The current domestic crisis in Moldova is closely linked to the country’s foreign policy. Formally, it emerged from failing to form a coalition needed for functioning of the Parliament and the Government by the parties that entered the Parliament following the elections of February 24, 2019. Tough rhetoric against political opponents closed the door to coalition negotiations between the three main political forces, the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova, the ACUM (“Now”) bloc and the Democratic Party of Moldova, without the risk of considerable electoral losses in the future. The only possible scenario to get out of the crisis was to bring the situation to a critical point, when the coalition would be seen not as a betrayal of ideals and a shift from election promises, but as bad alternative vs the worst.

Formally, the Moldovan foreign-policy balance of power is as follows: the Socialists call for close integration with Russia and joining the EEU, while President Igor Dodon is a frequent guest at all top-level events for the CIS member states held by the Kremlin. The ACUM bloc and its two leaders, Maia Sandu (the incumbent Prime Minister and Dodon’s former rival in the 2016 Moldova’s presidential runoff) and Andrei Năstase often visit European and Romanian offices and advocate Moldova’s accession to the European Union. The Democratic Party with its leader Vlad Plahotniuc, an oligarch and shadow ruler of Moldova, balanced between two alternatives (Russia and the EU) until recently, while having exclusive access to the overseas politicians. As demonstrated by the February elections, each of these political forces is supported by about one-third of the country’s electorate. Ilan Shor, the fourth most popular politician in the Republic of Moldova, is closer to Plahotniuc by genesis, being a billionaire and a master of under- the-carpet-battle; however, he is ready for various political somersaults for his own benefit. The once ruling Communist Party of Moldova (its leader – former President Vladimir Voronin) and unianists (supporters of unification with Romania led by Mihai Ghimpu) have greatly weakened their positions at the moment, though everything comes full circle, as shown by the country’s political practice.

The logic of developing political crisis is determined by the confrontation between political groups, where the DPM strives to retain control over key state institutions, such as the Government (Moldova’s another Prime Minister Pavel Filip is among the top DPM leaders), the Constitutional Court, the State Bank and power structures, while other groups wish to gain this control. At the same time, these power seekers are not strong enough in their electoral capacity to take power single-handed. We will emphasize once again that their foreign policy stances are almost entirely opposite, which makes the PSRM-ACUM union extremely unstable and situation-based.

Aggravation of the crisis and its transition to the active phase happened after the Constitutional Court of Moldova decided on June 8, 2019 that the Parliament was unable to form a majority in due course, in order to appoint the governing bodies and the Prime Minister. Based on this decision, the court demanded President Igor Dodon to dissolve the Parliament and call early elections. The President’s refusal to sign a decree on the dissolution of Parliament was interpreted by the court as non-compliance with constitutional obligations, the President’s powers were suspended, and this decree was signed by the acting Prime Minister. At that same time, the factions of Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) and the ACUM bloc agreed on the appointment of the Chairman of the Parliament and the Prime Minister (Zinaida Greceanîi from the PSRM and Maia Sandu from ACUM, respectively).

Actually, two mutually exclusive events occurred simultaneously: the Parliament was dissolved because it could not form its governing bodies and appoint the country’s Prime Minister, and the Parliament meeting elected its Chairman and approved the Prime Minister (in the course of resumed constitutive meeting, which was interrupted on March 21 for non-agreement).

So it can be stated that after June 8, 2019 the period of power duality started in Moldova. The Filip cabinet formed by the DPM does not recognize the legitimacy of the Parliament and considers it dissolved, while the Parliament, President Igor Dodon (the PSRM leader before taking the office, formally suspended party membership) and the Government of Maia Sandu do not recognize the Filip cabinet. In this situation, the former government retains the actual control over most state institutions, as the DPM-appointed heads of organizations and institutions keep loyal to this party.
On June 11, 2019, Moldovan President Igor Dodon reversed the decree on the early dissolution of Parliament and new elections. The head of the Moldovan state voiced the respective message at the briefing following the Supreme Security Council session. Notably that Attorney General Eduard Harunjen and the NBM President, Sergei Choklya did not attend the session.

Igor Dodon underlined that the overturned decision made by Pavel Filip does not comply with the Constitution norms. The Moldovan leader also sharply criticized the Constitutional Court decision, which recognized the Sandu Government as illegal and justified the dissolution of the country’s Supreme legislative body. According to Igor Dodon, all this jeopardizes Moldova’s interests and security.

The internal political crisis is fueled by great disagreements between the main political forces on such issues as the foreign policy direction and Moldova’s key political problem – settling the frozen conflict in the self-proclaimed Pridnestrovian (Transnistrian) Moldavian Republic (PMR).

The visit of Russian Deputy Prime Minister and the president’s envoy for trade and economic relations with Moldova Dmitry Kozak to Chisinau right before aggravation of the political crisis (June 3) once again brought to the fore the choice of the way to country’s reintegration and the attitude of various political groups towards this. Dmitry Kozak was the author of the same name Memorandum of 2003, a document that contained the most comprehensive and elaborate solutions to the Moldovan political split developed through the last 27 years. However, it was rejected by President Vladimir Voronin at the last moment, which sharply deteriorated Russian-Moldovan relations.The talks between Dmitry Kozak and the leaders of Moldovan political parties returned to the public agenda the issue of possible resolving the Transnistrian crisis through the federalization of Moldova, where the left bank area will retain a wide range of autonomy. However, revival of the Kozak Memorandum in modern realities can be perceived as a turn of phrase only, implying the principle of federation building and getting relations between the Dniester banks out of the dead end.
In the 16 years since the failure of the Transnistrian conflict, the situation in Gagauzia, another self-governing territory, has changed significantly. While the asymmetric federation of three subjects was discussed, the current level of Gagauzia’s autonomy raises big questions. A number of Moldovan experts and political scientists speak about the de facto loss of autonomy status, transition of most governing and decision-making functions from Comrat to Chisinau. In such circumstances, resuming negotiations in the earlier format seems impracticable.

At the same time, a radical change in the political situation on the eastern border of Moldova, the introduction of joint Moldovan-Ukrainian control on the Transnistrian border and drastic deterioration of Russian-Ukrainian relations actually block the proposed scenario of Russian military base presence on the Transdniestrian territory while fixing the neutral status of Moldova.

In terms of domestic political tensions, the reanimation of the idea ​​to resolve the Transnistrian problem upon the revised Kozak memorandum, along with retaining the concept of Moldova’s federalization, looks like an attempt to drive a wedge between the Parliamentary coalition parties, the PSRM and ACUM. The federalization of Moldova along with the PMR inclusion into active political life will inevitably lead to strengthening positions of the self-identified “pro-Russian” forces, currently represented by the PSRM. First and foremost, this will weaken the electoral position of the ACUM bloc, which advocates stronger integration into European structures with a prospect of future accession to the EU. This feasible scenario is supported by the publication informing that the idea of ​​ Transnistrian crisis resolution based on the country federalization was revived by the DPM and put forward as their proposal under the coalition talks.
It can be stated that the ideas on conflict settlement in Transnistria are once again used not for the real regional problem solution, but as a tool in the internal political struggle between the Moldovan parties. The federation concept, as an instrument to reintegrate the country, is viable as such under certain conditions, but is compromised by political intrigues. Ultimately, no matter what the political confrontation between the DPM Government and the PSRM-ACUM coalition will end with, the future of the Transnistrian conflict settlement and ensuring full citizenship for the Transdniestrian residents remains vague.