On June 19, the Moldovan Constitutional Court outlawed the Shor Party, led by fugitive tycoon Ilan Shor. The Justice Ministry had earlier requested the court to determine whether the party’s goals and operating methods were compatible with Moldova’s Constitution. The court ruled that they were not. It determined that the Shor Party sought to overthrow the constitutional order through unlawful means and that it has been financed, “systematically and illegally,” from abroad. The Constitutional Court found that the party “militates against Moldova’s independence and sovereignty,” declared it “unconstitutional … and dissolved with immediate effect” (Ziarul National, June 19).
The court stopped short of mentioning the Shor Party’s militant support for Russia’s political objectives in Moldova. For his part, Shor responded with a paraphrase of an old Bolshevik slogan: “The Shor Party, like Lenin, lived and lives and will live” (Realitatea.md, June 19).
Although the Constitutional Court’s ruling dissolves the Shor Party effective immediately, the ruling does not prevent the party from reconstituting itself under a different name. And party leaders have already started doing this in anticipation of the June 19 ban.
The United States, United Kingdom and other countries, as well as the European Union, have imposed sanctions on Shor and others for aiding Russian hybrid war operations aimed at destabilizing Moldova (see below). Nevertheless, Shor continues to operate freely out of Israel. He holds conclaves there periodically with outspoken pro-Russian politicians from Moldova, and he sends out a constant stream of inflammatory videotaped messages inciting his supporters to revolt against President Maia Sandu and her government.
Shor fled to Israel in 2019 when his then-partner Vladimir Plahotniuc lost power in Moldova. Meanwhile Shor’s lawyers in Chisinau are appealing a 15-year prison sentence and confiscation of assets worth 5.3 billion Moldovan leu (around $295 million at the current exchange rate) for grand fraud and money laundering. The guilty verdict stems from the billion-dollar theft in 2014 of Moldovan state bank funds. Following the April 13 verdict, the pro-government majority in parliament voted to deprive the absentee Shor of his parliamentary seat. It also lifted the parliamentary immunity of Shor’s second-in-command, Marina Tauber, who directs the party’s operations in Chisinau and has been accused in other cases of unlawful party financing (Ziarul National, April 13, 27, May 5; Noi.md, June 9, 15, 18).
The Shor Party is a Russophile organization whose peculiarity consists of packaging the geopolitical agenda with social paternalism. Shor, reputed to be a US dollar billionaire, openly and legally finances his social projects. This party became the spearhead of efforts to destabilize Moldova’s Western-oriented government after the latter had taken office in 2021.
The Shor Party’s hyperactivity seeks to compensate for the ineffectiveness of former President Igor Dodon’s Socialist Party, which has disappointed Russia (see EDM, August 4, 8, 9, 2022; October 20, 2022 , ). The Shor Party has upstaged the Socialists in terms of militancy as well as Moscow’s good graces. Russian propaganda has shifted the emphasis of its support from the Socialists to the far more aggressive Shor and his party. Shor, who personally enjoys favorable publicity on the Rossiya-24 news station and RIA Novosti, has also appeared on Vladimir Solovyov’s talk show on television station Channel One Russian and shares a space with Dodon on TASS.
Shor‘s party has organized turbulent protest actions against Moldova’s Western-oriented authorities almost continuously in Chisinau and other localities since September 2022. From that point onward, the party has combined socioeconomic demands with strident pro-Russian and anti-Western slogans. The Shor Party draws its typical clientele from among the most impoverished, predominantly elderly citizens who appear to be mainly Russophones on video recordings of the protest actions. The Moldovan police has publicized evidence that protesters were being paid per diem allowances for their participation. Shor himself sometimes harangues the protest rallies from video screens mounted on location.
The socioeconomic demands are calculated to confront the government with unfulfillable claims, so as to arouse popular anger over nonfulfillment. For example, the government is expected to pay the electricity and heating bills of all households for the winter months in full, raise all pensions by 30 percent in accordance with the inflation rate, pay a special Easter bonus to pensioners and other needy people, or redirect the funding received from the EU to social welfare projects (Partidulsor.md, passim).
Political demands focus in the short term on forcing the resignation of the governing authorities and pre-term parliamentary and presidential elections. For the medium and long term, the declared goals are to thwart Moldova’s candidacy for accession to the EU and to perpetuate Moldova’s unarmed, unprotected neutrality, which also favors Russia.
Shor accuses Chisinau of trying to “integrate quickly and forcibly into the West, including NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization]” and “turn Moldova into a pawn and marionette in the hands of Western puppeteers … who are asking Moldova to become another fighting front against the Russian World,” notwithstanding that “the people’s interests require friendship with Russia.” Furthermore, Chisinau’s intention to abandon the Commonwealth of Independent States is “treason to national interests”; thus, “Russia’s huge agricultural market is closed to us because of the Chisinau regime’s criminal actions.”
Shor’s videotaped messages to his followers characterize Sandu, the government and their parliamentary majority as a “pack of criminals” who “chose to quarrel with Russia”; “governing for the West and against the people”; “executing the orders of their Western masters”; “insane characters determined to destroy the country”; “Maia Sandu’s fascist regime”; “the West and Maia Sandu killing Moldova”; and “how long are we going to tolerate these scabies on the country’s body.” According to Tauber (see above), Sandu and the government planned to provoke armed clashes in Transnistria to drag Moldova into the war in Ukraine (Unimedia, April 10, May 17, June 5; Politics.md, April 11, May 30, June 15, 19; Partidulsor.md, passim).
By Shor’s description, his party is targeting two parts of Moldova’s electorate: on the one hand, “those who see Moldova‘s future in the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, sympathize with Russia and consider that [Moldova] cannot survive without Russia”; and on the other hand, those who believe that Moldova should remain a neutral state, maintain friendly relations in the East and in the West and not join any military or economic blocs, including the EU and NATO (Unimedia, May 17, 21).
The party and its likely Moscow handlers apparently envisage combining those two categories of voters into a plebiscitary majority that would keep Moldova in the gray zone between Russia and the West. On June 4, the Shor Party and smaller allied groups set up an initiative committee to collect signatures for calling a countrywide plebiscite over Moldova’s external orientation: West, East, or “neutral” in-between. This task will befall the party now taking shape to replace Shor’s party under the same cadres (see Part Two).