Sandu Sweep: Moldova Reformist Revolution May Actually Happen

Last year's election of reformist president Maia Sandu was the first step. But now the anti-graft, pro-Europe forces are about to dominate the Parliament. But what will it look like on the ground?

Moldovan President Maia Sandu speaks to the press during parliamentary elections
Moldovan President Maia Sandu speaks to the press during parliamentary elections
Vladimir Soloviev

CHISINAU — Moldovan President Maia Sandu and her Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) are confident that they can turn this week's parliamentary election victory into real reform. Yet for some political players, including former president Igor Dodon, this itself is reason to worry about their fate.

On July 11 it was clear that the results from the parliamentary elections in Moldova held the potential to be truly historic for the Eastern European country. The gap between PAS and all other participants in this parliamentary race was getting larger with every passing hour of ballot counting. According to the preliminary data, the PAS could count as many as 63 seats out of 101, the Communists and Socialists 32, and the Shor Party on 6.

PAS is four seats short of a constitutional majority that would allow it to change the basic laws of the country.

The fight against the pervasive corruption in Moldova is at the top of the agenda

A Kommersant source close to PAS says that there is a debate within the party about whether the country needs major constitutional amendments. And although this isn't the first item on the agenda now, there are several places where the necessary votes from the other parties could be added. The bloc of communists and socialists is in many respects an artificial construction. The former presidents Vladimir Voronin and Igor Dodon do not like each other, to put it mildly. If the "red bloc" between the two parties doesn't survive, the ten Communists in Parliament will become an independent group and could be seen by PAS as a reserve of additional votes, should they be needed.

The fight against the pervasive corruption in Moldova is at the top of the agenda of the victorious PAS and President Sandu, who was elected last year on a reformist platform. The biggest problems are in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, courts and prosecutors.

Igor Grosu's supporters celebrate his victory in Moldovan parliamentary elections in Chisinau — Photo: Diego Herrera/SOPA Images/ ZUMA Wire

Prosecutor General Alexander Stoianoglo, who took office in 2019, called corruption "a threat to national security" and complained that it is difficult to fight. He did not spare even his subordinates. "Prosecutors do not want to investigate cases against prosecutors, and if they take them, these cases fall apart," Stoianoglo told Kommersant.

Natalia Gavrilița, deputy chairman of the PAS and one of Sandu's closest associates, says that the ruling party intends to keep its promise to voters and launch a war on corruption. "We will adopt strict laws on political corruption, we will remove the immunity of deputies and the president in corruption cases," she said.

Prosecutor General Alexander Stoianoglo, who took office in 2019, called corruption ‘a threat to national security"

This news could disturb many, including former President Dodon, who has immunity. All of Moldova remembers the video that surfaced last year where the once powerful and now fugitive oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc tries to give a black bag to Dodon, who was president at the time. Dodon doesn't touch it but utters the phrase: "You again with the bags. Give it to Kosta, and tomorrow he will give it to Cornel because tomorrow I have a flight at five o'clock. He has to pay my salary on Monday."

Gavrilița, who many expect will be named prime minister, said she and her colleagues also plan to initiate justice reform that will include the external evaluation of prosecutors and judges. "External experts will be brought in to evaluate their decisions, the quality of decisions, incorruptibility," she explained. "We will look to see if expenditures match revenues. We will cleanse the state and its institutions from corrupt and mafia elements."

Beyond the constitutional and anti-corruption reform, the new government will also focus on economic growth, job creation and pension reform, especially in light of recovery money expected from the European Union.

Igor Botsan, a Moldovan political analyst, believes that the EU can significantly help the country if the new government shows results in the reform of the judicial system and improving the business climate. "Maia Sandu has proved that she is accepted in Europe," Botsan said. "And for Europe, it is very easy to help: Moldova's economy is 0.03% of the EU economy."

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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