Maia Sandu's Pre-Election Report

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Sergey CHEBAN Maia Sandu's first six-months report, which is not typical for heads of state, is an obvious campaign move designed to further convert the president's personal popularity into the rating of the PAS party close to her. Yesterday, Maia Sandu marked another milestone in her political career by reporting on the first half of her tenure as president. Summing up the results of six months is not quite a common practice among heads of state, but given the active phase of the election campaign, such a general pre-election move should not be surprising. Four key issues were highlighted in the presentation: pandemic, economy, international cooperation and fight against corruption. More details on the country's future were shared by Maia Sandu in an hour-long interview with the Moldovan editorial office of Radio Free Europe. There, she outlined her vision of the possible system of government if Moldovan voters cast enough votes to form a parliamentary majority loyal to the president. The opposition, represented by the Socialist Party and the special parliamentary commission on the case of Ukrainian judge Nikolai Chaus, of course, tried to pretty much spoil the report of the head of state with another dose of accusations against the SIS leadership who are under the president. In their opinion, the Moldovan special services and, consequently, Maia Sandu herself, are directly related to the abduction of the aforementioned man and have been trying to cover up their tracks by all available means in recent weeks. Despite this, Sandu deemed her six-month term in the presidency quite successful, especially underlining her role in supplying the republic with a significant number of vaccines. The last fact is difficult to argue with: Moldova has to temporarily refuse from new "vaccine donations" from Romania and Estonia, since supplies are enough for the next two months. The fact that international partners show more generosity towards Moldova is also the personal merit of the President. In that regard, it is more important to stress that large volumes of vaccines remain shelved amid the stabilized epidemiological situation. Therefore, foreign donors simply began to hand them out as a humanitarian aid not only to Moldova but also to other countries and regions where potential to effectively resist the pandemic is low. Moreover, the vaccine context has oddly enough provided a good opportunity to exchange public courtesies with the Transdniestrian administration. The latter seems to be seeking pragmatic interaction with the new Moldovan authorities. However, Tiraspol's unexpected curtsey to Maia Sandu was almost immediately counterbalanced by its response to the mentioned interview to Free Europe: the leader of the region addressed the president with questions on the Russian troops withdrawal and the negotiation process, thereby drawing the Transdniestrian "red lines" with regard to these topics. So we can conclude that communication is anyway going to be tough. Overcoming external isolation is extremely important for the country's positioning in the international arena. However, in practical terms, the visits to Moldova and the return trips of the president are exclusively of protocol and political nature so far and do not bring tangible results, but rather fit into the pre-election context. At the same time, visits to Washington or Moscow seem to have not been scheduled by the  Moldovan president yet, since trips to these key capitals are much more crucial and should definitely take place after the elections to discuss serious strategic issues. The plans to stabilize the Moldovan economy with the help of the European Union's funds are in fact connected not personally with Maia Sandu (although the EU is obviously betting on the incumbent president), but rather with Brussels' desire to demonstrate its readiness to resume its patronage of Chisinau. This especially concerns the issues of restructuring the state system and carrying out deep reforms in core sectors with the prospect of reaching a new level of mutual integration. The fight against corruption has certainly been and will further be paid special attention. This process is likely to become central in the activities of the president and the potential pro-European government. Despite the fact that anti-corruption measures are one of the fundamental requirements of the United States and the EU, this topic is already very convenient for any politician from the post-Soviet region, opening up wide opportunities for implementing various measures, including harsh and repressive ones. As can be seen from the example of a neighboring country, they may well be applied in relation to certain oppositional and financial-oligarchic groups in the event of their opposition (real or imaginary) to a deep reset of the state system. Maia Sandu's last report, whatever one may say, has a clearly pronounced pre-election nature. Its main task is to convince the Moldovan voters that the president is the headliner of qualitative changes in the country, and the collective West is already clearly demonstrating its readiness to invest in a new pro-Western configuration of power in Moldova. In this regard, the head of state, very frankly and without hesitation, states that in order to further increase the foreign aid and systemic changes, she needs a loyal parliament and government. To this end, citizens should vote for You-Know-Who. The fact that the president refused to communicate with journalists following the results of her briefing, during which she presented the results of the work for the last two quarters mainly automatically, suggests that the event was of extremely utilitarian value - to expand the number of citizens who favor the president and convert Maia Sandu's personal popularity as efficiently as possible into the PAS party's rating close to her.