Moldova’s pro-western forces succeed in landslide in parliamentary elections
The early parliamentary elections in Moldova on July 11 produced a radical change even more radical than expected (see EDM, July 8, 9).
The Western-oriented opposition, concentrated in the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS), jumped to 53 percent of the votes cast. The PAS dethroned the Russian-oriented Communist and Socialist Electoral Bloc (BECS), which won 27%. BECS ‘Russophile left ally, the âShor Partyâ of fugitive tycoon Ilan Shor, won 5.7% of the vote, barely exceeding the 5% threshold.
On the basis of the proportional representation system, the PAS obtains an absolute majority of 63 seats out of the 101 seats in parliament (against 15 seats in the outgoing parliament). The BECS, led by former presidents Igor Dodon and Vladimir Voronin, won 32 seats (including 22 socialists and 10 communists); and Shor’s party won 6 seats, including one for the fugitive Shor (RFE / RL, July 12).
The combined electoral turnout (in the country and in the diaspora) was 48%, the lowest ever recorded in 30 years of Moldova’s independence. Although this downward trend has been constant, turnout this time was lower in âRussian-speakingâ constituencies compared to other constituencies. Dodon and BECS used inflammatory anti-Western rhetoric to mobilize their hearts of the Russophile electorate, but this strategy proved ineffective and may even have backfired.
Conversely, the Moldovan diaspora in Western countries, which represents about a quarter of the total votes cast, maximized the margin of victory of the PAS. The Western Diaspora voted 86 percent for the PAS and only 2.5 for the BECS.
Only 6,000 Moldovan citizens voted in Russia, although several hundred thousand work there (the actual number is unclear); and 17 polling stations were made available to them in Russia by the Moldovan authorities (Alegeri.md, consulted on July 13).
The Moldovan authorities opened 41 polling stations in government-controlled territory for residents of Transnistria to vote. Out of 256,000 Moldovan passport holders in Transnistria, however, only 30,000 crossed and voted. Of these, 62 percent voted for the BECS, 14 percent for the PAS and 6 percent for the Shor party. Russian election observers, present in large numbers, were at least satisfied that the Moldovan authorities in no way hamper Transdniestrian voters (Sputnik.md, July 12).
The Russian authorities and those of Transnistria made no effort to mobilize voters in favor of the BECS during these elections. Nor had they attempted to do so for Dodon in the November 2020 presidential election in Moldova, when Maia Sandu defeated Dodon by 58% to 42%, largely thanks to the strong mobilization of voters in the Western diaspora, contrasting with voter absenteeism in Russia and Transnistria (see EDM, November 17, 18, 2020). These are undeniable signs that the Kremlin has moved away from Dodon and his Socialist Party, or at least left them to their own devices.
President Sandu, barely seven months in this function, was the electoral locomotive of the PAS during these legislative elections. The party is mainly her creation and it works largely by transferring images from her to PAS.
The landslide colored the electoral map of Moldova mainly in yellow (color of the PAS). This party won majority or plurality in 25 constituencies out of 32 constituencies in Moldova. PAS also won (albeit with the help of gerrymandering) in the socialist-administered city of Chisinau. The PAS defeated the Socialist Party of Dodon in the home district of the former president and even in his home village. PAS also won in Orhei District, administered by Shor’s organization.
The BECS was reduced to two enclaves to the north and south, respectively. He won in six districts in the north, all predominantly Moldovan ethnic, three of which are home to numerically significant left-wing Ukrainian minorities. BECS also won in the Russified city of Balti, dubbed the “capital of northern Moldova”, the second largest city in the government-controlled territory. The southern enclave of BECS traditionally includes the Gagauz Autonomous Territory and the Bulgarian-inhabited district of Taraclia (although voter turnout has also declined in these units).
Shor, an ally of the old de facto Moldovan leader Vladimir Plahotniuc until both fled the country (for separate destinations), allied with Dodon in the outgoing parliament. Moldovan prosecutors have issued an international arrest warrant for Shor. But he will apparently be able to return safely after having regained his parliamentary seat and, with it, immunity from prosecution. Shor recently wrote on his Facebook page that he has some sort of relationship with Plahotniuc: âYes, I have said more than once that we communicate, and of course we are talking about politicsâ (Noi.md, May 20 ).
Three important political forces were wiped out in these elections:
First, the Western Platform for Dignity and Truth, allied with the PAS in the long struggle to overthrow former leader Vladimir Plahotniuc, this time only won 2% of the votes cast and left parliament. Party leader Andrei NÄstase is a revolutionary figure who has fallen short of expectations as a politician. The PAS has now naturally absorbed the Platform’s electorate.
Second, Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party, currently led by former Prime Minister (2016-2019) Pavel Filip, ended up with less than 2% of the votes cast and abandoned the national legislature. Filip had served Plahotniuc loyally (or at least unconditionally) and took some time to start distancing himself from that legacy following the theft of Plahotniuc in 2019.
Third, the leftist and Russophile âRenato Usatii Blocâ, with 4% of the votes cast, did not reach the 7% threshold for the blocs. Usatii had hoped to participate in a post-election coalition government. He posed risks for the security of Moldova since he was parachuted into the country’s politics from Russia in 2014. Political project of some Russian circles initially, Usatii was co-opted by Plahotniuc, had access to inside information law enforcement, usually disclosed for political purposes, and spent part of his time in Russia. At present, however, he is wanted by Russian authorities on unproven charges of financial embezzlement. Following these legislative elections, Usatii resigned from his post as mayor of Balti and leader of his eponymous political bloc.
Two Romanian-Unionist parties stood for these elections. They obtained respectively only 0.49% and 0.45% of the votes. Each of these parties is a Moldovan branch of a Bucharest-based party. Unprecedented for Moldova, the Romanian-Unionist movement is split between a liberal pro-European Union party and a traditionalist-conservative party skeptical of the EU. This division is one of the factors responsible for their combined score of 1%. The real Romanian-Unionist sentiment, however, is much higher than this meager score suggests. Most of the voters who share this sentiment rallied to PAS in these elections.