Transdniestria Distancing Itself from Elections in Moldova

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All means are good to win the election, a typical approach to the election campaign in Moldova comes down to all sorts of promises. To get into power, politicians promise to “improve the good” and “fix the bad”, and therefore they recall the problems just before the elections. One of the oldest and most dead-end, but sure issue in terms of electoral reaction is the Transdniestrian conflict.

Some party leaders speak of Transdniestria as a zone occupied by foreign troops and consider it a source of “Russian threat”. Others talk a lot about the political settlement of the Transdniestrian problem and promise reintegration of the country within two to three years. No one has yet achieved particular success in negotiations with Tiraspol, and therefore typical statements made by politicians on Transdniestria have become boring, devalued and not taken seriously. In Transdniestria itself, the level of distrust towards Moldovan politicians is extremely high. The Transdniestrian population considers Moldova to be almost the main source of all problems. Tiraspol accuses Chisinau of an economic blockade, while calls for withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers are viewed as revanchism and the threat of a new war on the Dniester. By tradition, the unrecognized republic fences itself off from elections in Moldova every time. On the left bank there is an opinion that a change in relations with Chisinau will not happen no matter what the shape of the Moldovan government will be. Since 2013, Igor Dodon has positioned himself as a mediator of the Dniester banks. The Moldovan president, elected in December 2016 during the first direct elections, eventually became the source of so many political statements on Transdniestria that anyone can easily find in his speeches quite contradictory theses. Thanks to the political activity of the leader of the Republic of Moldova, Transdniestria increasingly began to attribute ‘Voronin syndrome’ to Dodon and express fears that benevolent attitude of the socialists’ leader is a ruse. For almost two years, Igor Dodon and Vadim Krasnoselsky have already met four times but with little efficiency, except for press releases and comments from leaders for the media after the meetings. Over the past year and a half, Tiraspol interacted more productively with the Moldovan government, the parties even signed some agreements that Transdniestria considers a positive step to unblock old problems in some areas of the population’s life, including education, road traffic, etc. Recently, however, there has been a cooling in the relations between the two leaders associated with political weather. Igor Dodon said in Moscow that before the end of the year he would meet again with the Transdniestrian leader. The president of Transdniestria, Vadim Krasnoselsky, immediately disavowed the words of Dodon. “We need an agenda – what to discuss. Today, I don’t see this agenda”, – the leader of the PMR said recently, stressing that the issues of the negotiation process are outside the competence of the Moldovan president, and Transdniestria is not interested in meetings for the sake of meetings. The position of the Transdniestrian leader should be understood literally – this is the unwillingness of the unrecognized republic to participate in any form in scandalous and, as a rule, difficult and protracted Moldovan election processes, often with an unpredictable ending. The attitude of Transdniestria to electoral battles in Moldova is not new: as you know, Transdniestrian elites have never been sympathetic to specific candidates or political formations. In all fairness, it should be noted that this is the little that for decades has been absolutely mutual. The current position of Tiraspol is an unequivocal signal that the Igor Dodon’s political rhetoric did not reach its goal and, on the eve of the February electoral final, the Moldovan leader did not become trusted in the unrecognized republic. The fact that Igor Dodon in his election aspirations enjoys appreciable support from the Russian Federation and personally from Vladimir Putin spices up the situation. Actually, Transdniestria also traditionally declares its continued adherence to the strategic focus on the Russian Federation, which is one of the political moderators of the Moldovan-Transdniestrian settlement. It is not surprising that experts had expectations with regard to “friendship between the two banks” in the context of the fundamentally important upcoming elections in Moldova with a view to possible future changes on the regional scale. The miracle did not happen. Although, according to RTA experts, there was quite good potential to create a fundamentally new discourse, “synchronizing” the leaders of Moldova and Transdniestria in the direction of mutually acceptable perspectives. This new context could significantly affect many regional processes, and even significantly spoil the game of other internal and external regional players. Apparently, the benevolent rhetoric and protocol meetings of the leaders with walks along the scenic paths turned out to be insufficient. And yet, it seems that it is too early to put an end to this issue. Chisinau and Tiraspol made their choice ... Moscow’s move?