PAS Got Knocked Down. Will There Be a Knockout?

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Victor ENI
If the ruling party doesn’t come to its sense, by spring the socio-political situation may become even more difficult – and perhaps even irreversible
This week began, perhaps, with the most alarming “sign” for the current government. Its representatives probably experienced the first real stress after they saw the results of another sociological survey conducted in early December. The results were published on Monday by CBS-Research, IDIS “Viitorul” and the Institute of Political Sciences and International Relations of the Romanian Academy. According to the results of the survey, the party in power is rapidly losing the citizens’ trust, so much so that the ratings of the oppositional Bloc of Communists and Socialists and those of the Action and Solidarity Party are almost equal. As a percentage, this is expressed as follows: if the parliamentary elections were held next Sunday, both parties would receive 24.7% each. Moreover, out of the total number of those who have decided on their choice, 37.8% of respondents are ready to vote for BoCS, while even slightly less – 37.7% are ready to vote for PAS. In order to somehow smooth out such unattractive figures a few days before their publication in the public space, most likely not unbeknownst to high-ranking officials, the results of another survey conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) were quickly thrown in (however, in the period from September to October 2021 – and since then a lot of water has passed under the bridge). The results show that early in autumn, the Action and Solidarity Party enjoyed the trust of 36% of citizens, while only 14% of voters were ready to support the Socialist Party. The equalizing of the two main opposing forces’ ratings may indicate that a part of the left electorate, that, though by a stretch, believed PAS in the course of the early parliamentary elections, is smoothly returning to its traditional party preferences. Another group of disillusioned voters is not yet ready to give preference to any of the parties and has settled in the undecided zone. Probably, in such circumstances, it would be logical for the country’s leadership to get this straight, analyze what is happening in detail and adjust its policy in order to somehow turn its direction towards the people. But the ruling party, together with the government, once again made the worst choice and went rogue, desperately trying to convince citizens that the government is doing everything possible and trying to fulfill election promises. The entire state apparatus hastily switched to the “high alert mode”. Yesterday, on various levels of power, they managed to talk seriously again about banning the Sor party, whose rating, according to the latest opinion polls, by the way, has grown quite well, to put several shady characters associated with the Plahotniuc regime on the wanted list through Interpol, and also to summon the honorary chairman of the Party of Socialists Igor Dodon for questioning to the prosecutor’s office. But lately, almost everyone has been saying that the current government is in trouble. Experts strongly insisted that something should be changed, as the situation is rapidly deteriorating. Following the results of 100 days of the government’s work, it became clear to many that the current Cabinet of Ministers is not able to implement a socio-political program that meets the expectations of the population. As a result, after four months, stress and deep disappointment prevailed in our society. The leaders of the ruling party probably counted on a much longer reserve of patience on the part of citizens and focused on a thorough cleaning of the state system, rather than on improving the living conditions of the population. A significant part of the responsibility, of course, lies with the President and the Action and Solidarity Party. They got so carried away during the election campaign that they created voter’s extremely high demands and hopes, for meeting which there really is neither time, nor resources, nor sufficient managerial experience. Therefore, eventually the current leadership had to pay the price, especially amid a series of failures and setbacks. In case after this painful blow no one gets serious, by spring the socio-political situation may become even more difficult – and perhaps even irreversible. Moreover, the first political knockdown for the current government will accelerate other internal processes and, most likely, in the coming months, an accelerated rebranding will take place in the center–left segment with the emergence of a new cohort of leaders whose task is to become a “sensible alternative” to the ruling regime. The most prominent figure actively and quite effectively opposing the authorities is the metropolitan mayor Ion Ceban, who, according to the latest survey, is supported by almost half of Chisinau residents. Another equally important factor is that the left forces, for all their disunity, are nevertheless able to mobilize into a kind of political constellation. The same cannot be said about the right flank, where all the other players and former associates were marginalized by Maia Sandu’s efforts and the political party loyal to her. The pro-European voter simply does not have a decent political alternative at the moment, and who knows when it will appear. The worst option is if the left opposition and part of the right forces join in a united front against the parliamentary majority that is not coping with the tasks, and certain signs of such a scenario already appear. On the other hand, the problems of the ruling party may attract more focused attention from Washington and Brussels, whose lack of support also plays its part in what is happening. Therefore, in order to strengthen the positions of the authorities and prevent the revenge of the left forces, the leadership of the republic may well be offered a “friendly shoulder” in the form of financial assistance and other benefits. We have repeatedly seen this during the period of Alliances for European Integration, which were “spiked” during difficult domestic political periods. However, so far all this is the theory. In practice, the collective opposition front managed to find Maia Sandu’s/PAS’s pressure points and achieve the desired result by imposing a critical perception of authorities on society. Although the main “credit” in this must go to the criticized themselves, as they collect mistakes at an incredibly high rate. Therefore, it is safe to say that the ruling party in tandem with the president definitely lost this political round.