Moldovan prosecutors relaunch probe into pro-EU presidential candidate

Moldovan prosecutors relaunch probe into pro-EU presidential candidate
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest October 18, 2016

The Chisinau prosecution office has re-opened a criminal investigation into the acquisition of security cameras to monitor school exams in 2013, during Maia Sandu’s term as education minister. 

The probe was relaunched just days after Sandu was appointed the candidate for Moldova’s pro-EU opposition in the October 30 presidential election. The security cameras case was closed back in 2013 and its re-opening takes place during a tense electoral campaign, and amid the alleged control of the ruling party over some prosecutors and courts.

The 2013 security cameras acquisition case has been re-opened “after media reported that it was closed under ambiguous circumstances”, Chisinau head prosecutor Igor Popa explained according to At this moment, the case is at an early stage of preliminary investigations, he added. 

The case allows the ruling Democratic Party (PD) to stress Sandu’s role in previous governments alongside less popular candidates such as Mihai Ghimpu of the Liberal Party and Iurie Leanca of the European Popular Party of Moldova. 

Sandu retaliated on October 17, saying that the ruling coalition is using all means possible to rig the elections. She mentioned the decision to ignore a bill that would allow students to vote in places other than their home towns and accused the ruling coalition of preventing young people from voting. Sandu also complained about the legal constraints on Moldovans living abroad who want to donate to electoral campaigns. Her party has challenged the provision in the Constitutional Court, which rejected the complaints as not grounded on a specific situation.

Notably, Sandu has called for security cameras to be installed at polling stations on October 30 and November 13. However, her request was ignored by the ruling coalition and the Central Election Commission.

Sandu has come under the fire from both the ruling coalition and the pro-Russian opposition, which seem to have found common ground, at least in the short term, despite the vocal rivalry they express.

The coordinator of the ruling coalition, PD deputy-president Vlad Plahotniuc, expressed firm pro-EU views in an interview with the friendly portal. Speaking of Sandu he said on an ironic note she “has good intentions, even if she screws up most of the time”, “would probably not be a good president” and “is naïve and controlled by groups of interests, but at least would not destroy the country [as pro-Russian candidate Igor Dodon would]”.

These comments allowed Dodon to place Plahotniuc and Sandu in the same political faction, which he defined as being both pro-EU and dominated by oligarchs. In a Facebook post he accused the two of fraud and claimed they were “mere instruments of malign Western interests”. Dodon named both the PD’s candidate Marian Lupu and Sandu as “Plahotniuc’s protégées” and said they were part of the same “oligarchic regime”.

In fact, Sandu hopes to defeat Plahotniuc’s candidate Lupu after she was appointed the candidate of the three pro-EU opposition parties, a decision that was confirmed at a press conference on October 15. She has a strong chance of qualifying for the second round of the election, where she would almost certainly run against Socialist Party leader Dodon.