Treacherous Path of Moldovan Opposition

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Christian RUSSU
The problems of the ruling party candidate which have surfaced in no way motivate the opposition politicians so far to join the struggle at the upcoming presidential election
The events of the last weeks do not make observers optimistic about the chances for a really interesting election campaign in Moldova with the principles of decent competition. It would seem that the specifics of the upcoming elections should encourage the opposition of all stripes to use the protest moods in their own political interests. There may be no more favorable opportunities for the rise of new and old alternative leaders. But for now, we can only watch with envy the diversity and scale of such events in countries with established democratic values and regret that the life cycle of party projects in our country is sometimes shorter than the mandate of individual officials. In any case, the autumn elections imply that the vote of confidence in the authorities will be put before the nation with all the prospects that follow, which for some reason our opposition is in no hurry to exploit. From the point of view of political technologists, the time to launch a political project competitive to PAS and personally performed has been sadly missed, and we still do not see anyone who would explicitly signal his presidential ambitions. All potential candidates continue either to institutionalize their personal political projects or to test the ground for possible external support, as if internal resources are a priori insufficient. Sometimes it seems that there is no presidential campaign in the country at all, as the actions of all opposition forces indicate that they are already preparing for parliamentary elections. Even such prominent figures in our politics as Renato Usatii show their interest in the parliamentary, not presidential mandate. This is evidenced by Our Party’s attempt to secure snap parliamentary elections through a consultative referendum. True, Usatii has created enough media buzz about energy market fraud, appealed to PAS leaders with demands to dissolve parliament, but so far he has not even confirmed his intention to enter the electoral race he voiced a year ago. It is even more boring to watch the actions of potential candidates who do not have a low political profile. In this case, we are talking about the capital’s primar Ion Ceban, who is certainly aware of a favorably low anti-rating compared to other political figures. However, he refuses to talk about his presidential ambitions. The previously declared war of the MAN leader against PAS, hinting at the possibility of his entering the election race, has been in recent weeks pointedly reduced to defending his positions exclusively within Chisinau. Wherever the mayor presents his claims to the central authorities, be it Strasbourg or the capital’s crossroads, they all turn into complaints about obstacles to his activity as mayor.  Moreover, after his visit to Bucharest and the dialogue with the Romanian Prime Minister, Marcel Ciolacu, Ceban declared that he had never intended to run for the post of the head of state and that his position hadn’t been changed even by the latest and very complimentary data of opinion polls. After such confessions, there is no doubt that the pressure on the mayor and his team from the ruling regime, including the resources of the controlled justice, will significantly weaken. If the desired message was sent by Ceban to PAS through unofficial channels, there were no such messages from his namesake, the leader of the Party of Development and Consolidation of Moldova (PDCM). However, Ion Chicu is not in a hurry to announce his decision to run for office, which in the current circumstances favors the incumbent president. Thus, the former prime minister predicted that PDCM members will decide on a party candidate only by June, which again suggests that he intends to use the presidential campaign only as a springboard for the next parliamentary campaign. It follows that all of Chicu’s current barbed but civilized remarks against the ruling party and its leader will not escalate into real blows involving street fighting. Another potential rival of Maia Sandu, who can gain the support of the significant electorate segment, which opposes geopolitical rhetoric and supports balanced relations with the West and the East, is not in a hurry to go beyond her broadcasts. The electorate still follows Irina Vlah only online, and that she will be supported on a national scale can hardly be expected. An exception may be Alexandru Stoianoglo, who was dismissed from the post of prosecutor general, but who does not appear even in the media field. And again, Irina Vlah does not go further than criticizing the country’s leadership, even given the fact that Maia Sandu raided the ex-bashkan’s homeland without any tangible image losses. The latest developments on the right flank of the opposition do not cause much interest either. On 14 April, the Party of Change, the Dignity and Truth Platform Party, the Coalition for Unity and Welfare and the League of Towns and Communes announced their political bloc Vmeste (eng. Together). However, apart from announcing the start of the Pact for Europe consultations, which mostly repeats the initiative of Ion Ceban and his “Snagov Pact for Moldova” of a year ago, the leaders of this bloc did not make a mark. Moreover, instead of nominating the most promising Igor Munteanu from their ranks as a candidate for the autumn elections, the right-wing only hinted that Alexandru Slusari, already rather worn out in political battles, would spoiler Maia Sandu. Another point is that Octavian Ticu was lured into the bloc of the “constructive right-wing opposition”, which fully fits into their stated goal of “guaranteeing Moldova’s European course and neutralizing political risks”. After such a comming-out of a prominent unionist on the right flank, Vasile Costiuc, leader of the Democracy at Home Party, remains the only troublemaker for PAS. It is noteworthy that the President’s Office does not even hide the fact that it keeps the formed bloc of right-wing forces on a tight leash and will try to involve the maximum number of pro-European politicians in it by signing the “Pact for Europe”. To sum it up, if we ignore possible surprises with the nomination of a single candidate from political projects close to Ilan Sor, among which Evghenia Gutul who shook hands with Putin looks the most promising, the predictions that the only competitor to the PAS leader in the elections will be her former rival Igor Dodon remain valid. For the presidential office, in fact, this would be an ideal option, and perhaps that is why they are so assiduously clearing the way to the second round for him. It seems that in the fall we will have to decide between the two politicians who have the highest anti-rating.