Major opposition presidential contender Maia Sandu accused the incumbent head of state of preparing an attempt to falsify the voting results
A steady sign that electoral campaign in Moldova started is the accusatory speeches of the candidates towards each other. Maia Sandu at her press conference yesterday decided not to waste time on trifles and immediately went with the trump cards: she accused the incumbent president (and her main competitor in the upcoming elections) of an imminent attempt to falsify the election results. According to Sandu, it is planned to spend 2 million euros for these purposes.
“Don’t even try to steal the votes of citizens. There are more of us, we are stronger and we will defend ourselves in all ways. Dodon did not keep any of his campaign promises. We are receiving more and more signals about Igor Dodon’s attempts to falsify these elections. We tell him to understand that his time has gone and the elections must be fair,” the PAS leader said. First of all, according to Maia Sandu, Igor Dodon will try to manipulate the voting results opening polling stations for the diaspora and “bribing voters from the Transdniestrian region”.
Both problems the opposition leader mentioned: the diaspora voting and the left bank residents, one might already call traditional in the context of the Moldovan elections over past years. A particularly heated discussion is unfolding around the Transdniestrian voters. The fact is that before the previous presidential elections, the population of the left bank was really not quite “involved” in the Moldovan electoral processes. However, in 2016, there was a “breakthrough” when more than 17 thousand residents of the region came to polling stations. And three years later when within parliamentary elections this figure more than doubled and showed more than 37 thousand.
Pridnestrovians’ voting, especially in the parliamentary elections, was accompanied by loud scandals. Many experts and politicians quite reasonably saw elements of organized transportation and other violations in it. It is characteristic that the main “beneficiaries” of the massive influx of Moldovan citizens from the left bank in every possible way refused to have any connection with this story. Thus, the Party of Socialists and Igor Dodon on the one hand and the Democratic Party on the other, last year vividly exchanged respective accusations while the PDM even registered a complaint with the CEC. Nevertheless, both political forces generally benefited: the deputies affiliated with the Shor party and the democrats passed through the Transdniestrian constituencies and in voting on the party lists, the Transdniestrians mostly gave their preference to the socialists.
During the current campaign, the issue of voting on the left bank is again becoming acute, while a number of politicians and observers express the opinion that residents of Transdniestria, in principle, should not participate in the Moldovan elections, since candidates do not have access and the opportunity to conduct a full-fledged campaign in the region.
It should be noted that actually, this issue was inflated somewhat artificially: the participation / non-participation of the Transdniestrian region in the elections is not of key importance for their results. According to unofficial data, today Transdniestria is home to 100 to 200 thousand people with Moldovan citizenship. However, only a small part of them can actually take part in the voting. It was around 40 thousand people last year, and that is very close to the maximum that the left bank can really expose. At the same time, if we analyze the final figures for the 2016 presidential elections one can understand that this number is clearly not enough to become a key factor in the voting (it would tip the scales in one direction or another, only if the candidates are completely equal) …
A much more curious moment is the voting of the diaspora to which no less questions occur (and maybe even more). Meanwhile, it is indeed a very powerful resource that can easily flip voting results. Indeed, according to various sources, up to a million (!) Of our fellow citizens live temporarily or permanently abroad.
But this is all theory. In practice, for many years now the authorities have not been able to create necessary conditions for all interested members of our diaspora to have the possibility taking part in the voting. There are a lot of problematic nuances: starting with clearly insufficient number and uneven distribution of the open areas and ending up with banal technical issues as the lack of ballots. The latter, for example, was clearly manifested in 2016.
Frankly speaking, it should be noted that from voting to voting, the number of polling stations abroad is gradually growing. Thus, in 2016, 100 stations were opened and for the 2019 parliamentary elections a quarter more added (125). However, the point is not only in their number, it is also the geography of their location. Maia Sandu accuses Dodon of intending to “open more land plots in the East, and less in the West,” but the former would actually be very logical. Thus, in Russia, where according to various sources, 200 thousand or more of our citizens live, only 11 polling stations were opened in the last elections while in Italy almost three times more.
It is quite clear why is Maia Sandu so worried about foreign stations. In the last elections, 67 thousand people from the diaspora voted in the first round while in the second round their quantity amounted to already 138 thousand, and the overwhelming majority of them voted for Sandu (more than 85 percent). It is also worth recalling that Sandu also ran representing the 50th “Western European” constituency in the parliamentary elections, where she received as many as 50 thousand votes (more than 80 percent). Obviously, the PAS leader will strive to ensure similar proportions this time but all this is, in fact, happening at the expense of infringing on the rights of Russian Moldovans for whom the opportunity to vote comfortably is clearly limited. In this context, Igor Dodon’s intention to adjust the open areas balance by increasing the Russian segment (if this is really manifested) is difficult to be called criminal (although, no doubt, this will be beneficial to the current president).
There is reason to believe that dispersing the stories of the diaspora and residents of the left bank ahead of time, Sandu is gearing up ground for not recognizing the November elections (unless she wins) and developing protest activity.
This scenario’s further development depends on the external partners’ position. If they generally do not see any special violations and legitimize the election results, then, most likely, the protests of the right-wing will quickly subside, as happened in 2016. At the same time, a repetition of the Belarusian scenario with an outbreak of national protest in Moldova is still unlikely due to completely different internal political and social conditions.
On the other hand, if after voting completed there is a negative reaction from the West and an appropriate signal is given, then the protest growth is inevitable. Well, in this case, it will be extremely important for Igor Dodon if winning elections, to get the support or at least benevolent neutrality of the minimum two parties in the EU-US-Russia triangle. Otherwise, the protests have a great chance of success and will certainly continue until the results of the presidential elections are annulled.
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