Refusal to establish polling stations on the territory of Transdniestria is another missed chance to bring the country’s reunification closer in favor of opportunistic electoral objectives. It is now obvious that the people of the region will again vote in the most electrified climate, which will only delay the prospects for the Transdniestrian problem to be solved.
Yesterday, the Central Election Commission revised its initial decision to open 44 polling stations for Moldovan citizens permanently residing in Transdniestria. Their number was reduced to 41 through cancelling two voting sites in Bender on the right bank of the Dniester and one in the village of Corjova (a suburb of Dubasari).
In practice, this decision means that the remaining 41 stations will operate exclusively within the territory controlled by the constitutional authorities, including by the law enforcement agencies. By and large, the process can be organized without any involvement of the Transdniestrian administration. Such a move by the CEC turned out to be easily predictable, given that the Supreme Court of Appeal refused to consider the submitted complaints and referred them to the Constitutional Court.
There was no doubt that the Constitutional Court would do everything possible to win over the foreign diaspora, including by opening additional polling stations, as well as to limit the influence of the Transdniestrian residents in the parliamentary elections. The aforementioned court has repeatedly taken decisions as dictated by the foreign diplomatic missions accredited in Chisinau, primarily the US Embassy. Today, the court is doing everything in its power to remove Igor Dodon from power and ensure Maia Sandu’s sole rule.
Such politicized approaches of the highest court are not something new. It’s enough to recall the scandalous decision on the language issue which has formalized the primacy of the Declaration of Independence over the national Constitution and fixed Romanian as a state language in Moldova. Or the 2017 deliberately anti-Russian demand to withdraw Russian troops from Transdniestria and transform the peacekeeping operation. You’d think in what way the issues of security and peacekeeping can relate to the Constitutional Court? Yet, if we consider it as a refined instrument of external influence on the domestic political situation in the republic, everything fits together.
The Commission’s forthcoming decision significantly simplifies the situation for the activists of the pro-presidential Action and Solidarity Party. Its new leader, Igor Grosu, will have only to repeat the maneuver of preventing the Transdniestrian voters to reach the polling stations controlled by the constitutional authorities. Fortunately, this technology turned to be well-proven in 2020 on November 1 and 15, when people were intimidated and humiliated in every possible way when crossing the administrative border. Neither Chisinau nor Tiraspol could find any options to calm down the Moldovan politicians and activists who blocked the voting. The peacekeepers, whom the Transdniestrian side actively appealed to, also did not interfere.
Today, the pro-Western political forces of Moldova seek to de-motivate the Transdniestrian voters who are simply afraid to repeat last November’s negative experience. Moreover, the party intricacies in Moldova will be more difficult and boring for them to understand than a simple confrontation between the pro-Western Maia Sandu and the conventionally pro-Russian Igor Dodon. Voting in early parliamentary elections is a much more specialized process. The fact that in the course of two months already no coordination with the local operational headquarters is required to enter Moldova due to the improved epidemiological situation should not be disregarded either. Therefore, any Transdniestrian resident who needs to go to the right bank of the Dniester on personal business will easily choose a more convenient and calm day than July 11.
On the other hand, those citizens who do decide to vote will be much more energized and persistent. The Transdniestrian authorities and the peacekeeping mission, where Russia plays a key role, also have the time and experience to take care of the personal safety of Transdniestrian voters when crossing the administrative line, including bringing representatives of law enforcement agencies and special services into the Security Zone. In this sense, high tensions are expected around the participation of Transdniestrian voters in the early parliamentary elections. Provocations from both sides, or even from individual political activists, cannot be ruled out.
However, Chisinau has again implemented the Western partners’ recommendations and shut out the Transdniestrian voters from voting as much as possible, which multiplies the chances of the Action and Solidarity Party for success in the upcoming elections. Only an independent majority in the Moldovan parliament will be a success, since the pro-presidential political force will not be able to form a stable coalition free from significant ideological disagreements with any of the parties (blocs) which, according to sociological surveys, can pass the electoral threshold.
The fact that the long-term interests of the state – namely, the prospects for the country’s reunification – were once again sacrificed for the sake of internal political electoral objectives doesn’t come as a total surprise. The Americans have repeatedly let slip in private conversations that they will only support reintegration in which Transdniestrian residents will be deprived of the right to vote and the Transdniestrian administration – to influence Moldova’s foreign policy.
However, it is not entirely clear how to convince Tiraspol of the fairness and viability of such approaches and why should Russia suddenly accept this after a long-term habit to use Transdniestria as a stronghold of its influence in Moldova. The Kremlin will abandon the de facto independence of Transdniestria only if the region is rigidly incorporated into Moldova with a veto on foreign policy issues as an unconditional obstacle to Moldova’s accession to NATO and the European Union, as well as any other tendencies damaging to Russia. In this context, the Russian military presence on the Dniester stands as a separate issue.
A long-term consequence of the CEC’s opportunistic approach will be a deeper gap between the two banks of the Dniester which was gradually narrowing since 2016 as a result of Moscow’s pressure and its support to Igor Dodon. Today, these tendencies will be downplayed for the sake of the electoral prospects for Maia Sandu’s party. But the Kremlin will always find a way to use Transdniestria to solve its problems in Moldova. From now on, however, these steps will be made to strengthen the de facto independent status of the region, not vice versa.
This has already manifested in the very aggressive rhetoric of Russia’s State Duma regarding the situation around Transdniestria, which has not been heard for several years (perhaps, since Vladimir Plahotniuc’s removal). The circumstances are undergoing radical changes, and this will inevitably have an impact on the Transdniestrian settlement and the 5+2 format activities. However, the final conflict resolution on the principles of a common state and equality of the population of both banks of the Dniester will remain a political science concept that has little to do with practical reality in Moldova and Transdniestria.
Get real time update about this post categories directly on your device, subscribe now.