“The disapproval of cowards is praise to the brave” – this quote from the magic film universe of Joanne Rowling comes to mind after the elections in Moldova. It’s time to tell what really happened on February 24 and whose winnings we are seeing.
The US and the EU have strengthened their positions. Notwithstanding the dislike of the ruling elite in the person of Plahotniuc’s Democrats the situation seems to be advantageous for Brussels and Washington tactically. It is no coincidence that the Old and New world give quite consistent official assessment of the elections. The main thing for the EU and the US is to maintain a certain pro-Western stability at the border of Europe, which is traditionally considered to be the area of Moscow’s interests.
As a result, Moldova is moving even more into the sphere of influence of European structures, which can be considered a tactical victory of pro-European forces. It is important to take into account that representatives of political forces loyal to Europe, integrated into a single ACUM bloc, are incorporated into the future Parliament. The EU, the US and Romania actively nurtured the Sandu and Nastase parties and now they seem to have a ‘golden vote’ in the future coalition. Apparently, open pro-European forces in the Parliament is the main achievement of Brussels in these elections, which will give the EU grounds to continue to demand from Chisinau the implementation of European directives and recommendations, to put other conditions for the continuation of macro-financial assistance.
Russia in the elections of 2019 traditionally sympathized with the PSRM of Igor Dodon. In this regard, the first thing that catches the eye after the vote is the fall of the total rating of pro-Russian forces in Moldova. Loyal sociological centers, as we know, can make up any poll numbers, but the reality of national voting is different. In 2014, the total number of votes for socialists and communists was 38%, excluding the party of Renato Usatii removed from the race on the eve of the elections. In 2019, the PSRM became a monopolist on the pro-Russian flank, but gained only a third of the votes of Moldovan voters. In these parliamentary elections, the turnout was the lowest in the history of elections, only slightly less than 50% of citizens with the right to vote voted. It turns out that the sympathizers of the Russian vector of development of the country can enroll significantly less than a third of the population of Moldova: 1/6 part, to be exact.
These indicators clearly show the trend of changes in the political consciousness of Moldova. Young and middle-aged people behave much more pragmatically, in contrast to the Soviet generation longing for Russia. Different social groups are increasingly doubting the ability of Moscow to provide the necessary welfare of current Moldova without its division into political camps.
The unconvincing results of the PSRM has fundamental roots. Once again, simple ‘black and white’ schemes, based on a reckless bet on a single political force in the hope to turn the country to the East in one fell swoop, proved to be untenable. Here the recent example of Ukraine is the most indicative, and for political strategists it had to become an axiom. Implementing this simplified model the Russian strategists, apparently, never thought there was anything wrong about the fact that the autocratic master of Moldova Vlad Plahotniuc for some reason created ‘hothouse conditions’ for socialists on the left flank and in advance prepared them a role and the corresponding niche – certainly, to his benefit. Ten years ago, the ruling alliance with the active support of the EU and the US took power from the communists certainly not to then ‘donate’ it to Igor Dodon in the elections in 2019.
In the post-Soviet reality, the concentration of all resources within a single political project is obviously an extremely risky decision. It is much easier to deal with one party or politician than to neutralize the network of formations in various segments of Moldovan society.
Interestingly, Transdniestria in 2019, more than ever, maneuvered between the requests from Moscow and Chisinau. As a result, ‘mobile groups of voters’ from the Left Bank, in orderly rows arriving at the polling stations, gave more than half of the votes to the pro-Russian Party of Socialists. However, in single-mandate constituencies they voted for independent candidates (there are talks about their engagement with the PDM, whether it’s true we will know soon). Judging by the reaction of the ACUM and the PSRM, the involvement of the rebel republic in the election processes on the right bank was not quite to the liking of Moldovan politicians, who during the elections forgot about their formal claims to the territory of Transdniestria.
The case of 2019 is extremely interesting for political experts. Over the past ten years, the idea of electoral involvement of Transdniestrians in the Moldovan elections as a kind of advantageous ‘golden asset’ has been actively exaggerated, but hardly anyone seriously analyzed the effects of such political inclusiveness of the Left Bank. These elections were a good opportunity to test in practice the scale of electoral influence of Transdniestria. As it turned out, such influence was extremely exaggerated. The participation of Transdniestrians in the elections really created loud ‘noise’ in the media, but did not give any ‘geopolitical’ effect, without affecting conceptually the balance of political forces in the future Parliament. All gained nothing.
For Igor Dodon February 24 was unexpected, and therefore very painful defeat of the ideas and projects that the socialists’ election campaign brought. A balanced foreign policy, the presidential republic, “neutral Moldova”, “big package” and “soft reintegration” of Transdniestria found support in less than a third of the country, given only 50% turnout. It is known that at the second round of 2016 presidential elections more than 800 thousand citizens of Moldova voted for I. Dodon, while in the parliamentary elections almost half the number of voters voted for the socialists with Igor Dodon.
The ideas of socialists are good and understandable, and to some extent they resonated with international partners. However, it seems that political strategists of socialists were also guided by the general concept to throw in all trumps at once. In the end, like in the classics, all mixed up in a political tangle that the mass of Moldovan voters did not sort out.
What is the reason for the rapid fall of the pro-Russian power is a good question for experts, but it is difficult to dispute the fact that the Moldovan society is losing interest in the Eastern vector of development.
Vlad Plahotniuc is considered to be the main beneficiary of the parliamentary elections, which initially did not promise anything good to the PDM. Nevertheless, if in 2014 the Democrats managed to gain modest 19 mandates, this time they almost doubled their result, taking into account the sham project SHOR.
The result of the democrats is just the case when the main outcome of the elections lies not in the number of party seats in Parliament. As you know, in 2017, the PDM managed to carry out electoral reform and introduce a profitable mixed system. The democrats reformatted the political field and achieved the legitimization of the PDM as the basis for all possible coalition options in Parliament.
In addition, Vlad Plahotniuc demonstrated to Washington and Brussels that he was “ready to change” and showed that the pro-Western sentiments of the Moldovan society are stronger than the pro-Russian ones. The democrats managed to hold the elections in such a way that Moldova seems ready for integration into Euro-Atlantic and European institutions under the leadership of the PDM leader. Plahotniuc hopes that he will be able to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of his partners, and their careful assessments of the voting results make it clear that there is nothing impossible about the ideas of the main oligarch of Moldova.
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