next week we will have the answers to these questions.
 

DODON IN TOKYO: The typhoon that hit Tokyo and the surrounding areas last week was still brewing, when Moldova’s President left for Japan, taking with him his entire family, including his brother’s family, as well as two officials from the Presidency. Although Dodon and his wife were invited to attend the coronation ceremony of Emperor Naruhito, he managed to make it look less like an official visit and more like a family trip. ZdG editor in Chief Aneta Grosu argues on the importance of transparency, a principle respected by the decision making apparatus and ignored by the representative one.  

THE FOREIGN BRIEF

E.U. FINANCING: On October 31, the European Commission has approved the disbursement of almost €25 million in budget support assistance to Moldova to help the government deliver key reforms in the areas of policing, the fight against corruption and money laundering, agriculture and rural development. Since July 2019 the European Union transferred four assistance packages to Moldova worth around €84 million total. 

FOREIGN MEETINGS: On November 1, Minister of Economy and Infrastructure Vadim Brînzan met with U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Dereck J. Hogan and Andrew Laffoon, CEO of a Silicon Valley company from California, U.S. The officials discussed about the necessity to develop a preferential legal framework both for companies already operating in our country and for entrepreneurs planning to start up a business in Moldova. The IT company runs an office in Chișinău, employing over 20 programming engineers in what is the country’s first information technology park, Moldova IT Park. According to a 2018 study by the Ministry of Economy, the IT sector contributed to Moldova’s GDP with 3.7 percent.  

ZDG INVESTIGATES

PLAHOTNIUC WANTED: After several months of waiting Moldova’s biggest oligarch and former leader of the Democratic Party Vladimir Plahotniuc was announced in international search. At the same time the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office froze his bank accounts at Victoriabank and the assets of some of his companies. ZdG investigated the news on Plahotniuc being declared in international and interstate search, asking the General Police Inspectorate for more information and details regarding the case, but the Police kept us waiting. At the same time while checking the Interpol wanted persons section ZdG found that like Ilan Shor’s name, former mayor of Orhei, involved in the Billion Case, Plahotniuc’s name also doesn’t appear on the list.  

ELECTION RESULTS: The competition for 902 city and village halls that started on October 20 is over. The Democratic Party came out strongest, with nearly 29 percent of the votes nationally. Thus, the Democratic Party is leading the top with a number of 262 mayors, the majority of whom passed with decisive victories from the first round. The Socialist Party comes in second place with 207 mayors. Ranking in third place is the ACUM Bloc with 173 mayors. Although in big cities such as Bălți or Chișinău, geopolitical criteria for voting is still a trend, the results show a reshuffling of voter preferences and a turn from geopolitical voting to voting for mayors and local leaders who are known in their communities. 

MOLDOVA IN WORLD NEWS

CRYPTOCURRENCY IN TRANSNISTRIA: The small unrecognized Transnistrian region in Moldova is searching for alternatives in business- cryptocurrency. Mining cryptocurrency in Russian enclaves such as Crimea, Abkhazia and Transnistria is becoming part of their economy writes Hannah Lucinda Smith for WIRED. The cryptocurrency mines could become a leverage of economic bargaining on the international arena, as to avoid international sanctions and the international financial control of the funds’ flow. 

TO BE A WOMAN IN MOLDOVA: According to the Women, Peace, and Security Index measuring and ranking women’s well-being worldwide, Moldova is one of the biggest upward movers, advancing 23 positions (to 64) in the ranking. The boost is due to the legal reforms  that included amendments to the country’s sexual harassment legislation, improvements in women’s financial inclusion, which more than doubled, from 19 to 45 percent. 

FAILED ECONOMIC TRANSITION: After the collapse of the Soviet Union Moldova’s GDP per capita plummeted and bottomed out. Kristen R. Ghodsee and Mitchell A. Orenstein from the Project Syndicate note that this is a trend in five other post-communist countries Georgia, Kosovo, Serbia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. Economic transition in all these post-communist countries bears unprecedented levels of economic pain and little gain, except for an elite few. 

BOYCOTTED ELECTIONS: On November 3, the second round of local elections in Moldova were held, with a 41.68 percent attendance, the smallest attendance coming from young people aged between 18 and 25. In Moldova, the young people don’t love to go to vote. Some of them because they don’t understand the candidates’ messages, others because they don’t trust the candidates or simply because they have better things to do. Maria Dulgher argues for MOLDOVA.org that young people abstinence from voting is due to the same people running for the same positions with the same promises but also the old traditional indifferent view.     

SPOTTED THIS WEEK

SLOVAK AMBASSADOR: On 29 October, Moldova’s Minister of Defence, Pavel Voicu met with the Slovak Ambassador to Moldova Dušan Dacho to discuss reforms of the Moldovan armed forces. They also addressed the participation in peacekeeping operations and the perspective cooperation between the armed forces of the Slovak Republic and Moldova.

RAPPING CORRUPTION: A famous Moldovan rapper, Kapushon accompanied by the staff of the National Anticorruption Center and young volunteers launched an awareness campaign on corruption, supported by UNDP and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The pro-integrity generation campaign will reach schools and universities in Chișinău, Bălți, Orhei and Soroca. 

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