Between West and East

Pro-EU party won parliamentary election in the Republic of Moldova. Berlin openly intervened in election campaign.

BERLIN/CHIŠINAU | | moldawien

BERLIN/CHIŠINAU (Own report) - The party of Berlin-favored neoliberal President Maia Sandu, has won last Sunday's parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova. According to preliminary election results, with around 52 percent of the votes, the EU-oriented Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) beat the more Russia leaning Socialists, led by former President Igor Dodon. Berlin had openly intervened in the election campaign. Sandu, PAS' former leader and its best-known representative to date, had been received in Germany's capital also by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. German support for her and her party had recently even included media publications aimed at influencing public opinion in that southeastern European country. For years already, Sandu and PAS have been sponsored by the German government and German foundations seeking to gain the upper hand in the power struggle with Moscow over Moldova. In this constant struggle, the pro-EU faction around Sandu is now providing the president and the largest faction in the parliament.

Compromise of the Great Powers

Following a major state crisis in the summer of 2019 and two intermittent parallel governments, the pro-Russian Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) and the pro-EU Liberal Conservatives (ACUM) formed a coalition government - through mediation by ambassadors of foreign powers.[1] Former World Bank official, Maia Sandu, was given the post of prime minister in Chişinău. One of her few visits abroad took her to Germany, where she also met with Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation.[2] Merkel declared that Berlin supports Sandu's envisioned "reforms wholeheartedly."[3] However, having lost a vote of confidence, Sandu stepped down already in November 2019. She declared that there was "a great risk that Moldova would now again lose the support of international donors."[4]

Germany's Favorite

Shortly before the 2016 presidential elections - which, at the time, she had lost to the Socialist candidate Igor Dodon - Chancellor Merkel had already met with Sandu, thus demonstrating her support for the neoliberal politician.[5] The European People's Party (EPP), wherein the CDU plays a dominant role, had dispatched staff to Moldova to help Sandu's election campaign, even though Sandu's Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) is not a member of the EPP. On the eve of the elections, the EPP published a press release stating that Maia Sandu "is the change Moldova needs."[6]

Shift toward Moscow

In November 2019, Sandu was succeeded as Prime Minister by non-partisan Ion Chicu, whose cabinet was dominated by the Socialists. His first foreign visit took him to Moscow. On this occasion, the Russian government offered the Republic of Moldova a low-interest loan of US $500 million.[7] Contrary to Sandu's prediction, the new Moldovan government quickly found donors - albeit other than in the West. Despite improved relations with Moscow, the new government in Chişinău sent cooperative signals to Germany and appointed Moldova's former ambassador to Berlin as its new foreign minister.[8] A Republic of Moldova under strong Russian influence and with Germany playing a junior role - was the idea that had already been discussed between Chancellor Merkel and the Russian President at the time Medvedev a decade ago.[9]

Surprising Election Victory

Nevertheless, pro-Russian politicians had lost massive popular support in the course of 2020. Prime Minister Chicu's government resigned in December 2020, due to its mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, former Prime Minister Sandu won the presidential elections, at the end of 2020. A quarter of her votes came from abroad - from Moldovans, who had emigrated to earn their living in more prosperous countries.[10] In keeping with her ties, the new President Sandu immediately began harvesting advance praise from the Christian Democrat milieu. According to the office manager of the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Chişinău, she "credibly and courageously embodies a democratic and constitutional change."[11] However there is quite a gap between how Sandu is portrayed in the West, and her actual policies at home.

On the Fringes of Constitutionality

Even though the Republic of Moldova is a parliamentary Republic, after her victory in late 2020, Sandu, the newly elected president, held the opinion that her election mandate provided her, as president, the right to dissolve parliament. However, since in Moldova that is only permitted, when the government had not been able to function for three months, Sandu thwarted the Socialists' efforts to form a new government. A critical observer of the political situation in Moldova characterized her maneuvers as placing her "mandate from winning the presidential elections, above the constitutionality of her actions," rather than "respecting the rule of law and subordinating her mandate to it."[12]

Vaccine Diplomacy

The vaccination campaign to fight Covid-19 has caused the pro-EU forces a new setback in the constant struggle between the west-oriented and the east-oriented factions in Moldova. As was already noted by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) back in May, in the arena of vaccine diplomacy, the EU "is less present than other powers."[13] This is also the case in the Republic of Moldova. In February 2021, the country initially received only 21,600 doses of vaccine from Romania. In March, a few thousand doses more came from the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) program of the WHO. During the same month, Moldova was delivered 2,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine - as a donation from the United Arab Emirates - and another 50,000 doses from Romania. In April the country received its first commitments for larger deliveries of vaccines from Russia and China. Both countries made known that they had donated a total of 330,000 doses of vaccines to the republic.[14] President Sandu's reaction was to ask the German government for help. Germany's ministry of defense responded with 28 truckloads of gloves, masks, respirators and other relief supplies, that the German ambassador presented to the president in a high-profile ceremony.[15] However, so far, Germany has not delivered any vaccines, which once again was a setback for the EU countries in the Moldovan vaccination campaign. Washington has announced that it intends to deliver 500,000 doses of vaccines to outdo the competition. The first 150,000 were due to arrive in Chişinău yesterday.[16]

Renewed Intervention

Following Sandu's tactical maneuver to thwart the creation of a socialist government in Chişinău, Moldova's Constitutional Court ruled on April 15, that new elections must be held and set the date for last Sunday. Again, leading German politicians openly took positions in the Moldovan election campaign. Sandu again traveled to Germany and was received by Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) and Norbert Lammert, Chair of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.[17] In addition, a Moldovan intelligence service internal paper and analysis was leaked to the tabloid "Bild" by the German ministry of the interior, under the direction of Horst Seehofer (CSU). The documents described alleged Russian influence operations in Moldova that are said to have been thwarted by EU intelligence services.[18] The allegations cannot be verified. However, they certainly had an impact on the Moldovan elections - an example of how Germany is doing, what it constantly accuses its adversaries of doing: intervening in the domestic affairs of foreign nations.

 

[1] See also New Government, Old Acquaintances.

[2] Jan Philipp Wölbern: "Die Bürgerinnen und Bürger in der Moldau wollen Reformen". kas.de 20.05.2021.

[3] Reformen "aus ganzem Herzen" unterstützen. bundesregierung.de 16.07.2019.

[4] Reinhard Veser: Mit Staatsanwälten spielt man nicht. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 15.11.2019.

[5] See also Setback for Berlin.

[6] EPP Presidency: Maia Sandu is the change Moldova needs (EN+RO). epp.eu 21.10.2016.

[7] Kamil Całus: A pseudo-multi-vector policy. Moldova under the socialists. osw.waw.pl/en/ 28.02.2020.

[8] Vladimir Socor: Moldova's Leftist President Moving Steadily Toward the Political Center (Part One). jamestown.org 13.02.2020.

[9] See also Ein Testlauf für Eurasien (II).

[10] Kamil Całus: Maia Sandu wins the presidential election in Moldova. osw.waw.pl/en/ 16.11.2020.

[11] Martin Sieg: Parlamentsauflösung in der Republik Moldau. Präsidentin Sandu setzt Neuwahl durch. Länderbericht der Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, April 2021.

[12] Florian Kellermann: Moldau kämpft gegen Korruption und Corona. deutschlandfunk.de 06.04.2021.

[13] See also "The EU's Vaccine Apartheid".

[14] Vaccination with Russian Sputnik V begins in Moldova. health ministry reports, tass.com 04.05.2021. China a confirmat acordarea Republicii Moldova a 150 de mii de doze de vaccin în calitate de ajutor umanitar. tv8.md 22.04.2021.

[15] Corona-Hilfe für die Republik Moldau. bundeswehr.de 14.06.2021.

[16] Stephen McGrath: U.S. Donates 500,000 COVID-19 Vaccine Doses to Moldova. time.com 10.07.2021.

[17] Jan Philipp Wölbern: "Die Bürgerinnen und Bürger in der Moldau wollen Reformen". kas.de 20.05.2021.

[18] Julian Röpcke: Geheimdienst enthüllt die miesen Tricks - So könnte Putin die Bundestagswahl sabotieren. Bild 22.06.2021.