19:34 Oct. 28, 2016
Ukrainian journalist and political expert Vitaly Portnikov on what Presidential elections mean for Moldova
Last summer a lot of people were positive that the political crisis within the ranks of European choice supporters in Moldova was over. The coalition nominated Maia Sandu as Prime Minister, - at the time she was the Minister of Education, capable expert and popular politician who had great experience of working within international organizations. However, Mrs. Sandu couldn't even start forming a government.
The leaders of parties within the coalition blamed her for excessive independence and by de-facto blocked her ability to function as a Prime Minister. Thus, governance which had already greatly disappointed the citizens of Moldova, lost its authority completely. A Parliamentary majority was formed by demolition of existing political fractions.
15 months after, Vlad Plakhotnyuk, the crucial figure in the formation of new Moldovan government, announced that the Democratic Party led by him would withdraw their candidate for the Presidential chair, experienced politician Marian Lupu, and is now set to support Maia Sandu at the presidential elections.
Sandu is the last hope for democratic Moldova. She has the highest rating of all the pro-European candidates, but she is not the leader of the campaign, Igor Dodon is, the experienced populist and tricky demagogue (who already recognised Russian anexation of Crimea - UT). He promises to hold a referendum on denunciation of Moldova-European Union Association Agreement; right after his election he plans to visit Moscow - the capital of the state occupying part of Moldova and de-facto paying for existence of aggressive anti-Moldovan corrupted regime of Transnistria.
Dodon supports federalization of Moldova, the plan cooked up in the Kremlin. It was the rejection of this plan that made Dodon's political mentor, former President of Moldova Vladimir Voronin that caused the conflict with Vladimir Putin. When it became clear that Voronin won't betray his motherland's interests, Kremlin made a bet on Dodon.
This doesn't mean, however, that Moldovan ruling circles oppose pro-Russian candidate's winning. Maia Sandu has a reason, stating that, by leaving the electoral campaign Lupu and Plakhotnyuk do what's best for Dodon, whose tight connections with both Kremlin and local oligarchs are undoubtable. But why would Plakhotnyuk need Dodon?
Maia Sandu seems to be a politician respected by pro-European forces and supported by the West. She meets with the leading western politicians, so if she became President, she'll get some help. The support which government can get will depend on parliaments, governments and President's ability to cooperate.
Dodon's support is Putin. But the Russian ruler doesn't have enough funds to demonstrate this support. And he won't give Transnistria back to his protégé, at least not right away. He would wait till Parliamentary elections – and these are going to happen in Moldova as soon as in 2018. Actually, the Moldovan governance decided to hold presidential elections in order to avoid parliamentary ones.
Dodon can get just one more year to demonstrate to his supporters some results in improving Moldova. But even if he wanted to, he couldn't do anything without cooperation with the government and parliament. Presidential capabilities are limited within the parliamentary republic. Dodon will have to choose between opposing and joining Plakhotnyuk. Both choices are disastrous for his ratings. One can assume, that even if he wins presidential elections, socialists and communists will lose parliamentary balloting in 2018. That's exactly what Plakhotnyuk needs.
On the other hand, the victory of Maia Sandu can lead to the common success of pro-European forces and to reformation of Moldovan political landscape. That's not what anyone interested in conservation of local political life would want. That would harm those who have been parasitizing over the idea of European integration for years and in the end had just compromised, in the citizen's eyes.
All these people desperately need Dodon. If Sandu is the last hope for the modern Moldovans, Dodon remains the main resort for oligarchic Moldova.