International View on the Moldovan Elections

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Sergiu CEBAN
Moldova's Western partners and the neighboring states were enthusiastic in responding to the early elections outcome, while Moscow's assessments were much less optimistic
Looking at the headlines of foreign media outlets and the foreign expert comments, one might get the impression that the election results are not so important in terms of the anticipated internal changes. It turns out, that outside voting is more viewed as an "important geopolitical victory" and a strategic pivot of Moldova's foreign policy towards the west. In general, international structures that were monitoring the elections assessed their organization very positively, noting that the electoral competitors had ample opportunities and the Moldovan voter was given a wide range of options. At the same time, foreign observers did not reveal any serious violations, but underscored that the Central Election Commission's actions lacked impartiality. Among the first who hastened to congratulate the citizens of Moldova on the PAS's convincing victory were our neighbors - Romania and Ukraine. Bucharest expressed their hope for cooperation with the new pro-European, democratic and reform-minded government, as well as for the further development of contacts personally with the Moldovan president. Considering that Romanian diplomacy is extraordinary active in our regional space, boosting relations with Moldova will apparently become one of the priority directions of Bucharest's foreign policy for the next five years. Unlike other international partners, Volodymyr Zelensky even phoned his Moldovan colleague and openly congratulated Maia Sanda on "her party's" win, stressing the need to expand Moldovan-Ukrainian cooperation. It is possible that the future Moldovan prime minister will make one of his first visits to Kyiv in order to charge with practical content the principled political agreements that were reached by Zelensky and Sandu back this winter. The European Union quite symbolically welcomed the results of the vote in a joint statement by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and the Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi. Without waiting for clarity on the future of the Moldovan government, the head of the EU Delegation Peter Michalko already visited the PAS's office yesterday and reaffirmed the reserved European support in the amount of EUR 600 million for the economic recovery of Moldova, which will become available immediately after the national governing bodies are formed. It seems that Brussels intends to regain the status of not only the main donor, but also the main operator of reforming the Moldovan system, which will strengthen the EU's position both in terms of personnel policy and internal political developments in Chisinau. At the State Department level, Washington has expressed its commitment to enhance partnership with our country based on shared democratic values. Notably, the first batch of Johnson & Johnson's American vaccine arrived in Chisinau just the day after the elections. Presumably, the American administration expects the first symbolic gesture from the new Moldovan parliament and government, namely, resuming the procedure for alienating the territory of the capital's stadium for the construction of a new complex of buildings for the US Embassy in Chisinau. Moscow was naturally less optimistic about the parliamentary elections in Moldova. At the level of the Russian Foreign Ministry, hope was expressed for the existing agreements to be consistently implemented, as well as readiness to cooperate with all political forces that are in favor of stronger Russian-Moldovan ties. Meanwhile, a number of Russian speakers, who are a kind of markers of the Kremlin's official position, as well as individual experts close to the government voiced more tough messages addressed primarily to the PAS leaders and Maia Sandu personally. Apparently, the main challenge for Moscow is that bilateral agenda is rapidly reduced and further relations with Chisinau are built exclusively through the prism of the prospects for a forced Transdniestrian settlement. By the way, accelerated processes around the left bank are most likely inevitable. Just yesterday, the British Embassy presented to the main Moldovan negotiator an analytical study, funded by the Government of the United Kingdom, entitled "Resolving the Transdniestrian Conflict: Building the Capacity of Official Working Groups". It assesses the current state of the negotiation process and also contains specific recommendations to streamline the dialogue and identify pragmatic solutions. The final elections outcome and Maia Sandu's successful breakthrough of the foreign policy isolation provide a wide scope for the new Moldovan authorities to develop international contacts. Based on the current context and high propensity of the collective West to take our country under its tight financial and political tutelage, the major challenges on the outer perimeter, most likely, can be expected precisely in relations with the Kremlin. There is no doubt that the new political reality will inevitably further reduce Russia's influence in the region and trigger corresponding painful reactions, for which our politicians must be prepared to the fullest. Whatever one may say, the early elections results are certainly geopolitically charged. Despite the fact that the NATO Deputy Secretary General also did not miss the opportunity to comment on the parliamentary elections, calling them a turning point in the European fate of Moldova, I would like to believe that the republic's new leadership will try to act more cautiously and prudently, at least at the first stage, focusing exclusively on a long list of internal problems and not getting involved in the existing confrontation between Washington and Moscow.