The challenge of an Eastern leader: a study case of Moldova oligarchic political regime

Nowadays, when the world order emerges around Big powers political games, it is obvious that Moldova cannot remain outside the communities formed by other states. Moldova is increasingly influenced by the processes that take place in Occident at the level of political leaders as key players in politics.

The political regime is managed by the oligarchic system created since the Independence of Moldovan state at the beginning of the 90s. The foreign policy of Moldova is in continuous development. So far, an integral research of the fundamental aspects of foreign policy in relation to political leadership has not been carried out in Moldova.

In light of the recent crises in Moldova, there is a need for more systematic analysis of political leadership, especially the phenomenon of the oligarchy.

Although ubiquitous, the phenomenon of oligarchy undermines the good governance and development of every society and creates a proper space for inequalities and week institutional capacity.

 

General aspects on political leader’s portfolio in a transition society

Moldova is a transition country and the development of the society is usually determined by a good leadership. Only the wise political leaders can unite people on development projects, as well as they can enhance the speed of societal progress. Efficient political leaders must be aware of the problems of the society, their roots and to come up with viable solutions and proactive ways to resolve them.

Political science literature pays a special attention to theory and research that explain the essence and importance of leadership, as a concept of power and influence. Among the many approaches defining the concept of leadership and its core meaning, we can analyze at least two types of power: position power and personal power.

Political leadership is a complex concept with no universal definition. Political scientists usually define leadership accordingly to their own perceptions of the issue and depending on the aspects they are more interested in.

 

Leadership and oligarchy

Moldova is described as having an oligarchic regime, sometimes being perceived as a captured state, where the oligarchy represents an informal institution more important than formal ones.

Oligarchy can be briefly defined as a system of governance in which a small and informal group of people, using their vast resources, is able to control a state or exert a major or dominant influence on its policy. The oligarchic system has been known since the ancient times, and it is an ongoing phenomenon in some of the post-Soviet states. In Moldova, oligarchs are indirect key players in the politics and economy.

The development of oligarchic political leadership in Moldovan society can be approached through two dimensions: its establishment process and functionality. By one hand, the national leaders representing cultural, intellectual, scientific or informational elites laid at the formation and evolution of Moldovan state, and, by another hand, based on democratic elections, these elites came into power and consolidated themselves as functional and political-driven governing coalitions.

The Moldovan independence

The Soviet Union collapse and the proclamation of independence on 27th of August, 1991 raised a set of aspiration and crucial decisions for the newly created elites and political movements. The first significant steps to develop an oligarchic system were seen during the rule of the Communist Party (2001-2009), but the process of the country’s oligarchization accelerated during the first period in power of the Alliance of European Integration (2009-2013).

The key players were the Prime Minister Vlad Filat, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (PLDM), and Vlad Plahotniuc, the informal leader and sponsor of the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM). Both politicians became allies in Moldovan politics, but there was also a constant struggle between them for political influence and business assets.

In 2014 the relationship between the two politicians suffered a harsh rupture, and as a result, in October 2015 Filat was arrested and sentenced to nine years in prison. This led to the monopolization of power by one oligarch, Vlad Plahotniuc. The overwhelming scale of Plahotniuc’s influence and his currently unchallenged position make it possible to say that Moldova is now displaying the symptoms of a ‘captured state’.

What has made the difference between a failed communism and the transition to a frail capitalism?

The transition towards a liberal democracy and marketplace economy in the former Soviet states has been prepared through the reforms carried out by the Soviet leadership in the 80s. As other states, Soviet Moldova discovered the national freedom movement, guided by the political pluralism and various economic reforms which have created the legal framework for economic liberalization and private enterprises.

The biggest challenge at that moment was that political elites, being indoctrinated with principles of subordination, hierarchy and authoritarian policy, have not been able to fully share and implement these new principles of democracy.

Oligarchy emergence and political leadership development

As you can see on the slide, the emergence of oligarchy and properly the political leadership developments stem on four stages of evolutions, since the beginning of the Moldovan state appearance:

  • 1st stage: 1990 – 1994 was based on political competition and political pluralism. This period was characterized by the establishment and consolidation of statehood and adoption of the legislation. As well, a division of the powers in the state has been carried out and the Parliament was consolidated as a real lucrative institution. At the same time, other institutions were formed for the well functioning of the state, such as the Police, the Prosecutor’s office, National Army, Diplomatic service, etc. Also, public authorities have managed to implement certain democratic reforms and to establish international relations characteristic for a sovereign and independent state, as a subject of international law.
  • 2nd stage: 1994 – 2000, based on affirmation and development of democracy. After a significant revision of the Constitution, the accents were changes towards the widening of the parliamentary and governmental prerogatives.
  • 3rd stage: 2001 – 2009, based on political leadership evolution and establishment of personal business interests. The constitutional reform of July 2000 represented a large impact on Moldovan political life. The legislature decided to operate constitutional amendments that had the purpose of limiting the President’s prerogatives and his position in the Moldovan political system. It has also been attempted to increase accountability of the Government to the Parliament and to allow the Government to play a more independent role in the governance process by introducing the ordinances mechanism.
  • 4th stage: 2009 – present, based on state development and reforms. This period can be called a pragmatic stage, the “realists” period, but also the “idealists”. It is the “realists” period because the democratic governance of the Alliance for European Integration and the Pro-European Coalition Governance (CPE), established on May 30, 2013, aimed to carry out some democratic reforms and to consolidate the institutions of state power set out in the Government programs. It is the “idealists” period because success history has failed as it wanted the European Union to make Moldova and, finally, the failures governments seriously affect economic and state policy security.

 

Influent political leaders of Moldova

 

Since its independence, Moldova has seen various political changes and transformations which led to the establishment of democratic institutions aiming to achieve good governance and effective reforms. As many countries dealing with the post-communist dilemma, Moldova has been represented by many leaders and pseudo-leaders dedicated to make a difference and to solve the economic and political crises.

Mircea Snegur. Mircea Snegur is the first president of Moldova having its mandate from 1990 until 1996.  During his mandate, he supported the proclamation of independence and acted for recognizing the newly created state by the Occident.

As well, during his mandate on 2nd of March 1992, Moldova became a full member of the United Nations. As well, in 1995, Moldova became a full member of the European Council. At the national level, Mircea Snegur adopted a new Constitution. As well, were changed the state hymn and through constitution the autonomy of Gagauzia.

 

Vladimir Voronin. During the period of 1994-2009, Voronin’s image evolved from the revolutionary and promoter of Leninism, which promised the restoration of socialism, to that of the Father of the state and the successor of Ștefan cel Mare. The doctrine that Voronin had embraced was a kind of national-communism, generously imbued with Moldovan ideas.

During his mandate, Voronin has destroyed organized crime and reduced poverty (absolute poverty has fallen from 68% to 26%, according to official data),  united power and opposition on behalf of the national consensus (in 2005) came with initiatives on unification of the country (federalization in 2002, Cozac plan in 2003, 2005 Transnistrian law), and defended its country of “enemies” (ie Russia, entering the gas and wine war, and Romania with whom he entered the diplomatic war in April 2009).

 

Igor Dodon. The 5th President of Moldova elected by the people on November 13, 2016. He is considered a pro-Russian politician and in favour of the federalization of Moldova. He is strategic in forging relations with both Western and Russian leaders. Dodon, on the other hand, is too eager to demonstrate loyalty and obedience in exchange for political support. The highly publicized meetings between Dodon, Putin, and other Russian officials contribute to the political marketing strategy of image transfer.

Vlad Filat. His image of pro-European leader was amplified by meetings with US Vice President Biden, EU Commission President J. M. Barosso, Chancellor Merkel. These senior state dignitaries came for the first time in Moldova at the invitation of Filat. It was for the first time in the history of the country when leaders of such scale visited Moldova. Filat also pulled out the barbed wire from the Prut, signed the Treaty on the border regime with Romania, promoted the small border traffic with the neighbouring state, sparking virulent reactions from M. Ghimpu. IPP polls in April 2013 confirm our thesis – 38% of the respondents (most) associated Filat with the European integration.

Vladimir Plahotniuc. Commonly known as Vlad Plahotniuc, he is a controversial Moldovan politician, businessman, philanthropist and oligarch. He is the current chairman of the Democratic Party of Moldova and previously was the member of the Parliament of Moldova in two terms (December 2010 – October 2013, December 2014 – July 2015), and served as First Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Moldova (December 2010 – February 2013). He is considered to be the powerhouse of Moldovan politics, in the matter of influence, controlling Moldova’s government and parliamentary majority.

Russia and the EU: two rivals, one balance

The battleground of oligarchic political leaders from Moldova has been always consolidated around two rivals: Russia and the European Union. European integration is not only a fundamental desideratum of the internal and external policy of Moldova but also a major force of political and social cohesion. Since September 2009, important results have been achieved in fulfilling this objective.

In a recent article about the EU way of Moldova I have mentioned that in spite of obstructions and reluctant behaviour of Russian representatives, Moldova is opened for cooperation and upholds its commitment to having a strong partnership and good relations with neighbours and development partners.

Being a chimaera that sniffs the democracy and good governance, the oligarchic system has negative consequences for both political and socio-economic life in Moldova. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the emerged countries did not know how to manage the democracy thus being established a proper environment for the oligarchic regime and captured state.

Cristina Bejenaru

Director and J.A in Russian and European Relations at OSI Occidental Studies Institute. Moldova.

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