Explanation: What is happening in Moldova

Dumitru Ciorici
Jan 21, 2016 · 7 min read
People protesting in front of the Parliament, Moldova, Chisinau, Jan 20th. Photocredit: Agora.md/Igor Vrabie

Moldova is on fire. Again. People got out on the street to protest against the oligarchy, lack of morals and defiance. That is happening in Chisinau, the Capital city. The international media, including BBC and Euronews, have distributed inaccurate and misleading information. I’ll briefly describe what is happening here.

Some context

Starting in 2009–2010 a coalition was leading the country. They called themselves Pro-European. We used to call them the same, but we were wrong to do so. Being corrupt and defying democracy and transparency does not mean being European. Three parties were parts of the coalition — PLDM (the leader — Vlad Filat), PD (the leader — Marian Lupu, but he was more an instrument as Vlad Plahotniuc was the shadow who took all the decisions), PL — (the leader — Mihai Ghimpu).

They called themselves Pro-European and managed the country pretty well. People finally had a hope after 8 years of communism. In the first 2 years they had a number of good accomplishments. The country was called the success story from the Eastern Partnership. But after 2 years the coalition started to shake because of internal issues connected to dividing the spheres of influence and control over the financial flows within state institutions. In 2013 the 1st big crisis occurred. Filat and Plahotniuc had a public fight. The first one had popularity; the second one had control over all the justice system, General Prosecutor, Anti-Corruption center and a part of the secret service. Since that moment those two never managed to build a strong partnership, the entire political crisis occurred because of their egos. The whole story is too long to write it down now, but in the end, Plahotniuc destroyed Filat and took under his personal control almost 2/3 of the lawmakers.

Read also: Moldova’s economic situation needs magic

It was said that Plahotniuc had compromising video materials of Filat and other officials on corruption issues, sex-tapes, materials once used could destroy anyone’s career. He used them to blackmail everybody who opposed. During that period (2010–2015) corruption was in bloom. It reached the highest records in history. The 3 leaders were involved, one way or another, as beneficiaries or as partners in operations that led to a national theft: 1 billion dollars from Moldovan banks. Also, these leaders facilitated money laundering through the banking system of more that 20 billion euro from Russia having the black hole called Transnistria and total control over the banks. Everything was coordinated. Aside of this, all the people under their protection developed important schemes of corruption: at customs, at the national telecommunication operator, police, anti-corruption center, everywhere where there was an important flow of money. To say it simple: they’ve put all the country on a matrix, which functions on corruption and is generating it further.

Hundreds of such cases were continuously reported in the media. No institution took an action. If it did, those were just some formal papers, no fines, no prosecution, no jail — because everything could work out with a bribe. Now, there’s no more trust in any of those 3 leaders, because they had covered all the above-described. And people know it due to some independent media which reporter about all that. The rest is all controlled by politicians.

Clashes between police and protesters, Chisinau, Moldova, Jan 20th, Photocredit: Agora.md/Igor Vrabie

What led to tension

Clashes between Plahotniuc and Filat led to high tension at the end of 2015. An organized leak of information in media, with compromising materials, was saying that Filat was the one who stole 1 billion dollars. They brought evidence too. The justice took action and prisoned Filat. Very fast, like never before. The prosecutor said it could be found out and proved how Filat had benefited of $250 mln, but there was no information about where the rest of the money was. The file is still in court. People believe that another important beneficiary was actually Plahotniuc and the scapegoat was Filat, who probably was also guilty accepting his role. The justice should investigate that, but we don’t have one.

The population was horrified: about how the political class participated in this theft, about how Filat was prisoned and that Plahotniuc would now rule the country by his own rules.

What happened next was just outrageous

Plahotniuc has just 4–6% trust from the population and it is believed to be one of the most corrupt in the country. Despite that, he prepared himself to become the prime-minister. He stated that officially. He said he would develop the country like never before, he promised will follow the European vector and a hard fight against corruption. He managed to block the other prime-minister candidates in the parliament with acceptable integrity. The population found that defiant and got out on the streets.

Liveblog about events in Moldova here.

About 56 members of Parliament (from 101) signed to vote for Plahotniuc as prime-minister. It was rumored that some of them were paid about $300 000 to vote. The president had to nominate him as the candidate had the majority support. People got on the streets and put pressure on the president to oppose the majority. That could be interpreted as anti-constitutional, but the president held positions: he rejected Plahotniuc’s candidature because of integrity issues. People in the street were celebrating. But it was too early. Plahotniuc proposed one of his college friends as a prime-minister — Pavel Filip, the former technology minister. People got angry again. The president nominated him. That irritated the crowd who became more and more determined to oppose the system.

A secret government

- The new prim-minister prepared the governing program and the list of proposed ministers in just 5 days.

- The parliamentary vote was set to take place on Jan 21st. On January 20th, at 1 PM, the secretariat of parliament decided the institution was going to meet in an extraordinary session in just 3 hours, at 4 PM. Not all the members of Parliament were informed. At 4.30 the new government managed already to present the governing program, the list of ministers and already received the confidence vote. No questions were allowed. At 4.31 the meeting was declared closed.

Seeing that in the media, the population got furious and took the streets. They were called in the street by the pro-Russian parties, pro-European ones, by civil society and other groups.

- People gathered at the parliament and clashes with the police took place there. The members of Parliament were blocked in the building. People wanted to meet them and look into their eyes, to meet the so called pro-European who were voting secretly the government of the country.

- Mihai Ghimpu, the president of PL (Liberal Party) was caught by the protesters and punched. A deputy punched. That’s a premiere for Moldova. Two women, also members of Parliament, were also victims of aggressive behavior.

- On Jan 20th evening, at 6 PM, Vlad Turcanu, head of the communication department of presidency announced that the president was postponing the sworn in procedure for the next day because of the demonstrations.

On the same day, at 11 PM, secretly, the new Government sworn in in front of the President, without the presence of press.

The public opinion exploded. The government of the country was secretly voted in the parliament, secretly sworn in, etc. Later people mobilized to gather again in the central square to protest. The next day, on Jan 21st, Vlad Turcanu announced that he steppes down from office. He found outrageous the fact that he was asked to tell erroneous information to the public and media, and the president proceeded the other way — taking the oath secretly.

People want early elections to get rid of the corrupt parties and Vlad Plahotniuc.

As about Mihai Ghimpu, he was always an accomplice with all what happened. But he claimed it’s for the good sake of the country, it’s the path to not hand control to pro-Russian forces.

Who is protesting?

It would not be accurate to state pro-Russian people entered the parliament. There were all kinds of people, pro-European, pro-Russians, people that were just horrified about what was happening in the country in the last months. This was their way to say they are sick and tired about the humiliation they felt.

The interesting fact which raised a lot of questions:

People were mobilized in the street by 3 groups:

1. A social platform called DA.

They call themselves pro-European and are on the way of fortifying a party to participate in elections. Many members are compromised. People went solidar with DA because of the lack of alternative.

2. Pro-Russian parliamentary party PSRM (socialists), conducted by Igor Dodon.

3. Pro-Russian non-parliamentary party Partidul Nostru (PN) — conducted by Renato Usatîi. He is well known in the Russian organized crime world. He is believed to have relations with Russian secret services. He has important amount of money with unknown provenience.

All these groups ask for early elections and it is extremely surprising to see them coordinating their actions: Pro-europeans and pro-Russians protesting together! That was a surprise. The DA platform wants to get rid of Plahotniuc and the corrupt system. The last two pro-Russian parties: because the early elections would offer them more seats in the Parliament and maybe a majority. What they do is to capitalize on the fails of the so called pro-European government.

What US and EU say

The Western countries and US hurried up to salute the installation of the new Government. That means stability for them, avoiding the elections. Pushing the country into early elections means a high probability to lose the influence in the region in favor of Russia, which is pushing hard to gain back control over Ukraine and Moldova. Not the same feel the people who went on the streets. They don’t think about geopolitics.

The difficult choice to be made

Moldovans have to choose now: an oligarch government or early elections, which could lead also to pro-Russian forces coming to power.

This is the true story you need to know. A sad, but the true one.

Dumitru Ciorici,

Find me on twitter @dumitruciorici
media entrepreneur, editor
board member at
Agora.md

Dumitru Ciorici

Written by

journalist based in Moldova, media entrepreneur

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