IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Moldovan Anti-corruption Demonstrators to Set up a New Political Party
by Krzysztof Bobinski, EaP CSF co-chair
“Anti-corruption activists are planning a political challenge to Moldova’s main parties after massive demonstrations in Chisinau since the spring,” Igor Botan, one of the members of the group “Dignity and Truth” that organised the demonstrations, has said.
The latest demonstration organised by D&T on 6 September gathered tens of thousands who demanded early parliamentary elections and the punishment of those responsible for defrauding the country’s banks of 1 billion USD.
According to Igor Botan from the civil society group ADEPT, the organisers of the demonstrations are now building a new political movement through Council of the National Assembly that would bring together honest people to contest the next elections on an anti-corruption, pro-EU ticket. “The party would represent ‘clean Moldova’,” Mr Botan says.
The government is refusing to accept the demand for early elections and the country’s constitution bans parliamentary elections in the six months before presidential elections which are planned for April 5 next year. This means that the earliest that new elections could be held would be the second half of 2016.
Moldova held parliamentary elections last November, which saw three pro-European parties win enough support to form a government but with a very slim majority in Parliament. A pro-Russian Socialist Party won a strong 21 per cent of votes in the election. This party is now also backing the call for new elections.
The pro-European parties are under fire for allowing the fraud and refusing to punish those responsible. “‘We are thieves but remember we are pro-European’, these people say daring us to risk an election which could well favour the pro-Russian parties,” Mr Botan notes. The demonstration called by the pro-Russian parties on 13 September gathered a considerable number of supporters.
The reformers indeed face a dilemma. Support for the EU in Moldova is falling as the economy deteriorates and a new election could see a swing in support of Russia. On the other hand the 1 billion dollar fraud, which amounts to two third of the annual national budget marked a major shock for Moldovans who are now demanding a political response.
„We were surprised by the turnout for our first call for a demonstration last April. We thought a few hundred would come but five thousand did so,” Mr Botan says.
So far the only casualty of the demonstrations has been Dorin Dragutanu, the head of the Moldovan central bank. His resignation has however delayed negotiations on a financial package from the IMF which would in turn unfreeze EU budget support funds which were frozen earlier this year.
Mr Botan, who has signed appeals by non-governmental organisations during the crisis, is looking to civil society activists to bolster the 15 member strong “Dignity and Truth” committee once the new political movement is set up. „Not all of us will be joining the new movement,” he says. “Some will go there and we will want civil society people to replace them.” Igor Botan says he knows his country’s political culture well and he sees “Dignity and Truth” as a kind of watchdog or opposition to the new movement to make sure it doesn’t slide into corruption as the parties it now wants to fight have done.