Opinion: “Opposition Plays Along with Maia Sandu”

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Anton ŠVEC
The opposition forces have plenty of time to campaign for the presidential election. However, the inability to unite by proposing an adequate programme and a single candidate makes Maia Sandu, despite her team’s catastrophic blunders, an absolute favorite in the upcoming electoral race
According to the legislation, campaigning starts one month before election day, i.e. in mid-September, which, however, does not prevent PAS from campaigning intensively already now. The propaganda of the referendum on European integration and of Maia Sandu’s second term in public speeches and in the regions started long ago, with the direct involvement of the government members and MPs, as well as the assets of local parties. The CEC, usurped by the regime, has not reacted in any way to violations of the rules, and Western-funded non-governmental organizations have remained mostly silent. At the same time, the court media are persistently working on political instructions, glorifying the ruling regime and criticizing the opposition, which is automatically stigmatized as bandits and opponents of the country’s European choice. The European Union agencies are also closely following the electoral developments in Chisinau and are ready to support the incumbent authorities at any moment through a series of visits by high-ranking European officials, the announcement of new financial aid packages and the start of negotiations on Moldova’s EU membership. Despite the constant scandals, the critical state of the economy, corruption and internal intrigues in the ruling party, 2024 is marked by the most convenient and promising dynamics for Maia Sandu. Her political technologists follow a strategy of complete disregard of the domestic political agenda, focus on cheap PR campaigns and absolute consolidation of external support from the West. The patrons in the USA, Romania and the European Union fulfil their part of the bargain, generously financing Moldova (all these borrowed funds will have to be repaid after the end of Sandu’s second mandate) and making praise speeches from various tribunes. Our republic has never enjoyed such attention from the international community. This is largely due to its status as a transit territory to meet the needs of warring Ukraine, as well as to the interests of geopolitical containment of Russia and elimination of the Russian presence in Eastern Europe. At the same time, the West protects its own investments and is unlikely to allow internal political crises or external military-strategic events that would push Moldova out of the orbit of its influence. This state of affairs is noticeably slackening the PAS and the government appointed by it. They focus on communication with foreign partners and pursuit their own profit, completely forgetting about the interests of the population, development of the economy, normalization of the demographic situation and adequate political dialogue inside the country. Regular demonstration of loyalty to the West, first of all on the conflict in Ukraine, including in the form of growing anti-Russian hysteria, has become the only point of political activity of Maia Sandu and her team. Meanwhile, various scandals continue to shake the country: the dismissal of some opposition deputies from parliamentary sessions, arbitrary changes in criminal legislation in the interests of combating any opinions dissenting from the general line of the PAS, as well as economic regulations in order to monopolize markets and increase corruption rents. All this once again shows the impunity of the authorities, their complete inadequacy and their detachment from the people, who formally, according to the Constitution, are the source of their legitimacy. Under such conditions, the question of alternative political projects and the so-called democratic transit becomes pressing. For an outside observer, the opposition has every chance to successfully compete with a discredited regime that has usurped state institutions and systematically violates legislation and basic norms of decency. However, in fact, Maia Sandu’s opponents, real and fictitious, do not fulfil their function. Ilan Sor’s team, supported by Moscow, creates significant problems for the ruling elite, constantly dragging it into scandalous plots and provoking unpopular anti-democratic decisions. Meanwhile, the only real result of these efforts is the strengthening of authoritarian tendencies in the PAS board and the suspension of more and more party projects and media from the political process. The Victory bloc has no distinct candidate who could run and compete with the current president in the upcoming elections. Pro-Russian rhetoric, projects of financial support of the population and focus on specific examples of lawlessness of the authorities indifferent to the problems of the population generate certain support - rather weighty in some regions. But Ilan Sor’s team has no strategy for converting the sympathy of a part of the electorate into electoral success, especially given the obstacles implemented by the regime. The opposition meeting organized by journalist Natalia Morari has not yet developed, despite the rather promising composition of the participants. No common political platform has been formed, and there is no single candidate who would not be rejected by all or at least by the majority. The opposition parties seem to assume that their own political survival, with the aim of securing a minority package of representation in parliament at the end of the March 2025 elections, is a more urgent and achievable priority than overthrowing the anti-people gang. At least, this is how we should construe the refusal of the leader of the MAN party, the mayor of Chisinau, Ion Ceban, to participate in the presidential race. This Socialist Party ex-member, who swore an oath to European integration and the Romanian language, had real competitive advantages (e.g., a relatively low anti-rating) over Maia Sandu and could have caused her serious problems. But instead, he recused himself, guided by long-term goals and not wanting to confront his partners in the US and Romania. In turn, Igor Dodon, who is the most suitable sparring partner for the incumbent head of state, has actually announced his electoral campaign with a predictable result. His electoral failure will only strengthen the PSRM’s cooperation with PAS as a junior comrade, ensure its presence in the next parliamentary composition with subsequent coalition building and transformation of the Socialists’ programme to include a pro-European vector. Other possible candidates are not recognizable and their promotion would require the consolidated efforts of the opposition, acting as a united front and using all available resources. But nothing of the sort is happening. The opposition loses momentum and stagnates, wallowed in internal squabbles and pursuing corporate goals. Meanwhile, due to the involvement of Western curators, PAS has actually removed from its path the entire right-wing pro-European opposition (with the exception of Vlad Filat’s party, which continues to criticize the government) through the tool of signing a declaration in favor of European integration invented by political technologists. Now, for the right wing, the pro-European mainstream includes a commitment to support Sandu, as if she were the personification of Moldova’s pro-Western course. Thus, the West has minimized the risks of its protégé losing the presidential election through intervention technologies. With the current level of competition, there is not even a guarantee that the opposition will manage to drag her into the second round, although the midterm results of the PAS rule would make such a scenario inevitable under normal circumstances. The situation is such that the opposition itself will keep company and campaign with Maia Sandu, becoming just decor and accompaniment to her re-election. This means that the authoritarian incompetent rule of PAS and its only symbol, Maia Sandu, leading the country to the final loss of any prospects, will last as long as the West needs.