Exclusive interview with Vlad Plahotniuc on protests and changes at the MIA and other institutions

15 September 2015 Tribuna

T: Why you have accepted an interview about protests so late? It is over a week since they have started.

V.P.: I hope that we will not discuss about the protests only, you have proposed me other subjects as well, I think they are at least similarly important.
As for the protests: I have exposed my view in the early days of the protest, on the main demand of the protesters, in particular on their ultimate goal, early elections. I don’t want to repeat what I have said then, early elections is a serious subject and should not be approached as a blackmail instrument or as a way a group of interests wants to seize power, and here I am not referring to protesters or to all representatives of the DA Platform, but only to a few individuals who have tried, by using certain grievances of the people, to create a party and try to overthrow the government to take the power in their hands. I don’t see a problem that they make their party; I think it's good if new parties emerge, but they shall be created on a fair political platform, rather than by exploiting people's emotions and through manipulation. It’s not correct to bring people to the square telling them repeatedly that they participate in the demonstration of a civic movement, after which these people find out that they had been fooled, they participated in creation of a political party. In my opinion, those from the DA Platform have made a big mistake when they announced creation of a political party, because they changed the meaning of the protest, but this also puts us in a position to discuss with them already as politicians, as representatives of an initiative group for creation of a political party, as future electoral competitors, which is quite different from how you approach discussion with the civil society. They lose legitimacy of representatives of the civil society and become initiators of a political project, fighting for votes, and citizens, in turn, will choose to what extent they want to be represented by the newly created party or will seek other representatives in the civil society. They made confusion, both protesters and government as well.

T: But beyond interests of people behind the protest, citizens have real problems to be solved. Including the problem of the billion stolen from BEM should be addressed.

V.P.: I agree and this is why a clear distinction shall be made between claims of a suspicious group of interests and citizens' claims. When I say “suspicious group of interests” I mean few people from the DA Platform, rather than to all representatives and the good faith protesters. There are real discontents in the society as to how certain public institutions operate, including as to how this robbery at Banca de Economii could happen. Some people have the feeling that everything will be clarified through a simple resignation of a chief of institution. It’s naivety, ignorance of how institutions operate in Moldova. We have real system problems; we must reform the institutions from the foundations, rather than replace one chief with another, that's not enough. We can change them all tomorrow. And what do we do further? We have changed them several times over these years at many institutions. I admit that we have failed in an ambitious plan of reform, this does not mean that we have to grumble and abandon, but to start over, to see what went wrong and what to do next.

T: What are the reasons why the pro-European government failed to implement the reforms?

V.P.: I think there are several reasons, starting from continuous political crises we faced, political wars, elections followed by elections, but we also were unable to follow a coherent plan. The truth is that it is not so simple to be free, we shall know how to work in a democratic society, or we all come from a little different past and we need to learn some things on the fly about democracy. The speed which we learn with should however be higher. In Moldova working in political alliances has always been a problem, I think that only after we had made some mistakes we have started to learn to work better in this political form, and the differences between the first alliance and the current one are obvious in terms of collaboration.
T: Maybe you should leave and others to come if you move so hard shouldn’t you?

V.P.: I agree that change in power is natural in a democracy. And who should come?

T: I don’t know, people shall decide.

V.P.: Make an inventory of the parliamentary parties and a simple calculation; we have a very clear picture. Of course, the alternative is the left to come to power, if we judge by what we have now in the Parliament. But does the current left represent the real interests of people, especially the pro-European aspirations? But if people want the left to come and these parties will get their majority vote, we have only to respect and let them lead the country.

T: Isn’t it blackmail?

V.P.: No, let's take it simpler. It has been long time speculated that Plahotniuc is supported by Russians, that he is against Europe and many other speculations. From 2009 to 2015, 6 years have passed, in which some have waited for confirmation of their fears related to my intention to remove Moldova from its European path. Remember what print media campaigns have been conducted, stating that I will block signing of the Association Agreement, that I will make alliance with the left parties, the same theme was at about every elections. Today we signed the Association Agreement with the EU, we have liberalized visa, we have not abandon the European path, we have found the solution to elect the president and to get out of the long political crisis, I say this not for merits for me, but to show how ridiculous the manipulation campaigns of some people that today are also behind the protests are. I have not changed my belief that Moldova shall go further on the European path, which is the fastest solution for modernization. And now I have warned that early elections are extremely risky for Moldova, but I have said very clearly that I don’t oppose if most citizens want early elections, we’ll make early elections, I'll support them. Those who manipulate people to demand early elections at any cost, have to be prepared to assume the risks as well. Because early elections can not be trigged a few months after two elections have already conducted without assuming responsibility for consequences. And that's not blackmail, no one can say exactly what the outcome of such early elections will be, but there are scenarios that can be intuited very easily, and the signal that I wanted to give is exactly that such scenarios can have a purpose that may not be the best alternative to the current government. I saw how they began to stammer, one time they demand dismissal before elections of several heads of institutions with duties in organizing elections, other time they want early elections organized by them, it seems that they are tangled in their basic demand.
They understand that the problem does not lie in the head of the CEC, but in the real situation of the political scene. They try to get out of this mess with all sorts of unclear explanations. When I said that I agree with early elections, I exposed an opinion that I still support, but I made very clear the context in which they could take place, because it is correct that people know and decide knowingly without being manipulated, and after elections to ask why the outcome is different from what they were told.

T: I understand that early elections are not a solution for Moldova now, but some changes shall occur, institutions shall be depoliticized, real fighting against corruption is needed.

V.P.: Changes are needed, but consistent ones. I don’t see a problem in replacing some heads of institutions if they don’t do their duty, but I think we shall have more consistent plans for each institution separately aiming a thorough reform of them, not just replacing one head with another, that's not enough. If there is a failure in some institutions, it is our failure, of the ruling parties, including before 2009, not only of heads of institutions. In that case, we all have to leave first. The outdated system we have can quickly swallow any head and we didn’t solve anything just by means of dismissals. If you look at how the law institutions were reformed in Romania, you will see a systemic approach. Romanian colleagues told me that they also attempted to make changes by replacing first several heads, but things did not work until the system was deeply changed, with new people. Young people who were not contaminated by the outdated system were brought.

T: Can it be done in Moldova as well?

V.P.: If there is political will, it can, but we need a broad approach, not a party to want changes only in institutions where it doesn’t have people, and another party as well, and so on. We shall start a comprehensive reform, not a selective one; otherwise we will come only to a standstill and political wars. And I think populist approaches should be stopped, some people talk about dismissal of the head of the National Bank in public, discussing at the same time with the IMF that tells them not to make hasty changes at the NBM now, a thing they don’t talk about publicly. From what I know, the IMF could accept the request of the Parliament's chairman to evaluate the work of the NBM leadership, which I think is very important. Such an evaluation would help us to make the right decision related to the NBM and to have legal arguments for the way we act. Soon we will also have an external evaluation related to the work of the NAC, how it investigated the BEM situation and we will be able to make conclusions on this institution as well. No option is excluded at this time. We will make the necessary changes where they will be required, by means of decisions based on some independent evaluations rather than by subjective political decisions. We’ll see how to evaluate other important institutions, including subordinated to the Government, where we have major institutions of control, with direct impact on the business environment and citizens' income. It is important that these evaluations are done quickly and we are able to make the necessary decisions, based on not only what we suppose that happens at those institutions, but on the reality, to make changes where the real problems are.

T: What claims of the protestors you agree and what not?

V.P.: I agree with everything related to reforming institutions, even with the option of some dismissals, after we perform the required evaluations and find ways to not limit ourselves only to the dismissals of heads of institutions, but to start specific reforms. Dismissing some heads of institutions just in order to calm protesters is very simple, but it would be a hoax and a few months later we would have to dismiss the newly appointed ones as well.I consider inappropriate, risky and irresponsible for the moment to demand early elections, but I support this demand if we have a clear signal that it is the will of most citizens, rather than of a group of interests, because it is democratic.
I don’t support the demand of resignation of the President Timofti, it does not make sense, the more there are a few months before the mandate expires, and we now need to find solutions to choose a new head of state, not to enter into another political deep crisis as some adventurers would like. The President Timofti has played an important role in putting an end to the lengthy political crisis that we have faced, and performed his mandate in a fair and balanced manner.
As a whole I support the direct election of president by people, but I think until spring there is no physical time to organize referendum and then elections, which would meet all election conditions. However there is still an issue we need to return to, but first we have to address a quite urgent situation, we have only a few months to find the solution to elect a President and avoid a new political crisis.
I don’t support the demand of resignation of the Government. By contrary, it should be strengthened and supported to be able to work. As long as we had no Government, we were told that we keep the country in crisis, and know we are asked to dismiss the Government when we have made it. It's a dangerous approach, much more because those who ask it do it to put hand on institutions that is a desire they don’t even hide.
On the other hand I think that the protest makes pressure on the government and on us, political class, and that's a good thing, as long as it's a honest protest not captured by groups of interest. Therefore, people shall be given a framework to protest, to be able to make protest freely, without hindrance of institutions and without  groups of interest hijacking the real meaning of the protest.

T: And what kind of protest we have now?

V.P.: A mix. There are people who protest honestly, who probably expected changes at home and should not be neglected. There are also some suspicious individuals who use people and their grievances to make stupid wars, to make a new party, to create a crisis in Moldova, because this is their only opportunity to be in focus and not to disappear completely, after they so obviously failed with other political projects. There are some individuals who talk about oligarchs, corruption, thieves, but they have behind them dirty money, oligarchs and people who have made money just by thieves and corruption, including thieves at BEM. They are some speculators who cynically use problems in our country.
Beyond what these individuals do, there are people who have genuine reasons to express their dissatisfaction and we need to focus on them, we need to communicate with them, they are some of those who voted for the ruling parties.
But I want to be very clear that those to which I have referred above use the woes of people, they are a minor group of people and my qualifications refer only to this group of interest, rather then to the people who express by protest real grievances.

T: This protest is supported by representatives of the civil society as well, not just by this group of interest.

V.P.: It’s so indeed, and this is why I say the protest should be given due attention. But at the risk of being criticized, as in politics, in the civil society there are people who have nothing to do with representing interests of people, they are individuals who take advantage of the reliability and power of the civil society to defend their interests, some of them have money and they can easily hijack the meaning of honest endeavour started by some representatives of the civil society. But I would notice, however, that Moldovan civil society is united and has a strong voice, and I am sure that soon it will improve its mechanisms to protect itself against opportunistic people. This problem also exists in politics, at a much higher level, but with very serious effects. We still have not found a way to reform the political class and, with few exceptions, I have the feel that it was not really sought.

T: What is going to happen next in Moldova?

V.P.: We need to end as quickly as possible negotiations with the IMF, to clarify credibly what happened to BEM, to come up with solutions to recover the money and to punish the culprits, to start at the same time accelerated reforms of the institutions, but to this end we need a common general action plan Government-Parliament, and ask for its implementation the support of development partners as well. For this purpose we need, however, to support the Government and other state institutions, rather then to destroy them headlessly, without a plan to rebuild them.
Or maybe some are interested only to demolish them, to make them vulnerable and harmless. That's another issue, which even if not publicly discuss, is not insignificant.

T: What chances do we have to find out what happened to BEM?

V.P.: I think very great chances if institutions are allowed to work and benefit from assistance of some professionals from outside.

T: Over how long time you will give the next interview?

V.P.: Even if you tell it as a joke, I'll answer you very seriously. I'm not too fond of giving interviews; I don’t like to talk just because some people want me to express my opinion. I accept interviews when I have something to say. You will not make of me a politician-star, they are enough people willing to stand in the limelight because they like it, but not me. I understand that this is one of my flaws in politics, not communicating more often and I leave others to throw dirt on me. But I think this happens because I don’t have the goal to look good in public: I don’t look for recognition based on simple politicking statements, I want my merits to be my recognized when my actions justify such recognition, but I don’t seek it very much as well. I don’t seek appreciations; I have other very good inner mechanisms of mobilization.

T: Why have you resigned from the Parliament? It remained a mystery.

V.P.: Because I know that sometimes you need to step back or sideways, as required, according to new priorities or other plans that you have.

T: Could you leave politics in the near future?

V.P.: Anytime. I am ready to take quick decisions when I don’t see any sense in an activity; I have the advantage that I don’t stick to functions, immunities or other privileges. I made decisions based on thorough assessments, rather then on emotions or campaign of some people aimed to denigrate me. Some people spent millions in these years to denigrate me and the DPM, they could do something better with that money, al least they could pay taxes on them in Moldova and it would have been be a gain.

T: Have this protest sensitized you, the governance?

V.P.: Of course it has produced some effects, especially some mobilizing ones, people have given us some very clear signals that we are obliged to take seriously. I mean the real and justified wishes of the protesters, rather than of the group who tried to hijack the real meaning of the protest.

T: Do you think that with this interview you temper a little the protest?

V.P.: No, that would be too simple a politician to solve such problems. I don’t aim this. I think people's dissatisfaction will disappear as specific steps will be made in solving the problems they pose. In this interview I rather think I gave ammunition to puppeteers, who stay behind the protest, but it's a risk I take and it will be interesting to see how they will reflect about what I have said. I gave them work.

T: Thank you for the interview. It is more simply at us, we will publish everything you have said and our readers should decide how they will assess what you have said.

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