The mayor of Moldova's capital, Dorin Chirtoaca, was put under house arrest Friday on suspicion of corruption in a city parking contract. He is one of the leaders of the Liberal Party of Moldova, which supports strong ties with Romania.
Well-known opposition politician, Chiril Lucinschi, was also detained. Lucinschi is the son of the former president of Moldova and a former MP of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party.
These arrests followed the detention Moldova's Transport and Roads Infrastructure Minister, Iurie Chirinciuc, in April 2017. RFE/RL reported on Chirinciuc's detention as part of a string of high-profile arrests on corruption charges.
In November 2016, Moldova elected pro-Russian President Igor Dodon. Reuters reported that his election marked a loss of trust in pro-European leaders following the 2014 corruption scandal that resulted in a political and economic crisis.
President Dodon now appears to be allying with Moldova's richest person, oligarch and Democratic Party leader Vladimir Plahotniuc. Plahotniuc appears to be trying to strengthen his influence in Moldovan politics, through a new coalition with the ruling Socialist Party. Parliamentary elections are expected to be held in Moldova in November 2018.
According to Alexei Tulbure, the arrests of Democratic Party leader Chiril Lucinschi and Mayor of Chisinau, Dorin Chirtoaca, should be taken as separate cases.
As the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and owner of an opposition TV channel, Lucinschi's arrest is an open attack not only on Moldova's political opposition, but also on free media, Tulbure told Hromadske.
The arrest of Chisinau Mayor, Dorin Chirtoaca, also seems calculated, "We also cannot speak about a real delivering of justice because people knew about these illegalities and crimes in the municipal office of Chisinau," said Tulbure. "The press were speaking about that years ago."
According to Tulbure, Chirtoaca's arrest is indicative of Democratic Party leader, oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, seeking a new political partnernship with Moldovan President and Socialist Party leader Igor Dodon:
"The arrests will benefit Plahotniuc, who in my opinion is consolidating power in Chisinau. Eliminating and destroying the forces which theoretically or practically can stop the authoritarian tendencies in Moldova. And of course this benefits the Socialists and the President of Moldova, Igor Dodon," Tulbure claimed.
Tulbure described both Plahotniuc and President Dodon as "geo-political opportunists" with little "real politics." Instead, the two are attempting to divide Moldova into Socialist Party and Democratic Party spheres of influence. "[They are–ed.] trying to take the whole political spectrum and country under their control and govern in their own interests," Tulbure said, "To continue to steal public money and to share it with each other."
Tulbure also acknowledged that the allegations against the arrest politicians may not be unfounded. Nevertheless, he insisted that despite public knowledge of corruption, the time of the arrests is noteworthy: "Nobody’s an angel, that’s true. Plahotniuc has prosecutors and policemen, he controls the charges, they calculated their actions very well."
Hromadske's Nataliya Gumenyuk spoke to Moldovan political commentator Alexei Tulbure to ask him about who stands to benefit from the recent arrests.
We are following two cases of high-profile arrests of the current Mayor Chisinau and politician from the Liberal Democratic Party, Chiril Lucinschi. In both of the cases there were talks about corruption in the banking sphere and in municipal government, but what is interesting is that both of the arrested politicians are representatives of the Moldovan opposition. What do we need to know about those cases? Can you explain them to us?
Alexei Tulbure: There are two cases and they should be taken separately. First is the of Chiril Lucinschi, former member of parliament and one of the leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party, which was a governing party for a number years and is now in opposition. In this case we see a clear and open attack on a party that is trying to oppose what is going on in Moldova now. Second, it is a clear attack on free media because Chiril Lucinschi is the founder and a recent owner of an opposition TV channel, TV7, which is now administered by a group of independent journalists.
The exponents of the Liberal Party, which is not an opposition party at the moment, they declared that they are leaving the ruling coalition but up until now they were part of the governing coalition. A number of representatives of this Liberal Party, including the Mayor of Chisinau, Dorin Chirtoaca, were arrested. Investigations against them have started. We also cannot speak about a real delivering of justice because people knew about these illegalities and crimes in the municipal office of Chisinau, the press were speaking about that years ago. Why the prosecutors and the police have started work now, the explanation is that the Liberals ceased to be a comfortable partner for Plahotniuc, the leader of the Democratic Party and a Moldovan tycoon and oligarch, who, as everyone thinks in Moldova, controls the state and state institutions, including justice, media, independent agencies, almost everything. Plahotniuc is now choosing in favour of new partners, the Socialist Party, whose leader is the President of Moldova Dodon.
Moldova has a new President, Igor Dodon, who is considered to have pro-Russian views. He was the only leader who travelled to Moscow for the Victory Parade, for instance. At the same time, in the Moldovan opposition press these kinds of arrests are connected to a different person, oligarch and politician Vladimir Plahotniuc. Who would be interested in these arrests and what is the relationship between Mr. Plahotniuc, the richest man in Moldova, and the current seemingly pro-Russian President?
Alexei Tulbure: The arrests will benefit Plahotniuc, who in my opinion is consolidating power in Chisinau. Eliminating and destroying the forces which theoretically or practically can stop the authoritarian tendencies in Moldova. And of course this benefits the Socialists and the President of Moldova, Igor Dodon. This benefits the Socialists because they would like to divide the country into spheres of influence between these two parties, the Democratic Party and Socialist Party. What this means and shows to everyone once again that Plahotniuc has no political preferences. He can easily and quickly shift from pro-European slogans to pro-Russian slogans. It also shows that Dodon is not a real politician, he is an opportunist who can speculate on whatever geopolitical orientation and can use any slogans and topics in his lexicon. We have a case with two forces who have very little real politics and interest for the country. [They are–ed.] trying to take the whole political spectrum and country under their control and govern in their own interests, to continue to steal public money and to share it with each other.
The people arrested represent some kind of opposition or opponents of the current political strong holders. Yet, cases of corruption have taken place and it is no secret that a lot of government officials were participating or were connected to different kinds of wrong-doings. It’s hard to believe that the mayor of the cities or politicians involved and connected to governance were really transparent saints. Also there was the other case of "The Laundromat” recently, so there is some kind of movement to arrest people involved with some level of corruption. What would you say about that? Those people in the opposition aren’t really saints if I’m not wrong.
Alexei Tulbure: Nobody’s an angel, that’s true. Plahotniuc has prosecutors and policemen, he controls the charges, they calculated their actions very well. The public knows that Chirtoaca, who is the Mayor Chisinau, and his entourage were involved in corruption acts.
/Interview by Nataliya Gumenyuk
/Text by Eilish Hart