Nicolae Timofti’s election as the President of Moldova is stipulated by the search of a compromise figure that would be able to consolidate political forces-members of governing coalition.
Timofti became Mihai Ghimpu’s protégé, thus causing the Liberals to refuse struggling for the post of Parliamentary speaker.
He hasn’t revealed his political ambitions before; moreover he hasn’t got his own team.
All above-listed testifies ambiguity of his own political game, thus meaning maximal concentration on implementation of the political course that would be in behalf of the AEI (The Alliance for European Integration).
We’re expecting the policy of the new Moldova’s President to be oriented towards relatively fast systematic reforms’ implementation, in the legal sphere uppermost.
We estimate that the opposition law adoption would be one of the primary N.Timofti’s initiatives, aiming at the relocation of the opposition forces’ activity from the streets to the interior of the Parliament.
We’re supposing that the whole block of this draft law would be devoted to the creation of the system of opposition forces’ responsibility and would restrict their possibilities of radical counteraction to the governing regime.
Being a lawyer, the current President would take legal reform implementation (judicial system, prosecutor’s office, procedural legislation) under control in the framework of directions designated by the AEI program “The European integration: Freedom, Democracy, Wellbeing” 2009-2013.
The particular accent could be made on the creation of the independent judicial system and depolitization of law-enforcement machinery.
Timofti’s statements as for his becoming “the president for every citizen” may suggest that the policy of the country’s leader will also be concentrated on fulfillment of the part of the program in the sphere of civil society consolidation and cooperation with public sector.
It foresees the creation of the legislative base favorable for the civil society development in the capacity of the intermediary for the greater public good and the partner of public authority bodies in the process of internal policy implementation.
We’re supposing the main President’s task on a mid-term horizon would mean becoming a mediator between the power and the opposition, thus providing the maximum possible non-conflict and fast harmonization of the European standards with the national legislation.
In our opinion, N.Timofti is likely to initiate the changes in the Constitution of Moldova in so far as it relates to the Presidential election.
Preparation for the Presidential election was accompanied by the active discussion of the national idea search in the Moldovan mass-media.
In the course of his speech in the parliament Timofti said: “Society consolidation is the biggest problem. We need an idea integrating the whole society. And European integration should become this idea”.
According to our assessments, the process of Moldovan European integration, on the whole, is identical to the integration with Romania for the most part of the AEI and the unionists.
In particular, in the beginning of March 2012 members of the National Council for the unification of Romania and Moldova claimed their intentions to conduct the propaganda company inside the country, one of the main theses being: “unification with the neighbor country [Romania] is the most effective way of Europeanisation of the Republic of Moldova”.
Despite the fact that Timofti does not declare officially his support to the unification with Rumania in his comments, confining himself just to the thesis of ill-timing of such discussions, the representatives of the AEI, especially the leader of the National Liberal Party Vitalia Pavlichenko hailed the candidate for presidency not being antiunionist.
It’s worth paying attention that Timofti held talks with the representative of the Moldovan Socialists Dodon, saying that “we shouldn’t discuss the question of unification today, but it doesn’t mean that the generations to come shouldn’t discuss it”.
In response to Dodon’s objection as for the necessity to create conditions in order to exclude the rise of this question for the generations to come, Timofti emphasized that he didn’t know how to do it.
According to our assessments, it means that Timofti’s election, who had received Socialists’ votes in the Parliament, evidently took place as a change to non-stating publicly the unification with Romania.
But there is high probability that the Presidential stand would be altered into more open support of the unification after implementing necessary legal and constitutional reforms.
It should be noted that such scenario will be supported by the official Bucharest.
In January 2011, The President of Romania Traian Băsescu stated: “The Republic of Moldova remains the priority! Romania will further support the process of its approaching to the EU. I hope that in 2012 Kishinev will have the President, and the process of reforms will be intensified”.
In December 2010 «Da Vinci AG» issued the operational report “Scenarios of Romanian policy development in relation to Moldova” where two scenarios of Moldova and Romania unification were mentioned: historical reunification and unification following the EU integration.
At that time we emphasized that the fall of electoral support of the Communists in Moldova favored the realization of the EU integration scenario by Kishinev followed by the further unification with Bucharest.
Ex-President Voronin’s resignation, political crisis and election of the AEI candidate, supporting the plans of signing The EU accession agreement, increase the scenario realization probability.
In this case Kishinev and Bucharest may appeal to Serbia’s precedent that is preparing to the EU joining, regardless the existence of conflict territories.
Timofti’s policy as to Transnistria will apparently correspond to the AEI program of the PMR reintegration.
The main emphasis will be made on the renewal of «5+2» talks, as well as on the attempt to replace peace-keeping forces by the civil mission, thus giving the opportunity to level integration barriers.
The process of “soft integration” with Romania may be dramatized by Bucharest itself.
Romania is supposed to probably start speeding up the events within 1,5 years and try to expedite the process of states convergence at the economical and social and cultural levels.
Two main factors say much for it:
- A) Domestic policy problems among the ruling groups in Romania connected with the deterioration of social and economic welfare of the citizens and upcoming hustings.
As the result of post-crisis agreements with the IMF, budget salaries in Romania have been reduced by 30%, pensions – by 15%, retirement age increasing up to 65 years.
Sales tax has been increased likewise.
In the end of 2011 the decision to “freeze” salaries and pensions increase has also been made.
These and some other measures resulted in the protest moods intensifying, mass riots and negatively influence authorities rating.
In its turn, “The Great Romania” theme, including first of all Moldova affiliation, is traditionally exploited by current ruling groups in order to raise their own rating inside the country, remove social tension and unite the nation.
We consider this technology to be used this time likewise as a response to the social challenges that the new government faces.
It means that the question of Romania and Moldova unification may be enforced by the ruling groups of Bucharest in order to maintain domestic and social stability.
Closer to 2014, when Romania faces fierce presidential election campaign without the direct participation of Traian Băsescu, “Moldovan issue” may become the key point for the electors. Upcomingchanges in the UE structure.
As of today the most likely scenario is to change the EU structure further, alongside with centrifugal tendencies intensification.
Every next year the probability of new members joining the EU or entry of new territories in any other way will decrease.
That’s why the long-term and leisurely strategy as for Moldova will unlikely be convenient for Bucharest, where these risks are estimated beyond all doubt.
At the same time, macroeconomic performance of Moldova as of today is capable of impairing fatally social and economic situation in Romania.
For instance, Moldovan export in 2011 amounted USD 2221,6 mln., whereas import – USD 5191,6 mln.
Meanwhile Romania occupies only the third place in the geographic structure of Moldova’s import after Russia and Ukraine.
So, Romania’s economics, especially at its current, crisis-like stage of development won’t bear the “unification strike”.
Thereby, it is extremely beneficial for official Bucharest to create more effective social and economic model in Moldova and to conduct pro-european reforms.
The main directions of such steps are estimated to be the following:
- Unification of Moldova’s legislative base in social and economic sphere with the Romanian legislation under the auspices of the all-European standards.
- Activation of mutual cooperation at the governmental level, aiming at elaboration of similar development model for two countries.
- Energy resources supply diversification in order to reduce Russia’s influence on Moldova.
Particularly, this direction includes “Iași – Ungheni” gas pipeline construction and mutual link-up of power lines.
- Increase of the level of goods interpenetration to the markets of both countries. The main emphasis particularly being on creation of joint projects in agricultural sector.
- Joint projects in defense sphere and border guard.
- Activation of “Transnistria question” approach and finding compromise in favor of Moldova. It’s worth noting that recently the leaders of Moldova and Transnistria have been trying to start developing constructive dialogue.
- Activation of educational and training projects for Moldovan youth.
- Active propaganda campaign in Moldova as for the European integration of the country alongside with activation of “The Great Romania” thesis implementation by Bucharest on its territory.
Taking into account the above mentioned the main risks for such Romanian strategy in regard of Moldova would be the following:
- Russia’s position as for Transnistria and Moldova. Vladimir Putin, after being elected the President of Russia once more, is likely to pay more attention to the “Moldovan vector” trying to limit Romania’s influence in the region that is strategic for the Kremlin. The latest is evidently to activate its work with left-wing political forces (The Communist Party of Moldova first of all), as well as with political movements representing national minorities’ interests.
- Imbalance in social and economic development of Moldova and Romania. Per capita income in Moldova, according to World Banks’ data, totals USD 1810, in Romania – USD 7840. The average pension amount, in accordance with statistics data, amounts EUR 52, in Romania – EUR 175.
- Antiunionist forces counteraction inside Moldova (with the support of Russia as well), whose actions may be aimed at destabilization of the situation, internal political conflict and republic crushing.
None of these risks is estimated to be insuperable for Bucharest, though the weight of these factors is evident. Thus, we evaluate the possibility of the above-mentioned scenario realization at the level of “probable”.
Thereby we deem necessary to indicate the risks that Ukraine may face in case of Romania’s implementation of this scenario as for Moldova.
- Decline in Ukrainian goods’ part at Moldova’s market. Increase in Romanian goods’ part at Moldova’s market required by Bucharest may be realized through the lowering of the role of two eastern state’s partners: Ukraine and Russia. It’s worth mentioning that in comparison with 2008, export of Ukrainian goods to Moldova has decreased from USD 1,17 bln. to USD 874,4 mln. annually.
- Strengthening of the informational, cultural and diplomatic tension, alongside with the intensification of Romanian intelligence services activity as for Ukraine regarding the territorial questions of Bukovina and the southern part of Odessa region in the framework of strategy of “The Great Romania” construction.
- Decrease in Kyiv’s influence on the processes in Transnistria, reduction of protection possibilities for Ukrainians living within the territory of PMR, and also of Ukrainian capital interests and of the state economic interests within this territory.
Foreign Affairs of the Absurd: The Strange Case of Abkhazia 2019
While very few Americans (and Western Europeans for that matter) would be hard pressed to successfully locate the Republic of Abkhazia on a map (it’s the northwest corner sandwiched in between the Russian Federation and Georgia, its western shores lapped by the Black Sea), even fewer (de facto, no one) would be able to tell you that for the last month a very curious and potentially tense international situation has been brewing there over the holding of presidential elections. There has already been plenty of local and regional coverage over just how the first two rounds have gone for President of Abkhazia. In short, no one won a commanding victory in the first round, which automatically triggered a second round run-off between incumbent local leader Raul Khajimba and head of the opposition party, Alkhaz Kvitsiniya. In that second round, which just took place last week, Raul Khajimba was declared the winner in an extremely close race (39,793 votes for Khajimba vs. 38,766 for Kvitsiniya). Kvitsiniya has subsequently spent the past week declaring the illegitimacy of the election, even going so far as to take the decision to court with the Central Electoral Commission, which reviewed the complaint and ultimately decided unanimously to uphold election results. Kvitsiniya is still hoping to garner enough local, regional, and international support to nullify the elections, claiming illegitimacy basically on two principles:
Khajimba did not garner a 50% majority share of the votes in the second round run-off (his percentage was 47.39%).
The overall amount of ‘against all’ in the election was 3,155. This amount, combined with the amount of votes received by Kvitsiniya, exceeds the amount tallied by the declared winner and thus it is illegitimate that Khajimba should be President.
There are two immediate problems at the local level with this logic. Firstly, there does not seem to be a provision in Abkhazian electoral legal documents that demands a second round run-off winner has to receive more than 50% of the votes cast. It seems as if people who favor Kvitsiniya are taking the first round rules (in which any candidate that received more than 50% of the overall vote would have automatically won the presidency and no second round run-off would be necessary) and applying them arbitrarily to the second round. But again, it is not clear that Abkhazian electoral law stipulates this and there is some documentary evidence to show the opposite is true: in the second round, you simply need to win a simple majority against the main opponent. Secondly, the idea of combining the losing candidate’s votes together with the ‘against all’ tally is simply absurd and ludicrous. Those in support of Kvitsiniya seem to be very conveniently arguing that a vote ‘against all’ is obviously a vote against Khajimba. Even more conveniently, they are also forgetting that a vote ‘against all’ is without doubt a vote against Kvitsiniya as well. So, the idea that his supporters have an exclusive right to take the ‘against all’ vote for their own favor is ridiculous. After all, if you add the ‘against all’ votes on the same principle and give them to Khajimba, his overall total now becomes 42,948, which is actually 52.55% of the overall vote, which would make null and void Kvitsiniya’s first complaint of illegitimacy. Not surprisingly, supporters of Kvitsiniya strive to keep these numbers out of the media.
The idea of local elections, even at the ‘presidential’ level, across areas of the former Soviet Union being hotly contested, with claims of corruption, chicanery, and unfair double-dealing, is not exactly surprising. This type of controversy has happened all over the Post-Soviet space since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. And there are plenty of extremely talented political analysts and electoral observers all over Russia and Georgia fully capable of covering this race. The race itself does not explain why I am so interested suddenly in Abkhazian affairs. What intrigues me most is how much foreign affairs, Russian-American relations, and global power competition are embedded within these elections while Western observers try to claim innocence and pretend that the current tense state between Russia and America does not play a role. Note that at the very beginning of this article I mentioned the declared winner of the Abkhazian Presidency was the local leader Khajimba. Most western media outlets are using the term ‘separatist’ to describe him but conveniently NOT explaining what this ‘separatism’ means. Khajimba is a local resident of Abkhazia who in the past has been a member of Parliament in Georgia and has previously participated in presdiential elections in Abkhazia in 2004, 2009, 2011, and 2014. This was all before there was ever any formal conflict or tension with Georgia and Russia. Khajimba simply believes the best future fate of his native region lies with more sovereignty and independent governance for Abkhazia by Abkhazia. For him the issue is not about whether Russia or Georgia should control Abkhazia at all. He has even put in his own case in court to push for this, but through the proper legal process and with respect to the rule of law. It has been the opposition opponent and his group that have tried to block, postpone, and delay this court petition, subverting the rule of law de facto. This subtlety is missed in the West and instead Khajimba is painted with the broad and negative brush, ‘separatist.’ That record should be corrected.
So when more than a dozen western countries come out against not just the election results but actually against the very holding of elections at all (calling them a ‘sham’ and ‘fake’), it is not so much about legal precedents as it is about America fearing the Russian bogeyman, seeing Abkhazia destined to go the way of Crimea – back into the territorial fold of the Russian Federation – regardless that Khajimba has never uttered any desire for that to happen. Russian readers can be forgiven if they do not know that since Crimea rejoined the Russian Federation, every single western media outlet, bar none, has addressed that event as the ‘annexation’ of Crimea. To date, I am the only Western scholar I know on record as using the term ‘secession’ instead. What’s in a word? Quite a bit, actually. The use of the term ‘annexation’ implies forced compliance and non-voluntary action. ‘Secession’, on the other hand, means the opposite. Since Western analysis of Russia today is incredibly biased in portraying Russian interests as always heavy-handed and manipulative, Crimea will always be ‘stolen’ rather than a willful vote of the majority of the local population to decide their own future political status. Abkhazia, to me, is very much in a similar position with the election of Khajimba as President. Perhaps more cynically, it is highly doubtful the United States really cares so intensely about the ‘territorial integrity’ of Georgia. It is also highly doubtful that it truly believes hard data and factual evidence shows that Abkhazia would be better off under Georgian rule rather than under its own management.
The only real reason the United States voices such staunch opposition is simply because it is an American cardinal interest to keep Russian dominance within its own regional neighborhood tamed. At the time, many in the West warned that Crimea was going to be a ‘stepping stone’ to Russia taking over other parts of Eastern Ukraine, and then Poland, and after that the Baltics. Of course, none of that has even come close to happening, with Russia not really showing that much interest in causing so much regional disruption. Not surprisingly, no one in the West has recanted those dire predictions and or admitted to being wrong about declaring the ‘rebirth of a violent new Russian empire.’ So people should be forgiven if they are not willing to listen now to similar American claims about how allowing Abkhazia to become closer in diplomatic and economic terms with Russia will signal a new cascade of annexations, where soon enough there will be no more Caucasus at all but a new Russian empire in its place. The American boy who cried about the Russian power wolf. Again.
The greater philosophical questions worth debating deal with power. Who has the right to secede? Who does not? What reasons are legitimate to change territorial allegiance or membership status in a given country? What reasons are illegitimate? Should such considerations be a strictly local issue, based on the true and fair political will of the local people expressed through elections? Or are these considerations at the mercy of greater international powers, rendering regions like Abkhazia nothing but pawns in a greater chess game taking place on the international stage? It is beyond the scope of this article to answer those questions. But this article does warn all readers from believing anyone who would give easy and trite answers to such complex, profoundly problematic questions, with Russia always conveniently being placed in the role of villain.
The Economic Roots of Georgia’s “Defection” to the West
An important part of a country’s foreign policy lies in its economic moves. This is particularly true in the case of large states seeking a bigger role in the international arena.
For example, China has been implementing the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI), while the US during the Cold War brought in the famous Marshall Plan to help Europe restore its shattered financial strength. Both projects pursue(d) projection of political power through economic means.
Long gone are the times when it still was possible to occupy territories solely through military power. Increasingly, as modernity enabled the rise of self-consciousness and nationalism among small states and ethnic minorities in large countries, it has become difficult to rely on repressive measures. A policy of active economic initiatives targeting one ethnic group inside the country or a separate state has thus gained additional importance.
Looking at the last 30 years of Georgian-Russian relations, there has been almost everything one could imagine: from cordial talks to wars to a full-scale economic embargo. More negative than positive, but well illustrative of the limits of Russia’s foreign policy.
It is true that Georgia has not been economically so important to Moscow as, for example, Ukraine, Kazakhstan or Belarus, but Russia is always interested in influencing Tbilisi. Still, Georgia is a vital transit corridor between west and east as well as north and south. Moreover, without Georgia, it will always be difficult for Russia to effectively control the restive North Caucasus in the long run.
The Russian political establishment failed to see that a major reason in Georgia’s shift to the West in the early 2000s was a shattered post-Soviet economy and no help from Moscow. Russia was not perceived as an enemy when the Rose Revolution was about to happen in 2003: there were simply no concerted efforts from the Russian side to lure Georgia economically.
Russia was also experiencing turbulent times and was self-absorbed with internal problems when Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999. Even when Russia became financially stable in the late 2000s, no viable long-term economic vision was offered to the former Soviet countries. The announcement of the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) did not produce the expected results nor did it stop Ukraine drifting from Russia in 2014.
Again, Russian political thought failed to recognize that Kyiv’s choice to move closer to the European Union was based on the latter’s economic attractiveness. As no brotherly relations with Russians could stop Ukrainians’ drift to the western economic space, much less surprising is Georgia’s eagerness to join the European market.
Simply put, Russia has not been attractive enough. Even those countries which are economically close to Russia are so because they have no alternative. Take for example Armenia, the large population of which is not inclined to Russia but is close to the Russian economy because there is no other option. The same goes for the Central Asian states, which still prefer the Russian economy to the Chinese market (however even this trend based on Central Asia’s cultural and historical closeness with Russia has been shifting and the region’s economic relations with China now thrive).
When it comes to choosing between Western and Russian economic spaces even countries culturally closest to Russia still choose the West. The roots of this problem for Russia are its inability to build powerful state institutions and a thriving economic space with opportunities for peaceful development across the former Soviet territories.
What is troubling is Russia’s failure to understand the source of that weakness – the need for a rapid restructuring of the economy to yield higher industrial and technological results. When high-level politicians openly discuss this, it often ends with no specific results.
It can be argued that for the last 30 years, Russia has not pursued a consistent economic policy towards Georgia. Investments were occasional, while other political decisions only further hampered bilateral relations. The case of Georgia’s “defection” to the West well reflects how less attention is paid nowadays in Russia to economic components in the country’s foreign policy. There are even hints that Moscow now prefers military moves to economic ones.
Even from a strategic point, one can say that Russia simply has not had a foreign policy towards Georgia, except for militarily preventing the country from joining NATO and the EU. No long-term approach of economic, cultural and other components was ever formulated. As a result, by 2003 it was already too late to reverse the existing trend in Georgia, while a similar process is now being seen in Ukraine.
Author’s note: first published in Georgia Today
Lost Independence of the Baltic States
In 1991 the Baltic States gained independence. They started to develop their new way. This choice was highly appreciated by the residents of the Baltic countries, as well as by people all over the world.
People craved independence then, and they still crave it now. They understand independence as “freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.”
Today some political decisions reduce the significance of achieved results. Thus, NATO personnel deployed in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia is so numerous that it is hard to speak about the independence of these countries. In other words they are not free from the NATO’s control, influence, support, aid, or the like.
Around 700 NATO personnel based in Estonia are took part in a major training exercise in Latvia on September, 3, Baltic News Service reports.
Exercise Furious Hawk takes place at the training area at Ādaži, NATO’s Canadian-led Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroup base in Latvia, and brings the Estonian-based troops from the British-led Estonian battlegroup based at Tapa.
The exercise means military convoys, directed by Military Police units, are already moving along routes between Tapa, southwards via Paide, Pärnu and Ikla, as they make their way to the Latvian border.
It is not even about the presence of foreign troops on the territory. The matter is locals are limited in their freedom of movement’s right. It was announced that the convoys will include heavy military equipment, which could slow down traffic in that direction. The Papiniidu bridge in Pärnu is likely to be closed to the public during the period.
So, foreign troops move freely across countries, while locals are restricted in their rights. Hey NATO, who are you in the Baltic States? Are you a guest or a host?
The more so, damage to public road transport infrastructure made by heavy military equipment is considerable. Repairing damage requires large budgetary funds, which could be spent on social needs.
The officials of the Baltic States declare openly that the Baltic countries cannot defend themselves. This means that NATO supports, aids and controls the military and security spheres. NATO also influences and controls the decisions made by the Baltic States authorities in these fields. NATO hereby discards results of Baltic States’ fight for independence.
It could be even said that desired independence has been lost again.
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