Should We Expect “Sandu vs. Dodon 3.0” in the Presidential Elections?

Home / Analytics / Should We Expect “Sandu vs. Dodon 3.0” in the Presidential Elections?
Sergiu CEBAN
People around Maia Sandu will surely do everything to make sure that the signboard of the 2024 presidential elections runoff will remain unchanged as compared to the previous ones
Even though the presidential election is still a year away, experts are already busy with it. There is indeed much to talk about. For instance, based on the mention of the elections in the draft budget and tax policy for 2024, the authorities so far have no plans to postpone the date and place of the election of the head of state. Meanwhile, it is not clear at all how the circumstances will develop at the end of next year, as the final outcome of the vote will depend on the numerous accompanying circumstances. The post-election situation in the district councils will obviously play an important role. That is, to what extent the Action and Solidarity party will be able to consolidate its positions through compromises with other political formations and ensure support for Maia Sandu on the ground. No less significant by the middle of next year will be the level of external support, first of all, from European structures, which will have their own pre-election period. And, finally, much will depend on the opposition’s willingness to act in a more or less coordinated manner, abandoning their positions and interests for common goals. The latter is not easy as usual. After all, despite all the appeals and firm instructions, quite motley coalition unions are gradually emerging in the district centers. The cooperation formats are so exotic that one could hardly imagine such things at the level of the central authorities in the current context. Yet, contrary to the directives of the governing party structures, local authorities, as always, prove the invariable principle of national politics – “you can always come to an agreement”. Thus, in the district council of Stefan Voda, as well as in the Dubasari district, the coalitions of PAS and the Socialist Party have been tested for the first time, and it seems that they can be multiplied in other local councils as well. To be fair, the PSRM executive council recently met to sum up the election results and avoid alliances with the ruling party. However, it is hard to believe that the local councilors acted without a signal from the center. So both PAS and PSRM probably decided to cooperate to avoid any blockage in the work of district governing bodies. Thinking that the electoral result was good, the Socialists convened an extraordinary congress for December 19 to restore the position of party chairman and elect him. It is obvious that the key decisions have already been made long ago. So besides the changes in the party's statute and program, the main political event will be the return of Igor Dodon to the one-man leadership of PSRM, who, in this capacity, will enter the presidential race. The Socialist leader has already stated to the media that he will probably not stay in the Chisinau Municipal Council, as he has plans for the upcoming elections. Recall that in October 2021, Igor Dodon, after losing successively the presidency and the parliament, gave up his mandate as a deputy and focused on developing investment in Moldovan-Russian relations. Unwilling to hand over the party to a successor, Dodon created a collegial governing body of PSRM, while retaining the position of honorary chairman. Thus, having apparently acquiesced to Moscow’s demands, the Socialist leader was only waiting for the right moment to return to the arena. The first sign of a future comeback was the spring decision of the Republican Council to appoint Dodon to the post of executive secretary of the Party of Socialists. The increasing frequency of his statements on various issues of domestic and foreign policy is also a confirmation that the ex-president intends to try his hand again. Previously, Dodon tried not to tempt fate and behaved as innocuously as possible towards the ruling party and Sandu, mostly portraying his opposing views with as little criticism as possible. The pre-election season requires some ‘bellicosity’ from the Socialists, so Dodon advocated nothing less than the holding of early presidential and parliamentary elections. In his opinion, the PAS has taken over all state institutions, blocked the media and imposed censorship. A show of character is certainly not a hallmark of this politician, so it can be considered as a sign of willingness to engage in a dialog with his main opponent, who is experiencing obvious political difficulties. As a matter of fact, the testing of PAS-PSM coalitions at the local level is another vivid proof of Dodon’s “natural political flexibility”. It is obvious that he is largely driven solely by selfishness and personal interests. For this reason, he is against the idea of uniting around a single opposition candidate before the presidential election, and is ready to do so only in the second round of voting. Naturally, the Socialist leader sees only himself and no one else as a battering ram against the current regime. This is exactly the same way he acted in recent years, killing promising political projects on the left flank and alternately removing from the scene all those who could compete with him. Realizing that Dodon has no realistic chance of re-election, the logical question arises as to why he is doing all this. Perhaps it is another demonstration of political shortsightedness, because of which he already lost everything he could. Or participation in the presidential race is an integral part of PSRM’s entry into the parliamentary elections from a relatively good position. Besides, as I have already suggested, in this way Dodon’s team can offer its hand to the presidency, since it is with Dodon in the second round that Maia Sandu’s chances of winning increases dramatically. In fact, it seems that all of the above mentioned things are in place, and they determine the behavior of the Socialists. It is quite possible to assume that personal security and a warm place in the chair of the deputy leader of the PSRM parliamentary faction are much more important and comfortable for Igor Dodon. That is why he will easily and without hesitation lose the presidential election to Sandu again in a ‘dignified’ manner. The meeting with the Socialist leader is literally a gift of fate for the campaign headquarters of the incumbent president, so he will be protected and treated nice in every possible way. By turning on full volume the Russian threat and other associations with the potential presidency of Dodon, the authorities will make the choice of citizens in favor of Sandu more forced than conscious. If it is indeed a covert deal, Moscow is unlikely to be able to influence it. Igor Dodon has a perfect example of his political mentor Vladimir Voronin, who repeatedly disobeyed, defied and led the Kremlin by the nose, but nevertheless remains a “reliable pillar” of Russian policy on the Moldovan track. Therefore, another embarrassing defeat of the Socialist leader will certainly not remove him from the list of “promising pro-Russian” politicians. Today’s situation in the political spectrum is such that Maia Sandu and her closest competitor Igor Dodon have the highest ratings. Electoral headquarters of the two candidates would like to stay in this frame. So the electoral field, apparently, will be thoroughly cleansed of any other dangerous competitors that could prevent the third Sandu vs. Dodon sparring, with quite a predictable result.