Pretending has long been a national sport in Moldova. Many people live a life of pretense because they do not have the courage to face the truth. We all, at certain points in our lives, have tried to project a somewhat embellished image of ourselves. With time, most of us do overcome that phase, yet it nonetheless remains deeply rooted in our collective identity. On the national level, much like in soviet times, we all pretend to be good citizens; whereas the government pretends to be an honest caretaker. Yet, none of that could be further from the truth. With so much pent-up deception, sooner or later our social construct is doomed to go down in flames.
Every one of us can judge how virtuous of a citizen he or she is, and, if we are honest enough, the picture will be mixed to say the least. Even so, we prefer to believe that all of our petty transgressions pale in comparison with the government’s failure to keep its end of the deal. Thus, many people in Moldova feel cheated by the government’s blatant disregard of the social contract, and for good reason. The ‘billion dollar scandal’ is only the pinnacle of government corruption, incompetence and sheer defiance of democratic principles. So, the call by the Platform for Dignity and Truth for the people to stop paying their taxes and utilities until the current government resigns is clearly a response to the government’s breach of the social contract. But is it a responsible move when the country is already facing economic hardship? People have clearly had enough, but could this be a solution?
One thing is certain, after the march on Plahotniuc’s HQ, protesters have stopped pretending. Before, there was a sense that if they camp out in front of the government building long enough the ruling coalition will give in and leave. That calculation quickly proved naïve. But so is the new one month ultimatum protesters voiced on Sunday. The situation is now akin to a game of chicken. No one wants to yield, but the government has time on its side. As soon as winter arrives, camping out in tents or large scale protests will cease to be a viable option of expressing political dissent. That is why protesters are bound to escalate. Yet, as soon as they do and are embroiled in a fight with the riot police, they will be labeled as a violent power hungry mob. They will lose legitimacy and part of their support.
So far, the center right protesters have been unable to put enough pressure on the government. While politically controlled media has been successful in not only downplaying their grievances but also in precluding the left wing opposition from joining forces with the Platform for Dignity and Truth. Dodon and Usatii, who stand to benefit the most from early elections, have also stepped up their game. Setting up a camp site of their own – #Victorycity – leftists are putting their mark. Their decision to block the central street of Chisinau by camping there, if only for a day, was a test for the government. The latter did not take the bait. Now leftists are threatening to block other major roads in the hope that the government reacts. In light of recent too good to be true poll numbers, Dodon’s Socialists and Usatii’s populists have even decided to no longer demand the denunciation of the EU-Moldova Association Agreement, hoping to solidify their lead and make inroads into the undecided vote. Though a nice try, they are not fooling anyone by pretending to be less pro-Russian.
In conclusion, Moldovans have found themselves, yet again, in the dark, looking at the light at the end of the tunnel. Nobody knows how long the tunnel is, but doing nothing and pretending that the light is coming closer is futile. Yet, attempting to break out by risking the collapse of the tunnel is not a promising option either. The only feasible solution is as simple as it is unthinkable for the moment: a unified front by all citizens who feel that the government (ruling coalition) has betrayed them. As long as there is division, the anti-government rhetoric from all sides is only an outward show. Stop pretending!
PS: Richard Martyn-Hemphill writes in his Moldova’s Maidan piece for Politico that EU officials have been watching on in dismay. “It’s a disaster,” says Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament’s committee on Foreign Affairs. But only a year ago Brok was, in fact, endorsing Filat at a PLDM rally in Chisinau. Speaking of pretending…