Moldova Outlaws Shor’s Russophile Party, but the Threat Persists (Part Two)

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 20 Issue: 101

Leader of the Shor Party Ilan Shor (Source:

*Read Part One.

The Moldovan Constitutional Court’s verdict dissolving the Shor Party on June 19 does not prevent the party from reorganizing under another name (see Part One). The decision, moreover, allows the Shor Party’s elected representatives, parliamentary and local authorities, to retain their posts for the duration of their mandates, albeit without the “Shor” designation.

The party’s planned new name seems to be “Vozrozhdenie (Rebirth)” (see below). A transition is possible almost seamlessly, capitalizing on the Shor Party’s existing strengths and assets. These include: its presence in the Moldovan Parliament; control or significant influence in certain territories, including the Gagauz autonomy; successful cannibalization of the declining Socialist Party’s local organizations; and Ilan Shor’s mass-scale social welfare programs, which he promises to expand further.

The Shor Party has also established several territorial strongholds that can pose significant challenges to Moldova’s central authorities. The former de-facto ruler of the country, Vladimir Plahotniuc, awarded his partner Shor in 2015 with the Orhei district as a political bailiwick, which Shor’s organization firmly controls to this day. Shor has amply invested in local infrastructure, public services and popular amusements, using his private funds under the slogan “Orhei Dreamland.” This has given the district a spruced-up look that compares favorably to the rest of the country. Although the district is almost totally Moldovan/Romanian-speaking, grateful locals welcome Shor addressing them in Russian from a giant video screen. The Orhei district, town and village mayorships are Shor’s; recently, they defiantly refused to receive the visiting Prime Minister Dorin Recean for talks in the district council’s building recently (Ziarul National, May 5).

On May 14, the Shor Party’s candidate won the election for chief executive official (bashkhan) of the Gagauz autonomous territory, Moldova’s most Russophile area (see EDM, May 16). The winner, Yevgenia Gutsul, is a far cry from her moderate predecessor Irina Vlah (who was ineligible to run for a third term). Gutsul is calling for the autonomy’s prerogatives and competencies to be significantly expanded vis-à-vis the central government and even seeks direct representation of the Gagauz autonomy in Moscow.

Gutsul’s last-minute candidacy with no name recognition transformed her overnight from youngish housewife into stylish politician; and this transformation bears the marks of Russian “political technology.” Shor campaigned for Gutsul by video from Israel and the Shor Party campaigned on the ground, promising a “Gagauz Dreamland“” on the model of Orhei Dreamland (see above) with Shor’s private investments. The bashkhan-elect is due to form the autonomy’s new Executive Committee (regional government), and Shor has announced that he has hired a recruitment firm to screen and select the committee’s personnel (, June 21).

Shor’s Party also controls the mayorship of the town Taraclia, the administrative center of the Bulgarian-inhabited Taraclia district (the district council is Socialist-controlled).

The Shor Party was poised to win the mayorship of Balti, Moldova’s second-largest city, in November 2021 when the party’s deputy leader, Marina Tauber, won the first round with 48 percent of the vote. However, Tauber was disqualified from the runoff due to illegal campaign financing. The Shor Party, under whatever new name, is certain to target the Russian-speaking city of Balti in the September 2023 local elections.

Shor has introduced a new practice of holding simultaneous political rallies with supporters in Orhei, Comrat (Gagauz administrative center), Taraclia and Balti, likely in preparation for the upcoming elections (see above). All but Orhei are “Russian-speaking” areas (non-Russian majorities Russified linguistically). The Shor Party held such simultaneous, four-cornered rallies on May 21 and June 15, with Shor haranguing the audiences on large video screens from his Israeli haven (, May 21, June 15). The idea of creating a “Party of [Moldova’s] Regions” has surfaced from time to time, implying coordination of the “Russian-speaking” parts of the country and their voters by one political party. It was a marginal idea, never fulfilled; however, it can become dangerous if pursued with Russian support.

Shor’s party and the Socialist Party of former President Igor Dodon are competing against each other over access to Russian funding, mass media and consultancy support. They are also competing over the choice of strategies and tactics—their respective leaderships being quite different temperamentally from one another (see EDM, August 4, 8, 9, 2022; October 20, 2022, [1], [2]). The Shor Party portrays itself as “the main opposition force,” “the main adversary of Maia Sandu’s government” and “the only hope for regime-change”—all snipes at the Socialists. Dodon has disappointed the Kremlin through serial failures to increase his party’s share of power in Moldova’s political system. The Socialist Party is cautious, passive, wedded to parliamentary procedures and keeping aloof from the Shor Party’s protest actions. The Kremlin seems to have almost written off its erstwhile favorite Dodon and his party in terms of resources and advice. By contrast, the Shor Party looks dynamic, bold and risk-prone, with Shor and Tauber behaving like political adventurers even as they follow scripts written for them.

Cognizant of the Socialists’ fall from Moscow’s grace, the Shor Party has launched a campaign of raiding Socialist local organizations to recruit their members and local elected officials. These transfers can significantly improve the Shor Party’s prospects under its new name in the upcoming local and general elections. The raiding campaign follows a set pattern. Socialist mayors and local councilors (on the district, town and village levels) sign and publish collective statements that they are switching to Shor’s party because the “passive” Socialists refuse to join the Shor Party’s protest actions. Many such statements have been published in Moldovan media in recent months. Most are written in Russian, though most of the signers’ names are (naturally) Moldovan/Romanian. Evidently, the statements were centrally prepared in Shor’s Party and signed on the dotted line by a good number of nationally indifferent Moldovans.

Anticipating the Constitutional Court’s ban, Shor Party leaders have reactivated the dormant party, “Vozrozhdenie,” apparently planning to fold the former into the latter. Vozrozhdenie had left the then-moderate Moldovan Communist Party in 2012 to run in the 2014 parliamentary elections, calling for friendship with Russia, official status for the Russian language and orienting Moldova toward Eurasia instead of Europe. Vozrozhdenie failed to enter the parliament in 2014 or any time since, surviving only on paper.

In May 2023, however, Socialist parliamentary deputies visited with Shor in Israel, whereupon four of them quit the Socialist Party and joined Vozrozhdenie. Further defections from the Socialists to Vozrozhdenie followed on the local level. This was another Shor raiding operation against the Socialists (see above) as well as a signal of the Shor Party’s intention to fold into Vozrozhdenie in anticipation of the ban. Creating a new party or changing the Shor Party’s name would have been legally complicated and time-consuming; whereas Moldovan law allows the folding of one party into another already existing party easily and quickly (, May 22; NewsMaker, May 25, 30).

The Socialist Party and Shor Party had obtained 22 seats and six seats, respectively, in the 2021 parliamentary elections. The Socialists are now down to 17 seats; while the soon-to-be-renamed Shor Party counts on ten seats (including the Socialist defectors to Vozrozhdenie) in the 101-seat chamber. The Communist Part also holds ten seats. Meanwhile, Shor’s own seat will remain vacant while Tauber’s parliamentary immunity has been lifted by the governing majority (63 seats).

It might be impossible, legally and politically, to stop Shor from financing his social welfare and infrastructure projects from his private wealth, even if the provenance of that wealth is dubious or suspect. Shor’s largest social project to date is the network of low-priced food shops, Merishor. Customers receive electronic cards and are registered in a database. Both politically and technically, the Merishor network will be a serious asset for Shor’s Party, under whatever new name, in the upcoming local and general elections in Moldova.