The current stage of the electoral race in Moldova is unusually calm. The major candidates are slowly collecting signatures and sluggishly campaigning, without resorting to any surprises so far. By all appearances, the main struggle for the presidency will unfold after the elections, and the votes of Moldovan citizens will not necessarily become a decisive factor.
The electoral campaign in Moldova is at the stage of self-determination of candidates and their shadowy consultations with sponsors and potential sources of external legitimacy. The axiom of Napoleon III “it is not important how votes are cast, but it’s important how they are counted” will hardly work in Moldova in its original form. It was made clear to all candidates (first of all, by the Americans) that the use of administrative resources both in campaigning and in counting votes can be severely punished. The voting of the Moldovan diaspora representatives and citizens on the left bank was separately highlighted. Obviously, the bulk of these votes won’t be activated, and the electoral process will take place mainly within the territory of the Republic of Moldova controlled by the authorities – this makes it easier to prevent various manipulations and fraud.
In addition, the main candidates, Maia Sandu and Igor Dodon, would like to eliminate violations, at least those recorded: the first – since she sincerely believes in her ability to win fair elections, and the latter – because he wants to minimize the risks of non-recognition of the voting results by international partners. Due to certain subjective circumstances, the presidential elections scheduled for this November are considered a milestone. The fact is that the ambassadors of the United States and the European Union can leave their posts next year on a rotational basis. Leaving Moldova with a pro-Russian president and a coalition of democrats and socialists after diplomatic mandates are over is hardly in the plans of the Brussels and Washington representatives. At least, such work risks being characterized as ineffective. However, other electoral opportunities for power reconfiguration based on Moldovan legislation may never come.
The mobilization and protest potential in Moldova is strong enough and has already been partially tested during the demonstrations of the Nistru war veterans, unionists, agricultural producers and Renato Usatii supporters. Taking into account the dire and constantly deteriorating situation of the population, also due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Moldova has enough viable “revolutionists” to solve almost any problem.
Therefore, Maia Sandu, and especially Igor Dodon, who for various reasons are confident in their victory in the elections, are now busy not about how to achieve a decisive advantage in the voting, but how to retain the conquered power in the event of the opponent’s counter-attack involving the street and international support. This question is much more difficult than collecting signatures or pre-election campaigning, in which both main candidates with a profound political experience have become skilled to a certain extent. This explains why the election campaign is rather calm at this stage. Moreover, the electorates of Maia Sandu and Igor Dodon are quite stable and monolithic, and the chances of either victory in the first round are below minimal.
The strategic position of both candidates is extremely vulnerable. If defeated, Igor Dodon will lose not only his post, but also his immunity, which may trigger repressions against him. In addition, the destruction of several schemes and the seizure of assets that feed the Democratic Party tops could complete the PSRM-PDM parliamentary coalition collapse leading to the overthrow of the Chicu government.
In turn for Maia Sandu, the fiasco will mean the actual loss of real influence instruments on Moldovan politics due to her faction’s minority in parliament and the absence of representatives in the government. Given the reluctance of the PSRM, PDM and the Sor party to stimulate early parliamentary elections, the current six months without power may turn into another four for Maia Sandu. The situation can radically change during such a period. Therefore, the former Moldovan prime minister simply cannot allow being again defeated by Igor Dodon, at least she certainly cannot recognize it as a fait accompli.
The above factors evoke serious doubts that the end of 2020 won’t be turbulent for Moldova. Most likely, this year will become one of the most difficult for the country, keeping up with global trends. Despite a certain decorativeness of the presidential post, the upcoming elections will have tremendous moral and practical significance for all the stakeholders, with the prospect of becoming a kind of trigger to larger political reasons. Including in terms of organizing early elections in parliament or forming a new ruling coalition. Therefore, the current slow-moving election campaign should not be misleading – it is just the lull before the storm.
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