When two Moldovan political parties with polarized views united to overthrow the country’s oligarchic regime, “it was not the question of whether [they would succeed], but when,” argues prominent Moldovan analyst Vladislav Kulminski.
Kulminski, who is the executive director of the Chisinau-based Institute for Strategic Initiatives, believes that there was a combination of factors that led to the recent flight of the oligarch and leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) Vladimir Plahotniuc, a decision that he calls “rational.”
Now, the expert believes, a “window of opportunity” has opened for Moldova. However, a lot of work will still be required to rid the country of the remnants of its corrupt oligarchic past.
A Ponzi Scheme
Plahotniuc reportedly left Moldova shortly after his Democratic Party that previously ruled over Moldova conceded to Maia Sandu's new cabinet on June 14 and Sandu threatened to prosecute the disgraced politician. Earlier, on June 8, a new coalition was formed between Moldova’s pro-Russian Party of the Socialists and the pro-European ACUM bloc, following the June 7 ruling of the Constitutional Court that the government must be formed by this date. ACUM leader Sandu was nominated by Socialist president of Moldova, Igor Dodon and approved by the parliament as Moldova’s new prime minister.
However, the party’s press service assured in their statement that Plahotniuc did not flee but only went “to visit his family for a couple of days.”
According to Kulminski, Plahotniuc never really had support from the important segments of Moldova’s population. He refers to the oligarch’s reign as “a state Ponzi scheme which starts to collapse once you remove the key pillar of the system in Plahotniuc.”
“His control over the country was based on bribes, control over the law enforcement agencies and corruption,” Kulminski tells Hromadske. “Plahotniuc could not possibly emerge victorious.”
A Window of Opportunity
The expert praises the “determination on the part of Moldova's new government to go all the way” that consequently helped the international community—both in the East and West—to take a stance against the monopolization of power by Plahotniuc, who savored in almost total control of all government institutions, including the Constitutional Court since 2016.
Kulminski reasons that not only did the socialists and the ACUM bloc unite against Plahotniuc—despite the serious ideological and geopolitical differences—but also the United States, Russia, and the E.U. for once agreed that it was not about the geopolitical differences, but a “deeply corrupt and dysfunctional system” in place in Moldova.
In the current situation, Kulminski sees a new window of opportunity for Moldova to rebuild the state “from scratch”. He believes that the “Constitutional Court (whose ruling installed the government of Pavel Filip leading to dual power in Moldova -ed.) is just the pinnacle of a deeply corrupt system” and it will take a lot of political will to change the system and make it work in the interests of the people.
What’s Next for Moldova?
Kulminski believes that because Plahotniuc left in a hurry, no international guarantees have been offered to him. This could mean that the incoming Moldovan government will take a very close look into what happened during his time in office and then – depending on the results – would perhaps start prosecuting him internationally.
Kulminski predicts that PDM now faces the prospect of not making it to the next parliament. He argues that “as crimes of the previous government are uncovered and published, [PDM] will become the scapegoat for everything that happened in the past.”
The unlikely coalition between Moldova’s pro-Russian and pro-European parties emerged in agreement that it was crucial for Moldova to get an opportunity to develop internally and build an economy that works for the people, as well as to ensure human rights and a functional public administration. However, Kulminski believes, the coalition might be a “short-lived one.”
“[The coalition’s] goal would be to change the election system from mixed back to proportional, ensure conditions for free and fair elections, and announce early elections… Whether they would be able to maintain their focus on this key goal [without going back to their ideological and geopolitical divisions] is another difficult question,” Kulminski concludes.