To the start of the official presidential race, the main contenders for victory: incumbent head of state Igor Dodon and PAS leader Maia Sandu - have acquired too many "spoiler candidates" to count on success in the first elections round, RTA expert Vladimir ROTAR said.
Geopolitical factor ...
“The registration period has just begun but we have already seen a whole galaxy of candidates for whatever taste and color. Documents to the CEC submitted the pro-European opposition leaders Maia Sandu and Andrei Nastase together with the almost official representative of Vlad Plahotniuc in these elections, head of Our Party, Renato Usatii, followed by Andrian Candu. The various flanks of the unionist movement, who again failed to unite, managed to be noted deciding to nominate its own candidate each. Among the notable figures that we should definitely see on the electoral list are the Democratic Party nominee, most likely, Pavel Filip, and of course the current Moldovan leader Igor Dodon. By the way, the latter continues to maintain a rather strange intrigue about his participation in the elections, which is not a secret for anyone in the republic,” RTA expert Vladimir Rotar said.
According to the observer, the Moldovan society will no longer be able to avoid the habitually powerful geopolitical factor in the upcoming elections. “All the good wishes of Moldovan politicians to turn elections into a competitive and “pure” struggle of ideas and concepts have traditionally sunk into oblivion. In the absence of both, the majority of candidates will inevitably have to look first at the geopolitical orientation of the potential president. Despite all efforts to promote his utopian project of "balanced foreign policy", Igor Dodon continues to be viewed exclusively as a project and a reliable partner of the Kremlin. Maia Sandu, on the other hand, is deeply attached to the West, and especially to the European Union, reflected in almost all of her public statements and actions, ” Rotari emphasizes.
Major international players are also preparing for the upcoming fight, choosing their "fighters", the expert says. “In spite of the circulating rumors about some kind of cooling towards Dodon, Russia certainly relies on the informal socialists’ leader. This is underscored by the latest Russian-Moldovan accords and the Kremlin's willingness to make a risky second run on credit. It should not be ruled out that additional support resources will be used closer to the voting date - perhaps a visit of high-level Russian delegation to Moldova, or a representative meeting in Moscow,” the expert considers.
At the same time, according to him, Brussels also made its clear choice, expressing public support for Maia Sandu. This eloquently indicate Donald Tusk’s words of the European People's Party leader and unofficial curator of the Moldovan right-wing, who, in a special video message, expressed the opinion that only Sandu can lead Moldova to success. “The position of Washington is not clear enough, since the Plahotniuc factor gives it an extremely wide room for maneuver. On the one hand, Sandu is considered an unequivocal candidate of the West, on the other hand, we see a fairly close interaction of the current Moldovan leader with the American embassy. Perhaps, in the end, the stake will be made on the candidate who will give the best guarantees for the realization of US interests in our republic,” Rotari said.
... and internal contradictions
At the same time, the analyst believes that one should not discount the typically internal Moldovan showdowns, which are capable to some extent to even influence external forces. “Moldova is the clearest example of how stubbornness, unwillingness to compromise and personal ambitions can bury even the most unique geopolitical alignment. In part, we observe the same processes in the current race. Thus, the mess in the opposition camp, which only intensified this year, buried the European Union’s idea about a single candidate for opposition to Igor Dodon, who was naturally predicted to be Maia Sandu. Moreover, its main undertaker was none other than Sandu's closest partner in the ACUM block, Andrei Nastase,” Rotari says.
In his opinion, the most prominent right representatives’ shadow conflict has already been reflected in a number of major internal political failures, one of which was the defeat in the by-election in the Hincesti region, which knocked out the right wing for a long time: “Now Nastase regularly makes hard-hitting hints at his ACUM colleague and justifies her nomination mainly by the fact that Sandu did not fulfill the once given to him promise to give way in the presidential race. In fact, the ex-head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs has long been playing against his ally, fearing both the early parliamentary elections she had promised and the absorption of the weakened DA platform by the Action and Solidarity Party.
However, the current president, as Vladimir Rotari notes, also cannot feel at ease, since quite noticeable persons appear on the left flank: “Igor Dodon could not prevent Usatii's nomination even with the help of Russian assistance when initiating criminal cases against the Balti politician. Besides, there are rumors that they are preparing to put Vladimir Voronin on the arena of the pre-election struggle."
The expert is sure: in the current disposition, a second round is inevitable and that makes the outcome of the presidential elections even more unpredictable. “Most recent polls, especially those conducted by organizations affiliated with the presidential administration, give a more or less confident victory to Igor Dodon. However, even the most optimistic forecasts predict he fails to win already in the first round: the same Usatii is able to eat 5-7 percent of the votes, and Sandu's competitor, Nastase, can count on about the same figures. Perhaps, given the pandemic and an economic downturn reality of this year, it would be nice to end the race for a rather symbolic post in the first round. But the situation is that a second visit to the ballot boxes for our citizens is practically inevitable,” Rotari concluded.