joi, 28 ianuarie 2016

The bus to the future

Filaret Station, Bucharest, Romania. The first terrestrial gate to the European Union of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova. This is where almost all their dreams of better prospects in the West must pass.
„Iohannis is like a good watch”, I heard a passionate traveler tell the bus driver as he left to go from Bucharest to Chisinau, discussing one of the candidates for the Romanian presidency. “We shall vote for him, he is German. He is like a very good, precise watch.” The road takes him back to his family in the capital of Moldova a day before the run-off vote in the Romanian presidential election. Most likely he also holds Romanian citizenship and is therefore legally already one of the more than 500 million “Europeans with documents”. But not politically yet.

Ion is a tall, middle-aged, modest, tidy man, of average weight, with many wrinkles, and rough hands that betray a life of continuous work, as they betray almost all Moldovans who went to work abroad to support their families at home. Nothing scares him in politics, but he's more interested in talking about the presidential election in an EU country than the electoral campaign that is in full swing on the other side of the Prut River, in Moldova. Not because that isn't important, but already he no longer imagines his future and that of his loved ones as outside the EU. “We will finally enter the Union, you'll see!” he says excitedly to the man sitting next to him. “Maybe you are right, but the Communists and the Socialists are also good in the polls. They want to take us back into the USSR,” the colleague responds, with a large dose of irony. He's a more skeptical gentleman who believes that the dice have not yet been thrown on the future of Moldova.

The polarization of Moldovan society is profound, and the passionate accents rise to a crescendo as the election approaches. “Why should we vote for those oligarchs again? They should all leave!" I hear at the station as I get off the bus from Bucharest. This is the bus I missed the day before because of the unreliability of a transport company that cancelled the trip without notice. It made me think about the low level of competition between transport companies in Moldova, and how many things have to be improved. How will they carry it off in the coming years? How much patience and how many reforms does Chisinau need to find a place among the other European capitals?

But then, returning to the station near the Patria cinema, I realize that such worries about competition might be the least problem here in Chisinau, where society in general is disappointed by the political parties and their power struggles, and where internal ethnic issues have left their mark. The Moldovan people are divided into two clear camps: the “pro-Europeans” and the “pro-Russians.”

"Fish with votes on their tails"

Two weeks before the election the atmosphere is busy, but peaceful. The "electoral alms" also help, ranging from bags with small gifts to pieces of frozen fish. The political parties regularly reach the limit of legality on their billboards, and public debates between candidates do not really exist. The only real attempts at raising issues are made by certain NGOs, timid actions that do not always achieve viable results because of the early withdrawal of one of the challengers.

Instead, the candidates prefer “tele-politics,” where candidates do not make too much effort to present concrete electoral programmes. Electoral monitoring is being exercised by NGOs such as Promo-LEX, which deals with human rights protection as well as election observation. Promo-LEX CEO Ion Manole believes that the human rights situation has improved in recent years following some pro-European orientation, but the efforts made by authorities are still inadequate. The issues persist, particularly in the separatist region of Transnistria, where rights have been violated for more than two decades, and politicians of all stripes have failed to find a solution. "Human rights are not negotiable," says Manole. "They are set out in the European Convention on Human Rights and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Hopes in the balance

The same strong wishes can also be found among younger generations. Ina, a journalist educated in Europe and who worked in the USA, believes the political options in the country are clear: "The Moldovans can either decide in favour of democracy, personal rights, and freedoms, and in favour of a functioning state, or they can choose to remain the poorest country in Europe, at the mercy of Russian indisposition, directed by rules and embargoes imposed overnight, a state of corrupt officials, with thousands of people seeking justice in international courts," she says.

At the same time, Ina is convinced that Moldova now has an “historic opportunity” to become a state with a true rule of law. She explains the split between electoral choices in terms of the age of voters and their corresponding aspirations and levels of nostalgia. But at the same time, both finally want the same thing: a higher standard of living. Irina, meanwhile, who currently works for Promo-LEX, believes that "paradoxically or not," the citizens of this country want the same things that the EU is offering. "But these seem to be very difficult to achieve."

She also asserts that Moldovan citizens are split between having an "ours and yours" attitude on the one hand, and being pro-EU, or between change and “not being any worse.” But Irina is fairly cynical. As far as she is concerned, regardless of the outcome in these parliamentary elections, "the desire for power will dominate the Moldovan political scene in the next four years, and the two options will give birth to a hybrid project aimed mainly at somehow legitimizing the government."

Geopolitical parties

In Moldova, some political analysts talk not only about political parties, but about certain “geopolitical” ones. The citizens are being invited not only to choose parties, but also future political-economic options. Moreover, in the current tense regional context there are many discussions about belonging to a military block to strengthen the security of the country. Some analysts say these issues confuse the average Moldovan, who, after “being burned by so many soups, now blows twice in yogurt.”

"The dilemma is war or peace," says Oazu Nantoi, political analyst at the Institute for Public Policy. "Peace means to continue the partnership with the European Union, and war means the inability to create a European coalition, and subversive actions of the Russian Federation on the territory of the Republic of Moldova that will bring the country to its knees."

He also says that the population of the Republic of Moldova is highly influenced by the Russian media. For example, it sees the situation in Ukraine only through the prism of Russian TV channels. In his opinion, Russia has launched two political projects in Moldova: the Socialist Party and the Patria Party, which act as a kind of fifth column. The question on the behavior of the Communist Party after elections remains open, he says, and does not exclude the possibility of some post-election challenges from the separatist region of Transnistria, if the two pro-Russian political projects mentioned above fail.

Gheorghe Cojocaru, director of the Institute of History, State and Law at the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, believes that the country’s future lies in continuing along the European path, or else it will move closer to the Eurasian region. "There has existed no more important decision since 1989, when the Soviet Union collapsed and the former Moldovan SSR tried to retrieve its identity. Unfortunately a large part of our society does not realize the importance of these elections," maintains the historian. He says there is a visible loss of appetite among ordinary citizens, because they have continually been sacrificed at every political cycle. Their disorientation has been amplified after more than 20 years of independence, by poverty and the domination of society by oligarchs.

Cojocaru believes that the citizens must have patience and the benefits of moving towards the EU have already started, and will continue once a well-defined political and administrative framework has been set within a European format. But reforms are necessary. He also mentions that the embargo imposed by Russia on many Moldovan products has created a hostile reaction from a part of population towards the EU. The historian believes it is very important that this competition between the political parties, between two opposing geopolitical options, will end with a decision to join the EU.

The political choice the people of Moldova have to make still creates many headaches here. Not necessarily because it is seen as a historic opportunity, but more because they are wary of another disappointment from the political class, regardless of geopolitical orientation. For me, as a Romanian, it's simple. I know I won't miss my bus back home. What I don't really know is if Moldova will also get on a bus for Europe, or will choose to still remain at its old ex-Soviet station?

Mădălin Necșuțu, „Nouă” magazine, Chișinău, Republic of Moldova

Niciun comentariu:

Trimiteți un comentariu

Dofollow Banner