Public Opinion and the Right Political Spectrum

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Anton SVET
Local elections are coming up in autumn, which could significantly redistribute the balance of political power in the country. Last weekend, several major right-wing parties – potential future PAS partners in the governing coalition – announced their intention to participate
The electoral code approved in December (despite the opposition parties’ outcry from the so-called “common agenda” and their appeal to the Venice Commission) sets the date for local elections at October 29 or November 5. The final decision rests with the central electoral commission, which must make it known at least 70 days before election day. Three party projects have announced their intention to delegate candidates for this weekend’s elections. Thus, the political councils of the ruling Action and Solidarity party, as well as the at various times influential platform Dignity and Truth and the Liberal Democratic Party, met this weekend. Even Maia Sandu and Dorin Recean honored Sunday’s PAS congress. They spoke about the party’s priorities – European integration and harmonization of legislation with the EU, justice reform, defense and national security, social services and business assistance projects. In many ways, the party’s guidelines coincided with Recean’s government program, and his and the President’s presence symbolized the continued unity of the ruling majority and the executive in the country after the write-off of Natalia Gavrilita. Meanwhile, due to the fact that a number of candidates have recused themselves, PAS has not yet decided on a nominee for the position of Chisinau mayor. For the ruling party it is categorically important to win the capital’s mayoral elections, which would allow it to control the street and fight protests more effectively. Plus, there is probably a desire to rehabilitate the shameful voting in Balti, although it will not be easy to gain support in the traditionally Russian-speaking region. As the ruling party gathers strength on the eve of a new electoral cycle, polls show a bleak picture for it: a depressing drop in the ratings, a widening discrepancy between the policies it implements and the expectations of voters, a worsening economic situation of the population and growing social discontent. The PAS is clearly at odds with public demand on almost every issue, as the numbers bear out. For example, some 70% of respondents in a February IMAS poll supported neutrality and opposed interrupting economic, diplomatic and cultural relations with Russia. Another 55% of respondents believe that Moldova does not need to leave the CIS. Meanwhile the procedure of the withdrawal from a part of CIS agreements is de-facto started by MFAEI, about which Nicu Popescu informed recently. In turn, the subject of refusal of neutrality is actively nurtured by Maia Sandu and Igor Grosu, becoming an occasion for these high-ranking politicians to resent the Moldovan people, not realizing the price of cooperation with NATO and military-logistical and diplomatic support of Ukraine. Two-thirds of the respondents criticize the closing of opposition TV channels by the authorities and complain about the establishment of dictatorship and abuse in the country, more than half say that the situation in Moldova was better under Igor Dodon and demand early parliamentary elections. The double increase of respondents blame Maia Sandu for increase of prices for gas and electric power rather than Russia and PJSC "Gazprom", and only 12% acknowledge that the governmental compensations helped them (21% didn’t receive them at all). The socio-economic discontent of the population and the widening gap between the people’s needs and the authorities’ actions often dictated by foreign curators result in very eloquent political ratings. Thus, Maia Sandu is only the fourth most popular politician in the country, 3.5% ahead of the fugitive Ilan Shor and behind disqualified and prosecuted Igor Dodon, Ion Ceban and Vladimir Voronin, who has not made a public appearance for a long time. The party project itself is not doing much better, with PAS lagging behind the bloc of Communists and Socialists, as well as the SOR party. The cosmetic changes in the government, necessary only for the appointment of Dorin Recean from the U.S. embassy for specific tasks, are unlikely to have a significant impact on the ratings of the government. The European Community Summit scheduled in Chisinau in early June, which entails significant financial costs for organization, is not likely to increase support, especially for the disadvantaged segments of the population. It hardly adds popularity of PAS and noticeably aggravated situation around Moldova connected with the hovering rumors about the entrance of the Ukrainian armies on the territory of the left bank of Dniester river and the accompanying threats from Russia. Thus, Moldovan society has developed a strong demand not only for justice, but also for a functional alternative to the discredited ruling regime. The leftist opposition parties flirt with the authorities, “draining” the protests, and are fragmented, being under the oppression of criminal prosecution. This enables the “old and new” parties on the right to count on entering (within certain limits) the government in the future. And the first stage here can be local elections, which in the case of Chisinau or Balti will allow to make a loud statement. Not without reason, at the political council of the Dignity and Truth Platform, its leader, Dinu Plangău, announced his intention to create a broad electoral structure for the capital’s municipal council and the selection of candidates for the position of mayor, which involves an alliance of pro-European democratic forces. The ex-Prime Minister Vlad Filat is an intriguing factor in right-wing Moldovan politics, actively criticizing PAS and appealing to the theme of unification with Romania. He never declared his unionist views in the alliances “For European Integration”, in which the PLDM had the largest parliamentary representation, but it was the destiny of the liberal party of Mihai Ghimpu and Dorin Chirtoaca, as well as personally of President Nicolae Timofti. Now the situation has drastically changed. There is a possibility that the West is preparing electoral sparring partners and future coalition partners for the PAS, which has failed on its own to retain democratic power and control public sentiment. For the constitutional majority that would be needed to reject the principle of neutrality or unification with Romania, it is necessary to mobilize every single voter from the right-wing or centrist spectrum, as well as those nostalgic for the “heroic” revolutionary times of 15 years ago. It is also important to have in parliament again a party that is strong on the ground and openly agitating for unity, which would allow Maia Sandu and PAS to share responsibility for giving up statehood and joining Romania, if Bucharest and the west urgently need it. The first examination of the parties of the right-wing spectrum and Moldovan political personalities will be the local elections. How the opposition, especially the left-wing, will respond to this, and whether it exists at all in the country, is a rhetorical question.