Electoral Muesli, or What Should a Moldovan Voter Expect?

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The forthcoming local elections offer observers plenty of intrigue, given the participation of a large number of established favorites and “dark horses”, as well as a strong “geopolitical component” 
Sergiu CEBAN, RTA: As we can see, the CEC has set general local elections for November 5. Officially, the election campaign will start from the date of registration of contestants, but not earlier than 30 days before election day. Shortly the CEC will approve a calendar of events necessary for the conduct of voting. However, actual preparations for local elections have been underway for quite a while because everyone is aware of their importance. In domestic circumstances, the results of the local elections serve as an indicator of the particular political formation’s position at the national level. Although the presidential election is ahead of us next year, it is important for the electoral figures to demonstrate success this autumn. While some parties select and formally nominate candidates, others are busy targeting and building the capacity of new political projects, such as Farmers’ Power, which has already asserted itself and has even managed to secure some concessions from the government. Renato Usatii, who traditionally becomes more active ahead of election struggle, appears in public more and more often. As before, the former Balti mayor presents himself as a fighter for justice, hoping to regain the trust of his electorate. By all accounts, Usatii remains in touch with the law enforcement representatives, who provide him with compromising information. It is not yet clear whether Usatii prepares to reestablish Our Party or whether someone will use him as a media hitman against his opponents in the forthcoming local elections. It seems that the closer the elections the more other once famous and experienced political figures we will see. In this regard, the most remarkable has been the return of Vlad Filat, who, despite his sharp criticism of the ruling party, is probably not yet ready to challenge PAS and plans to focus more on the national-unionist niche, which in recent years has been actively expanded by the supporters’ growth of the idea of unification with Romania. Apparently, the ruling party does not yet duly prepare the conditions for its benign entry into the election campaign due to a sequence of scandals and events with an acute negative effect. As might be expected, the European Political Community summit and the mass rally in the main square in the capital quickly faded into oblivion. While the protests by farmers and disgruntled patentees, coupled with the recent airport tragedy, put PAS in a very tough position in terms of electoral strategy. We see how the political technologists of the ruling party try to make themselves out the situation and are engaged in all kinds of “electoral inventions”. For instance, last week Maia Sandu suddenly invited to the president’s office a number of extra-parliamentary parties that she had tried to ignore all previous years. The event was expectedly held in a “protocol-smooth” atmosphere, and the selectivity in forming the list of participants only confirmed its irrelevance. In this way, PAS probably invited all pro-European parties to present a united wing with a common message in order to reinforce the pro-European electoral narrative. There are also active preparatory processes and the building of party columns on the left flank. Igor Dodon continues to demonstrate his absolute loyalty to Moscow as best as he can, hoping to obtain the necessary resources for the election campaign. Dodon’s pro-Russian exacerbation happened immediately after his own journey in the Moldovan policy failed, and the return to the leadership of the Socialist Party did not bring the proper effect, as the activists and local elected representatives continue to leave the ranks of PSRM, moving to Ilan Shor. Such processes do not occur in nothing, as there should be clear messages from Moscow as to where Russia intends to invest politically. Obviously, Moscow has not yet made the final decision on the PSRM. Moreover, the Kremlin is not likely to abandon its longstanding project - nor plans to place its main bet on it. To regain favor and give a second life to PSRM, Dodon and other permanent leaders of the party will have to accept Moscow’s conditions and start an internal reset. Without proper resource help, the Socialists risk another dramatic defeat in autumn, although this is probably the intention of the Kremlin analysts. Another failure could make Dodon concede and allow the Socialists to rebrand in order to participate in the presidential and parliamentary elections with new forces, renewed plans and program. Despite the liquidation of the Shor party, the political activists briskly redeploy forces and resources, scattering them into different projects to allow at least some of them to pass through the CEC’s registration filters. The main bet will be on Renaissance and the S.O.R. electoral bloc. Depending on their further placement in the opinion polls, final adjustments will be made and we may see a number of further mergers. It is still unknown what the Communist party will undertake. So far, the PCRM leaders have not announced their ambitions and electoral plans for this autumn. It seems that the Communists have taken a passive position, as if waiting for some decision to be taken in Moscow. Alternatively, they do so in anticipation of generous offers from the Socialists or Shor. The “final battle” in the local elections will of course unfold in the capital, the main political and economic center and important electoral and administrative resources’ concentration. For this reason, all major political formations always try to take control over Chisinau. Apparently, the PAS is so insecure about the victory of its candidate that the party managed to make a false start and started distributing campaign material in July, risking to further decrease the chances of its candidate amid the scandal. According to experts, the ruling party should not expect a repeat of its victorious triumph in local elections in the summer of 2021, and the final result will be more than modest. Most likely, the party technologists also predicted this trend and are looking for ways to moderate such PAS results, trying to find electoral donors from among the extra-parliamentary parties and inciting them to create an electoral bloc. The ideal electoral outcome in such a case would be a good combined success of all pro-European political formations, which would mask the defeat of the ruling party itself. Meanwhile, those in the opposite camp are also hoping to gain an advantage in the upcoming electoral contest. And their expectations, to put it mildly, are not without reason. Moldova has plenty of those who support Russia, especially in the north and in Transnistria. More recently, Moscow has solidified its grip on Gagauzia and intends to take over the control of the People’s Assembly of the autonomy. Besides, among the main tasks of the Kremlin is to get a convincing majority in the traditionally loyal regions of the country, as well as to oust the ruling party from the local level as much as possible. Such focus of Moscow on local elections shows that their main bets are not so much on the next parliamentary elections as on the presidential vote, as well as on the defeat of Maia Sandu as the main symbol of the current government.