According to RTA expert Vladimir Rotar, both candidates in the elections of the capital’s mayor may declare victory
Only a few days left before the second round of local elections in Moldova. But the grand prize – Chisinau – was not yet presented, for which the socialist Ion Ceban and co-chairman of the pro-European bloc ACUM Andrei Nastase are competing hard. However, their struggle increasingly resembles a political ‘massacre’. Not so long ago, rivals seemed to sign a gentleman’s agreement on non-aggression. And Ceban pathetically promised to Chisinau residents that this time they would see not the usual war of dirt and geopolitics, but, above all, the competition of ideas.
In fact, everything turned out as always. No one has presented any fresh recipes for the development of the capital. There are doubts that both candidates have them at all. The representative of the PSRM mainly operates with promises to reduce some tariffs, as well as to distribute allowances to the needy. The Chairman of the DA platform quite sincerely said that he intends to invite experts from abroad for the implementation of certain “European programs”.
In general, potential mayors somehow fail to compete in ideas, and succeed in mutual accusations. And if earlier Andrei Nastase and Ion Ceban still observed some proprieties, before the second round they flew off the handle. It is worth admitting that the instigator was Nastase, who first attacked the socialists with sharp criticism. The latter endured for a long time, but now, at a crucial moment, they began to kick back.
Just recently we learned that Ceban and socialists allegedly “protected” the so-called ‘real estate mafia’ in Chisinau and “sacked the city for 25 thousand apartments”; were involved in the cancellation of last year’s election of the capital’s mayor; used administrative resources in the election campaign. In turn, Andrei Nastase was crushed by no less serious charges: failed work as the Interior Ministry, promotion of his relatives to high positions, secret meetings with representatives of the Transdniestrian administration, and, most importantly, patronage of smuggling schemes, ‘inherited’ from Vlad Plahotniuc.
In the heat of electoral battles, Nastase eventually equated the socialists and democrats and accused the media controlled by them of waging a hybrid war against him. His opponent Ion Ceban paid back and sued the candidate of the pro-European bloc for libel.
Now it is ridiculous to remember Ceban’s proposal to agree in advance on the appointment of the losing candidate as deputy mayor of the capital. The uncompromising struggle for the mayor’s seat most likely derailed these plans, and also called into question the cooperation of socialists and pro-Europeans in the Chisinau municipal council. Moreover, there is confidence that the sleaze war has not ended yet. Too much is at stake in the capital election. For example, the political career of Andrei Nastase, who has already announced that he will leave the country if he loses.
Raising the stakes to the limit looks very dangerous for the ruling coalition, especially in the conditions of relative equality of chances between the PSRM and ACUM representatives. Yes, Cheban was ahead of his opponent in the first round by ten percent. But you have to understand that he almost alone worked on left-wing voters, while Nastase shared right-wing voters with other candidates. Now he has a chance to gather all these votes and achieve parity with Ceban.
The chances of both opponents before the second round can be estimated as equal. Therefore, speaking about the outcome of the vote, many experts predict a ‘photo finish’ with a few percent margin in favor of a candidate. This means that both Ceban and Nastase will have every reason to declare victory regardless of the official results of the elections. And in an environment where everything is at stake, most likely, they will do so — and will defend their result to the last.
It is easy to guess that in this case the conflict will quickly move to a higher level. The victory in Chisinau is extremely important for both flanks of the ruling coalition. ACUM cannot afford to lose one of its leaders, who, moreover, threatens to withdraw from Moldovan politics after that. The Party of Socialists is already criticized by many supporters for ‘surrendering’ government posts to the pro-European bloc, as well as for the new agreement, drawn up, apparently, for the benefit of ACUM. Cession of the capital can be regarded as another unforgivable weakness, which can severely affect the PSRM in the future.
In the current situation, both sides may stand on principle and not retreat from their positions. So this year Moldova may have the experience of existing not only with two governments, but also with two mayors of the capital. Now all hopes that the ruling coalition will be able to survive such a ‘dirty’ election campaign without consequences rests exclusively on Chisinau’s international partners. But whether their influence will be enough to calm the ‘allies’ and prevent another round of domestic political turmoil is a big question.
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