OPINION POLL: A Year with Maia Sandu: “I think she has to put Shor, Plahotniuc, Platon in prison and take all their fortunes and give them to the people.”
On December 24, 2020, Maia Sandu pronounced her inauguration oath of office as President of the Republic of Moldova: “I swear to give all my strength and skill to the prosperity of the Republic of Moldova, to respect the Constitution and the laws of the country, to defend democracy, fundamental human rights and freedoms, sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Moldova.”
“Dear citizens, I have no other more important project in the next four years than the success of Moldova. I have no other concern than the good of Moldova,” and then followed promises of reforms in all areas: political, social, economic, as well as in foreign policy.
ZdG took note of the promises, followed the president’s actions in her first year in office, and now, a year later, we passed them through the filter of voters and experts. They all characterized the activity of the President, associating it with that of the Government and the Parliament.
In the 2020 election campaign, Maia Sandu promoted five national objectives: Justice, order and discipline, jobs at home and united families, a minimum pension of 2000 lei, 2 billion lei annually for village modernization projects, and the removal of Moldova from isolation and approximation to the European Union.
“Many things changed this year. First of all, it is the pension.”
In the presidential elections in November 2020, residents of Bardar village, Ialoveni, showed Maia Sandu their trust by offering to her 95.8 percent of the votes, the highest electoral score obtained.
We returned to Bardar a year later to find out if the actions and achievements of the president are in line with the expectations of those who voted for her. If a year ago, the electorate was full of hope, this year we found it lenient yet slightly critical.
In the middle of the village, a man is selling live fish. He says he has been selling fish for years, but he refuses to speak to us. “I’m tired of politics, we just talk and talk, but nothing is done,” says the man.
Gheorghe, riding by on his bicycle, volunteers to speak.
– What did Maia Sandu achieve in her first year in office?
– Many things changed this year. First of all, it is the pension. People worked for 35 or 40 years and had a miserable pension. It’s not very big now either, but at least, if you’ve worked, you get more now. “
“Let us definitively renounce from Russia.”
Gheorghe links this reform both to the personality of Maia Sandu, and to the Action and Solidarity Party, of which the president was a member. He is convinced “this is the merit of the President and of the party.” Ștefan, a young man from the village, admits that he cannot list the successes and failures of the president. He says, however, the expectations are high. “One woman in just one year cannot lift the country out of the decline it had been brought to for decades. We are waiting for good results. We hope so,”says Ștefan. The young man even has a piece of advice for the president.
“Let us definitely renounce from Russia, who is mocking us with this gas. In the middle of winter, they’re thinking of shutting down the gas. That’s absurd. The Iași-Ungheni line is already being built. I know that this line is not enough to supply Moldova, but along the way, if such lines are drawn, they will connect the entire Moldova and we will finally renounce from Russia,” explains Ștefan.
Another Ștefan, only a pensioner, is glad that he has nothing to complain about the president. “At least she didn’t make such gross mistakes as Dodon. I don’t know what people think, but I don’t want to criticize her. It takes a little longer,” says the man indulgently.
“It’s good that Maia Sandu visits foreign countries, but she also should come to our villages.”
Valentina invites the president to her village. “It’s good that Maia Sandu visits foreign countries, but she also should come to our villages. Especially in the villages that voted for her. Let her come and find out how people live, what pensions they have, maybe she can help them. In short, let her come to the villages to see us,” points out the pensioner.
It was Monday, and people were lining up at the post office to receive their pension. Liuba does not criticize her president too harshly. “She managed to achieve almost nothing, because there are too many to put a spoke in her wheel. One year – it’s too short a term,” the woman justifies her opinion.
“They stayed for years and didn’t do anything, and now just a year passed. You see, for so many years they just stole and stole, and nothing was put back. And the new government came and found the state Treasury empty. It is still good that they give us at least something,” she said.
“She wants to bring changes, but there are also those who oppose,” said a man in the crowd.
– Well, they are many. Everyone there is either a godfather or a godson, a brother-in-law, a policeman, a priest.
The man who spoke in Maia Sandu’s defense is Grigore, who remembers what Maia Sandu promised during the election period. The man says that, more than anything, he is waiting for the confiscation of assets from those who cannot justify the source of their money. “In my opinion, I would take the fortune from those with wealth and luxury and share with these working people,” Grigore hopes.
“They first have to clean the whole system and then do the work,” adds Ana, who is also a retiree. “I have always supported President Sandu, because she wishes well for the people, but she doesn’t have enough trustworthy persons. There is no way to move ahead unless the whole system is cleaned up,” adds Ana. The woman says she “doesn’t even go to bed until she listens to politics.” This is how she finds out about Maia Sandu’s visits abroad. “It’s a pleasure to watch and listen to her and how she is received by the world… ” Ana adds. “She puts a great effort in these visits abroad; she borrows money from Europe. There is no other way, if the former government stole everything and left nothing in the system… .”
The woman believes that there is another way to fight poverty.
“I am a simple woman, but I think she must bring them all to justice, Șor, Plahotniuc, Platon, and take all their assets and give them to the people,” Ana tells the president.
“Both Maia Sandu and the Government need to pay more attention to new appointments to public office.”
In Ion’s opinion, Maia Sandu’s main achievement is restoring good relations with external partners. “How can we live in isolation? We need help to reduce our poverty, and, of course, being together means a force,” says Ion. The man says that the president has gained his trust and thus, he is willing to wait for major changes. “Oh, my God, we’ve had problems since 1918. We have always moved like a crab, backward and forward. And now a year has passed, things aren’t going that fast. The vinegar is made slowly, a popular proverb says,” states the man.
“We need to be patient. Perhaps it is our fault as well that we ended up in such a situation and it isn’t good to blame others. It is clear that we all together have not done certain things in time and that is why we must be patient. There is hope,” says the interlocutor. However, “to be objective”, he adds: ” Both Maia Sandu and the Government need to pay more attention to the new appointments in public positions, because this causes some kind of repulsion. Someone is not thinking properly,” says the man, referring to the promotion and subsequent resignation of the Advocate of the People and to the promotion to the Supreme Court of Justice of magistrate Dorel Musteață, the current president of the Superior Council of Magistracy. “These examples with the Ombudsperson and Musteață, they are not good. Of course there is the presumption of innocence, we do assume that people are not guilty, but anyway, if people discuss so much, the authority decreases anyway,” considers the man.
“If the government succeeds, of course, the image of President Sandu will remain high.”
After hearing the voters’ voices in Bardar, we turned to some experts to evaluate the activity of the president. Ion Tăbârță, a political analyst, says that the head of state does not have many prerogatives of domestic policy, as the administration of internal affairs is under the management of the Government.
“We saw that what she promised to the citizens, namely the holding of early parliamentary elections in order to clean up the Moldovan political class, has been achieved. In terms of domestic policy, she needs to be assisted by the Government. The Government, however, has not always been at the level of the President’s performance. In order to be able to fulfill those promises, the Government needs to take certain actions, because some of the promises are not exactly the priorities of the head of state.
Following the euphoria of the elections and those promises, now that we have this act of governing in reality, it is natural to feel certain disappointments, disillusionments. However, this does not affect the rating of the President. Rather, it is the Government whose rating is in decline and here we can note that it is related to the reform in the judiciary, where they have no clear strategy. It is true that what has been promised is one thing while the real situation is quite different, as for example, the external evaluation of judges and prosecutors. However, we cannot fail to notice certain attempts to change things in the field of justice.
For the time being, we cannot say that we have spectacular changes, only certain beginnings of change in the Prosecutor’s Office, but even here we do not know if it is the beginning of the cleansing of the Prosecutor’s Office or rather a settlement of accounts, one clan of the Prosecutor’s Office is receiving some support from the government and is now simply liquidating other clans. As long as we do not have a functioning Prosecutor’s Office under the law, we cannot boast of successful judicial reform, although it is a complex reform and it is already a chronic problem for Moldova.
The problem with the mandate of President Maia Sandu is that the people do not make this distinction that the Presidency does not have many attributions in the field of domestic policy; it is the responsibility of the Government. The citizens are expecting these changes from President Sandu, although these changes should be delivered to them by the Government. People expect to improve their standard of living, and this is the Government’s job,” points out Tăbârță.
“The president is well-intentioned but very ill-advised.”
Cristina Țărnă, a lawyer, criticizes the latest moves in the field of justice.
“Speaking of justice reform and fighting corruption during this year, I think the electorate has a different perception from what is happening right now. We were promised a judicial reform through the famous and long-awaited extraordinary evaluation of judges in 2019, and we are already in 2021, and all we have are five pages of extremely debatable generalist concept and with serious constitutional problems. We have some changes to the Prosecutor’s Office law, some from 2019 that have already been declared unconstitutional, as for example the contest for the appointment of the Prosecutor General. There have been operated unconstitutional changes to the formation of the Supreme Council of Magistracy. Recently, changes have been made to the evaluation of the Prosecutor General. Our Constitutional Court rejected the constitutionality check and did not want to order a review, and the Venice Commission criticized it in rather harsh terms. The unconstitutionality and the doubts that hover around the legitimacy, the constitutionality of these laws call into question the success of the reforms, in general.
One year after the President’s term of office, what we all need to understand is that we must reform justice and fight corruption, but not at any cost. It must be done correctly in accordance with international principles and this is possible. I do not believe that in order to reform the judiciary or to fight corruption, we must use only less constitutional methods. I think this is possible and this is the conclusion of the first year of office.
I think the president is well-intentioned, but she is very ill-advised. If these are the people who want to reform our justice, I am afraid of the justice that will be reformed by them. I surely want to reform the judiciary, only not like that,” points out Țărnă.
“She has put (positive) political pressure on the Government and Parliament.”
Veaceslav Ioniță, expert in economics, claims some objectives promised in the campaign by Maia Sandu could be achieved due to the “political pressure on the Government”.
“The increased minimum pension means a huge effort on the part of the state to solve a problem of system error and discrimination against pensioners. That is why we can say that this commitment of the President has been fulfilled. Honestly, I didn’t believe they would be able to accomplish it. It is one of the few cases when a promise with a major financial impact is kept, so they have fulfilled it. I would only blame them for poor communication.
I hope very much that now there will be more attention focused on the local authorities. One thing has already been implemented. This year the law has been changed and the tax for car owners will all go locally. I suspect that the Government has decided that 100 percent of this tax will go to the local level in order to fulfill the commitment of President Maia Sandu. Let me clarify the issue: the drivers pay two taxes. The first is the tax for the fact that they have a car, which is paid annually and we feel it and we revolt that we pay the money. Well, now all this money will remain in your locality. Next year, I think the sum will amount to 800 million lei, an incredible total. To compare, in 2009, the sum amounted to 120 million for the whole country. Now the town halls alone will have 800 million lei.
As for creating jobs, the situation here is very bad. I don’t see much progress here yet. So, we’re having a huge problem in terms of labor force. Also, I know that all monopoly schemes for grain exports have remained so far. Unfortunately, many people who had political control and were protected by the state authorities are still protected. So, if Maia Sandu wants to know why our farmers are so miserable, I can answer very simply – those who were protected by state structures and established their monopoles and mocked farmers, they are still active,” says Ioniță.
“Maia Sandu should go to Moscow to defend our national interests.”
Angela Grămadă, foreign policy expert, claims that now, through the person of Maia Sandu, Moldova is consolidating its position internationally, the position of a state keen to join the European Union.
“Obviously, the West shows more openness to Moldova now. It is not only related to intensifying the dialogue of cooperation, but also to a technical and financial assistance that we can receive because there is a completely different context inside the country and this somewhat favors this foreign policy action.
Regarding the relationship with Russia, there was an official visit of Nicu Popescu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to Moscow. In my opinion, it was a pretty good visit. At the same time, the visit highlighted the problems in the bilateral relationship Russia – Moldova. Here, I refer to the situation of Moldovan citizens who are temporarily on the territory of the Russian Federation, because not many good things have been done before in terms of their rights and freedoms, economic rights and freedoms in the first place, and secondly, their social security.
In addition, the fact that the Transnistrian issue was discussed and the fact that we emphasized the intention of Moldova to resolve the Transnistrian conflict by respecting the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova in Moscow, not in Chișinău, is again a very important thing. And, probably, even though energy security was not discussed so much during this official visit, I believe that both President Maia Sandu and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs got involved in these negotiations. Not necessarily with the Russian Federation, but with Western partners who have been able to help Moldova in terms of energy security. We also realize that Maia Sandu will not have an official visit to Moscow soon, although the opposition insists, but the reasons are quite different. Dodon often went to Moscow to strengthen his political capital, while Maia Sandu should go to Moscow to defend our national interests, not the interests of a concrete group of citizens who support her party’s interests,” states Grămadă.
On December 24, 2020, Maia Sandu officially took office as President, after winning the presidential election on November 15, becoming the first woman president in the history of the Republic of Moldova. As many as 942,000 persons, i.e. 57.75 percent of the citizens of Moldova who participated in the elections, voted for Maia Sandu in the second round.