EXPECTATION VERSUS REALITY: PRESIDENT DODON’S PROMISES
In the 2016 presidential election campaign, Igor Dodon, the Socialist Party candidate, made dozens of promises. And he evinced “firm conviction” that he would make them when he became president. Dodon published and presented his activity report after three and a half years in office, assuring us that he managed to achieve 80-85 percent of the 2016 election campaign commitments. In reality, a good part of his promises remained only on paper, while others materialized only partially. Igor Dodon made promises that exceed the constitutional attributions of a head of state; therefore, he repeatedly became the subject of complaints to the General Prosecutor’s Office.
Igor Dodon launched himself in the 2016 presidential election campaign with dozens of promises, which determined approximately 52 percent of the citizens of Moldova to vote for him in the second round, on November 13, 2016.
Promise no. 1: “The stolen billion” – a burden on the citizens
During the official launch in the election campaign, Igor Dodon pledged that, as soon as he took office, his first decree would target “the theft of the century” and he promised that “I will repeal the legislation by which we are all forced to return the billion from our salaries, through taxes.”
At the end of December 2016, Igor Dodon signed the legislative initiative to cancel the “stolen billion” law, by which the billion is to be returned by citizens. In March 2017, the Parliament rejected the bill. Subsequently, the Constitutional Court declared the President’s decree on the organization of a national referendum in this regard unconstitutional, concluding that the President’s constitutional right to resort to the referendum does not give him powers in matters of legislation.
Three years later, the Socialist Party held political control over the Government and Parliament. Dodon submitted another legislative initiative, only this time, he does not propose to repeal the law, as promised in 2016, but only to reduce the sum.
In March 2020, the Parliament adopted, in two readings, the mechanism of the stolen billion debt “reduction.” Thus, four years after making the promise to cancel the decision on making people pay for the billion, it remains unfulfilled, as the debt was just reduced, but not canceled.
Promise no. 2: “Relaunching economic relations with the Russian Federation” vs. abolition of taxes for only five product categories on the eve of parliamentary elections.
“The second decree concerns relaunching the economic relations with the Russian Federation. In the bilateral relations with the Russian Federation, I will be able to solve two basic problems, first -opening up the market for local products,” promised the candidate in the 2016 presidential campaign.
The Russian Federation did cancel some customs duties, but as late as beginning with January 1, 2019, and for only five categories of Moldovan products: fruits, vegetables, preserves, and wine products. The decision came upon the eve of the parliamentarian elections on February 24, 2019, in which Igor Dodon openly expressed his support for the Socialist Party.
The taxes have been canceled for six months only, and extending the term has been discussed at virtually all of Dodon’s meetings with Putin and other Russian officials. Following his visits to the Russian Federation, Dodon always boasts of obtaining a new extension. For the third time, Igor Dodon announced the extension of these facilities on returning from the Russian Federation, where he participated in the military parade on June 24 this year.
The President claims that between January and May 2019, the volume of exported goods in the four categories increased significantly, compared to the same period of 2018.
However, the National Bureau of Statistics data shows that exports to the Russian Federation increased by only 1.16 percent in 2019 compared to 2018. Products worth $249,000 were exported, the share of exports being 8.99 percent. By comparison, in Romania, Moldova’s primary market, the share of exports in 2019, was 27.54 percent or $765 million.
Promise no. 3: “Stopping unionism – the obvious danger to statehood” vs. a bill not registered in Parliament
“The third decree targets stopping an obvious danger to the statehood of Moldova, the third decree of the president will focus on counteracting all recent actions related to some unionist elements,” said Igor Dodon during his official launch in the presidential elections in 2016.
In this context, in his first year of presidency report, Igor Dodon emphasized that a bill had been drafted in line with his promise to ban unionism and that it would be tabled in Parliament in due course. The subject was often addressed in public discussions; however, a bill in this regard has not been registered in Parliament yet. Therefore, unionism was not banned in Moldova and no criminal sanctions were imposed for such political views, as promised by Dodon in his election program.
Promise no. 4: “History of Moldova” only in the President’s textbooks
Another issue in Dodon’s 2016 election program related to Moldovan identity, just as the “ban of unionism”, was the need for “fundamental changes to the Education Code” and the introduction of “History of Moldova in the school curriculum.”
On March 16, 2017, the President sent a letter to the Government, requesting to introduce in the school curriculum in the academic year 2017-2018 the subject “History of Moldova”. The proposal was rejected. Subsequently, on July 27, the Constitutional Court declared the President’s decree on convening a national referendum in this regard unconstitutional, concluding that this is not a political issue and it should be discussed by the academic community. Although the curriculum remained unchanged, at the initiative of the president, new content of the history textbooks for the 5th, 6th and 10th grades were developed for all educational institutions in 2018.
Promise no. 5: Baccalaureate exam canceled because of the pandemic
Concerning the education system, Dodon promised to initiate a National Education Development Program in Moldova that would provide students with the opportunity to choose between the baccalaureate exam and a school leaving exam.
There is no public information on the National Education Development Program. Activity reports of the President mention that “proposals were formulated (including to the Government) in order to amend the Education Code, the Land Code, however, the Education Code was not amended. At the end of May 2020, when asked by agora.md regarding this promise, half in jest, the president referred to the cancellation of this year’s Baccalaureate exams because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Promise no. 6: Neutrality of Moldova: “NATO soldiers do not march on the streets”, but Russian troops are still stationed illegally on the left bank of the Nistru River
In 2016, Dodon promised to ensure the neutrality of Moldova and to obtain the guarantees of the great world powers in this regard, although according to Article 11 of the Constitution, “Moldova proclaims its permanent neutrality,” and this is internationally recognized.
“My priority will be to obtain a guarantee of the great world powers so that the status of neutrality is not the subject of discussions. There will never be NATO soldiers here, NATO tanks, not just Americans, of any state. We are a neutral state, we cannot allow the troops of other states to be here in Moldova, ” said Igor Dodon in a press conference held on October 5, 2016.
Thus, although Igor Dodon claimed it as “a priority”, in his activity report four years later, he writes that a political document has been developed, The conception regarding the constitutional status of permanent neutrality of Moldova, which is to be recognized internationally. At the same time, Dodon assures that he has conducted informal high-level consultations (Moscow, Vienna, Washington, Berlin, Paris) on promoting the international recognition of Moldova’s permanent neutrality status. However, there is no official document developed and signed by the head of state or by representatives of other states.
Article 11 of the Constitution also states that “Moldova does not allow the deployment of military troops from other states on its territory,” and although “NATO soldiers do not march on our streets,” as Dodon pointed out in his election program, the Russian army troops are still illegally stationed in Moldova.
Concerning the Transnistrian conflict, Igor Dodon promised in his program that he would initiate negotiations with the Russian Federation to settle it.
The statement of the presidency’s communiqués, “addressing aspects of advancing the process of resolving the Transnistrian conflict” is all that is left of the promise.
At the same time, during his almost four years in office, Igor Dodon had eight meetings with Vadim Krasnoselski, the leader of Tiraspol. He promised to start “actions to reunify the country”, however, his main “achievement”, in addition to those mentioned in his activity report, for which he was harshly criticized, was the recognition of Krasnoselski as “president of Transnistria”, which is contrary to the rules of law, since the region on the left bank of the Dniester is not recognized internationally.
Promise no. 7: Referendum on the foreign policy vector and East and West balance with dozens of visits to the Russian Federation
“Igor Dodon will be a president of all citizens, whether you have left or right political preferences. I will ensure friendly neighborly relations with Romania and Ukraine. […] That is why President Dodon will be for a balance between East and West,” Dodon declared during the round of debates on November 3, 2016.
In his election program, Dodon stated that he will “initiate a referendum on the foreign policy vector of Moldova,” a promise he gave up almost three months after taking office when he said that until the next parliamentary elections, the geopolitical vector will not be the subject of a referendum.
Instead, in January 2017, he made his first official visit as president to Moscow. While talking with his counterpart Vladimir Putin, Dodon emphasized that “a new stage in the relationship between the two countries is beginning” and that both he and the “Moldovan people hope that we will be able to restore the strategic partnership with the Russian Federation.”
On the other hand, during his official visit to Brussels in February 2017, while meeting Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, Igor Dodon reiterated that if “as a result of ordinary or early parliamentary elections or in the event of a referendum, it will be decided that the Association Agreement with the E.U. must be annulled, I, as President, will follow up on this initiative.”
At the same time, Moldova’s relations with the E.U. have worsened since the inauguration of the Chicu Government, proposed by Igor Dodon, and the third tranche of macro-financial assistance worth 40 million euros has been canceled.
Promise no. 8: Pensions indexed twice a year
“Concerning retirees, I am definitely against raising the retirement age, I am for indexing the pension twice a year, on April 1 and on October 1,” said Igor Dodon on the national television station. In addition, in his election program, he pointed out that “pensions must be increased … and their amount must substantially exceed the subsistence minimum.“
Shortly after the Parliament voted the bill proposed by the President on the indexation of pensions twice a year for people whose pension does not exceed the minimum subsistence level, the Chicu Government came with new amendments to the Law on the public pension system. They proposed the semi-annual indexation of all pensions, regardless of their size, and following a new formula. Thus, following these changes, on April 1, 2020, the minimum pension was increased by 52 lei, and on October 1, by 12 lei.
A month before the current presidential elections, the Government approved the bill by which pensioners with an income of less than 3000 lei will be granted financial support of 900 lei. Despite this, the retired seniors who receive a minimum monthly pension still live on a pension that is below the minimum of existence. Thus, Igor Dodon’s promise that pensions will “considerably” exceed the subsistence level remained unfulfilled.
“We succeeded in the proportion of 80-85 percent.”
On August 26, at a press conference in which he presented his activity report after serving three and a half years in office, Igor Dodon stated that he managed to honor his commitments made in the 2016 campaign in the proportion of 80-85 percent.
“I want to tell you that I fulfilled my electoral commitments given in 2016. It’s true, some commitments have not been honored, because the Parliament did not vote […] However, in the conditions when the Parliament opposed the President for two and a half years, we succeeded in the proportion of 80-85 percent, ”Dodon said.
Eighty percent of the electoral promises of 2016 is a manipulation of public opinion.
Ziarul de Garda asked the opinion of Ion Tăbârță, the political expert at the Institute for Development of Social Initiatives Viitorul, on Igor Dodon’s estimates that he would have fulfilled his 2016 election promises in a proportion of 80 percent. According to the expert, this is a manipulation of public opinion and that in fact, “Dodon did not make the promises.”