The programs of top contenders for the November ballot victory are one of the components of the current rather sluggish presidential campaign, which hasn’t fully captured and intrigued the Moldovan society so far.
With little more than two weeks before the first round of the presidential election in Moldova, the campaign is still inertial and smooth, which may signify that Moldovan politicians and a long-suffering population has accumulated fatigue from relentless and often meaningless political battles. Opinion polls show that the upcoming elections are less exciting for Moldovan society than usual: there is still a significant percentage of undecided voters and those who in principle don’t plan to go to the polls.
There are many reasons for that: the notorious pandemic, the duet of the main candidates dating back to 2016, the growing pessimism among Moldovan people regarding the republic’s future and the authorities’ ability to work in principle for a better future, and finally the “shock” events of 2020. However, it seems that one of the key factors of low interest in the November ballot is a certain lack of fresh ideas in Igor Dodon and Maia Sandu’s campaigns.
Dodon-2016 vs Dodon-2020
Referring to the 2016 elections, we can see, for example, that the then winner Dodon offered a rather integral set of simple, but consistent and relatively brand new messages, including Moldovan identity and statehood, international neutrality and friendship with Russia, social justice and traditional values protection. The socialist leader promised to restore a strategic partnership with the Russian Federation, embark on the country’s unification, hold a referendum on the foreign policy vector, return a billion and sweep away unionism. Most of these tasks seemed realistic and resonated with the population.
What do we see now? Some of the 2016 program items, such as international consolidation of the republic’s neutral status and villages restoration, have ended up in the new document, which immediately raises questions. Why has nothing been done in previous years to liquidate unionist organizations in the country or to return the “History of Moldova” to school curriculum and restore the Moldovan language status?
Much of the program reflects this year’s trends. For example, it specifies the health sector modernization, including medical facilities renovation and incentives for medical personnel, as well as building a national irrigation system for agricultural land. The program’s socio-demographic segment lacks creativity and sounds outright populistic in some statements (one-time assistance to retirees twice a year).
The economic dimension focuses on industrialization and digitalization programs implying multifunctional industrial platforms, high-tech enterprises, agro-industrial parks in all regions to be built with the participation of Moldovan and foreign investors (to promote domestic agricultural products to foreign markets), as well as an investment institution to support and finance priority projects. Certainly, road construction will be also continued: until 2025, the annual investment in the construction and repair of roads at all levels should be at least 40 billion lei. In particular, it is planned to build a high-speed highway on the territory of Moldova between the Romanian and Ukrainian borders as part of the Pan-European transport corridor, as well as a ring road around Chisinau.
Of particular interest is the program section devoted to constitutional reform. As expected, in Igor Dodon’s version it should transform the country into a presidential-parliamentary republic, prohibit the “political tourism” by deputies, clearly delineate powers between the branches of government, and also reduce the number of people’s representatives to 61.
In international dimension, everything is traditional: a balanced foreign policy, a “bridge between East and West”, cooperation with neighbors, strategic partners (including the United States, China, Turkey, and Russia as the “major” ones) and the European Union. As for the Transdniestrian settlement, the relevant proposals, according to the document, will be developed by the end of 2021. The program also promises to implement a package of Gagauz bills.
Sandu Program: Development Through External Aid
During the recent presentation of her campaign program, Maia Sandu, leader of the Action and Solidarity party, highlighted five key points:
- Justice, order and discipline. Well, everything is clear about this: the justice reform, equality before the law, etc.
- Jobs and undivided families: creating well-paid jobs in Moldova to return labor migrants home; various support programs for small and medium-sized businesses.
- The minimum pension in the amount of 2000 lei.
- Two billion lei per year for rural modernization projects. The “European Village” program is the same as Dodon’s “Comfortable Village”: rural infrastructure development, building water, gas and sanitation systems.
- Breaking Moldova’s international isolation and bringing it closer to the European Union.
If you delve into the details of the Sandu program omitting beautiful and pretentious words, you will see it is not that different from the main competitor in many conceptual aspects, sometimes even repeating it in details (modernization of villages, agriculture, healthcare, etc.). Pension-related statements are obviously populistic, especially since this issue is one of the five priorities of the program.
The key difference is the emphasis on attracting a variety of external assistance and loans, which should become the basis for reforms, as well as the planned “Crusade” against corruption, “grey schemes” and unreliable officials and judges.
What’s the bottom line?
As you can see, both candidates decided not to risk too much and stick to the traditional concept form of their programs, without adding bright innovations that could intrigue the electorate and make the upcoming voting more vibrant. Judging by public reactions, the deliberately simplified slogans like “The time has come for good people” do not attract people much.
Moreover, based on the experience of Igor Dodon’s presidency, people could see the boundaries of what’s possible for the head of state, who is constrained by rather limited powers. In this sense, both programs have a major common problem: implementation of the plans outlined therein directly depends on whether the parliament has a ruling coalition loyal to the future president.
Some experts believe that only the first round of the current presidential campaign will be marked by languid nature, and the next stage will show a real fight when all trump cards will be put on the table. Well, let’s just hope that the second round of confrontation between the right and the left will reveal at least some innovative recipes for the country’s development.
Get real time update about this post categories directly on your device, subscribe now.