Will the Opposition Lay an Electoral Siege to Sandu?

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Although the electoral race is far from its apex, in recent weeks for the first time there has been a haunting feeling that Maia Sandu has a good chance of not being re-elected
Victor ENI, RTA: Yesterday, the resolutions on the republican constitutional referendum and the next presidential election were published in the Monitorul Oficial and accordingly came into force. Earlier, the Parliament approved two draft laws that set 20 October 2024 as the date of both events. Thus, the first stage of Maia Sandu’s electoral plan, which included the promotion of the referendum, meetings with initiative groups and occasional visits to the regions, was completed. The aim was to make European integration the main internal political issue for the country and to exploit it victoriously until the voting. The nuance is that if the official launch of negotiations does not take place in the coming months, there will be nothing to fuel the topic of EU accession, and it will start to smoothly lose ground under the pressure of a whole range of internal problems. Apparently, the next block of events according to the plan of Sandu’s electoral headquarters implied a series of media raids to maximize audience coverage. However, the first major “appearance” turned out to be so bad that the cycle of long interviews probably had to be cancelled. The thinking process and semantic constructions used by the acting president caused the audience to feel distressed and some even disgusted. The main complaint from voters is that Sandu is not ready to take at least some responsibility for what is happening in the country. Therefore, she increasingly resembles a decorative statuette in the presidential office, which is only partially immersed in domestic political twists and turns, and her reasoning is more like that of a political science student. With the weakening of administrative unity of command, the stability of the entire power structure and overall control is lost, leading to internal conflicts and aggravation of inter-clan struggles. It seems that sometimes the behind-the-scenes Moldovan politics has stopped paying attention to the fact that the open confrontation hits Maia Sandu personally. Of course, we cannot rule out that in this way they are trying to force her to make some decisions, including personnel ones. Be that as it may, these squabbles have repeatedly put the president in a no-win situation where action and inaction hurt her equally badly. A vivid example is the recent scandal in the justice system, which turned into an information bomb, the explosion effects of which the pro-government media managers cannot clean up for the second week in a row. The clumsy attempts to control the problem and the ongoing “shock wave” have once again exposed the increased vulnerability of the PAS regime led by Maia Sandu. She is not really capable of making quick decisions in a crisis situation, but is used to voicing something and acting in accordance with the recommendations of foreign advisers. In order to cool down the stirred electoral atmosphere, in May Sandu was actively visiting Europe: first Norway and then Germany, where she was cheered up with another award for “outstanding” performance in the field of democracy. Such forays abroad hardly arouse special interest of the Moldovan public. Unless only the most blindly devoted and convinced supporters of Sandu, for whom ritual welcomes in Western capitals are still important. The colorful pictures from the meetings and dull conversations with the diaspora only irritate the rest of us even more, given all the internal problems. Nevertheless, no matter how unconvincing and ludicrous the electoral strategy of Maia Sandu’s headquarters may be, all these visits to the EU, agreements on close security cooperation, and regular financial handouts at least resemble a consistent activity. Against this background, the shattered Moldovan opposition, busy doing nothing, looks much worse. It remains unorganized and scattered, unable to agree on a united line of opposition to the government and its alternative candidate. It is important to realize that, first of all, this relaxed situation in the opposition camp gives confidence and hope to Maia Sandu’s entourage. However, a short while ago, at the initiative of disgraced journalist Natalia Morari, leaders of parliamentary and non-parliamentary parties gathered to discuss joint opposition to the authorities. Among the participants were the leader of the Socialists Igor Dodon, two former prime ministers Ion Chicu and Vlad Filat, the former head of Gagauzia Irina Vlah, and several experts. It seems that not all opposition politicians dared to appear in the first round of consultations, waiting to see how the work of this contact group would turn out and whether there was any prospect of reaching a compromise. The intensity with which pro-government channels and talking heads began to media smash the opposition’s “Last Supper” only shows that even the mere fact of such a meeting has caused bodily fear and inadequate emotions within the ruling regime. That is, the President’s Office understands that a still harmless attempt to gather everyone around one table can eventually turn into something more complex and dangerous. And that is why the project must be nipped in the bud. However, in recent months, apart from this very meeting, no other fundamental movements in the opposition camp have appeared before the expert gaze. Igor Dodon is still verbally ready to support a common candidate, suggesting that before the summer season starts, either to decide on a candidate, or to participate all, but on condition not to criticize each other, and to unite against Maia Sandu in the second round. Well, the sky is the limit for the slyness of the ex-president. After all, it is obvious that no one will decide on a single candidate in the coming weeks, and with the broad participation of all opposition leaders, of course, only Dodon has the best chance of getting into the second round (and there - almost guaranteed to lose). Meanwhile, today the PSRM leader is in Moscow, where it will be decided whether he should enter the presidential race. Ilan Sor, who is also there, is waiting for the right moment to voice his proposals. There are various names and variants on the sidelines - even such unorthodox ones as Vladimir Voronin. However, according to people in the know, the last thing the Kremlin would like to do now is to experiment, as the only result needed is the defeat of Sandu, not a specific character in the office of the Moldovan president. Although the electoral race is far from its apex, in recent weeks for the first time there has been a haunting feeling among specialists and ordinary voters that Maia Sandu has a good chance of not being re-elected. The elections are still five months away, and the political system is already chilled and shaking. Whether the president will be able to keep a “genie in the bottle” is a big question. But under certain “snowballing” circumstances, we cannot rule out the possibility that Sandu, unable to withstand the overstress, will refuse to participate in the already lost elections. And this is despite the fact that the opposition has not yet managed to take the president in a real electoral siege - unless it has not planned all the events attacking the head of state for a later date, which is highly doubtful.