The Party of Socialists and its affiliated media outlets claim the president of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, is allegedly responsible for the repeated price hikes for fuel in recent months. The narrative is promoted despite the fact that the president has no instruments at its disposal to influence fuel prices.
NEWS: “Gas prices went up again! Since Maia Sandu became president, the price for gas went up 5 lei”, Moldova24.info writes. One of the largest networks of gas stations in Moldova has again increased prices for fuel. A liter of 95-octane gasoline now costs 20 Lei, a 45-Bani increase. The last price hike occurred 10 days ago. This is the eighth time gasoline prices have gone up since December 2020, accounting for a total increase of nearly 5 Lei”.
And NTV station, controlled by the Party of Socialists (PSRM), quotes Socialist deputy Bogdan Țîrdea who says that “all the directors sitting on the Board of the National Energy Regulatory Authority (ANRE) are Maia Sandu’s partners and former party colleagues [...] Sandu didn’t call on them to step down or to report. Just as Constitutional Court judges, they didn’t resign, although Parliament passed a vote of no-confidence. Why? Because just like Constitutional Court judges, ANRE directors enjoy the protection of the country’s president”, Țîrdea wrote on his Telegram page. According to the Moldovan deputy, “Bemol” oil company funded Sandu’s presidential campaign in 2020, while the Constitutional Court judge Liuba Sova is one of the shareholders at Tirex-Petrol”.
NARRATIVE: Fuel prices increase because of Maia Sandu.
BACKGROUND: Fuel prices have increased significantly, in a number of stages, starting mid-December last year. The topic has also been tackled in the country’s Supreme Security Council, where the heads of the National Energy Regulatory Authority and the Competition council were invited to provide explanations. “It is clear for everyone that this is a joint company action, but also evidence of the lack of action from state institutions”, the Moldovan president said at the end of the Council meeting. Maia Sandu called on the Competition Council to use all legal instruments at its disposal to intervene in such cases, including by freezing prices, whenever energy companies take concerted action. The Moldovan president urged Parliament to stop blocking an external evaluation of these two institutions, which are currently under its control.
At the end of March, president Sandu filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office regarding cartel agreements on the fuel market.
Since March, 2019, prices for oil products have been set by companies trading in gasoline and Diesel fuel, without exceeding the 10% annual rate of return. However, energy companies were in no rush to slash prices when the oil prices collapsed on the international markets.
Previously, the National Energy Regulatory Authority (ANRE) set fuel price levels. Parliament recently voted a draft law which stipulates that ANRE can introduce a cap on oil products.
The law was ratified on May 5 by president Maia Sandu, who pointed out that the cap on fuel prices is necessary due to the existence of cartel agreements on the market. The president warned, however, that the law is weak and its provisions are vague, urging deputies to amend them. The president underscored the fact that ratifying the law will send a signal to all the players on the market, line institutions and politicians who defend the interests of certain groups, letting them all know that unjustified price hikes and illegal profiteering will no longer be tolerated.
The chain price hikes for fuels started in December, a period that coincided with the start of Maia Sandu’s term in office, prompting her rivals to accuse her of causing price hikes for several products.
PURPOSE: The fake news is designed to shift responsibility for the soaring prices for fuel on Maia Sandu’s shoulders, considering Chișinău is already gripped by pre-election fever. Maia Sandu is also the image of PAS, a party she led before becoming president and which is now favorite to win the early parliamentary election.
WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: Fuel prices aren’t regulated by the president of the Republic of Moldova, by Government or Parliament. At present, prices are set and modified by the very companies licensed to trade in oil products. Prior to March, 2019, ANRE regulated fuel prices. According to a bill voted by Parliament, ANRE is expected to introduce a cap on fuel prices.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: Prices for oil products have indeed increased in recent months. The latest price hike for certain types of fuel was announced by a number of gas stations at the end of April.