Making predictions before elections in the Republic of Moldova means hazarding a guess. Such an action requires not only knowledge and intuition, but also a lot of luck and a special flair for anticipating last-minute backstage arrangements. However, the campaign for the snap parliamentary elections due on July 11 has kicked off, and based on current data and trends, we will analyze who the actors are and what chances they stand at the moment. A dirty election campaign is announced from the left wing, which seems ready to bring into play resources that are incomparable to those available to the right.
Dodon and Voronin, arm in arm again
As tradition’s had it before, in the left and center-left area we find again the pro-Russian and anti-European parties. As a first, the left is represented by five parties, four of which are likely to cross the 6% threshold. While during the time of the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, Dodon had for years a light corridor on the left, this time the strong Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) will have to face a slightly more significant competition.
However, credited with the best chances in this segment, Igor Dodon is willing, from the very start of the campaign, to get involved in the coagulation of the left. Resorting to the "besieged city" strategy, used during the Soviet Union, Dodon and PSRM have dusted off the rhetoric directed at the imaginary enemy in the West and also at the unionist foe, which seriously threatens the very existence of the Republic of Moldova as a state.
The geopolitical discourse has returned in force against the background of two and a half years of poor governance, without any results from the PSRM, during which the Republic of Moldova grew poorer and more isolated.
The desire to gather as many mandates as possible had Dodon ally with Voronin's communists, whom he abandoned 10 years ago, in November 2011, when he joined the PSRM. A decade of insults followed, during which time Dodon wore the "scarlet letter" of betrayal and took over the left-wing electorate that had voted for the PCRM in the previous decade.
Voronin never forgave him, but probably the last chance to return to Parliament made the former militia general sit down at the negotiating table and accept an alliance with his former political disciple. Thus, Dodon's PSRM will most likely form an electoral bloc with Voronin's PCRM, building a hard core or anti-Western engine on the left.
Usatii, the “Wild East” justice
Renato Usatii's party has built its rhetoric on the same type of anti-Western, though somewhat more populist message. Charismatic, but exceedingly populist, Usatii has promised to set up a "Mossad" to solve the country's issues, no matter their nature. In fact, he promises a kind of posse to fight his political opponents and to put things in order following the “Vlad the Impaler” model.
On the other hand, when reporters opened Pandora's box and asked him about his connections to the Russian underworld, Usatii went completely rogue and showed that he was not far from the previous left-wing leaders, ready to walk over dead bodies just to get a grip on power and then use it in a discretionary manner against all who disagree with him.
Intoxicated by the score of about 16% and the title of "kingmaker" received after ranking third in the first round of last fall’s presidential election, Usatii hopes to do it again at the upcoming parliamentary elections. His message is harsh, against Maia Sandu and the PAS, but also against the small unionist parties that he has included in the sphere of the "supreme evil".
Like PSRM, Our Party created an electoral bloc by joining a small satellite - Patria-Rodina Party – to which Usatii has an older debt, as he wanted to run on the lists of this party in the 2014 parliamentary elections.
Usatii’s bloc could also include the Civic Congress Party, led by Vladimir Voronin’s former “gray eminence”, Mark Tkaciuk. The party wants to be an elitist left party, with a Russian-speaking electorate, but lacks the necessary power to reach Parliament unless towed by a larger party. Associating with Usatii is the most likely option but participating in the elections as part of Dodon and Voronin's bloc cannot be ruled out either.
Fugitive oligarchs of means
Last but not least, Ilan Shor hopes to and stands chances of getting about 10 seats in the future Parliament. His fiefdom in Orhei will operate at full capacity, and electoral alms will be the number one weapon in the arsenal of the one who stole a billion dollars from Moldovan banks 7-9 years go.
The Shor party benefits from both good logistics and a capacity to bribe the electorate like no other. It is also possible that Vladimir Plahotniuc will play this match on Shor’s side and get financially involved in order to squeeze in some of his own people in Parliament. Both oligarchs are fugitive, but even from abroad they are still very much involved in the political games in Chisinau.
In fact, Ilan Shor has recently thrown the first bait, saying that he would like to return to the country and promising to bring with him the stolen billion dollars. Earlier, in the previous parliamentary elections, Shor had promised the people of Orhei to turn the city into another Monaco.
Maia Sandu, still the image of PAS
As regards the right wing, things are just as complicated. At first glance, the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), Maia Sandu's former party, is likely to win by a landslide on the right segment. Polls look promising, but the party is facing a number of problems of its own.
First of all, an image transfer from Maia Sandu to another leader of the party has not been achieved yet. The votes that PAS will receive will be, for the most part, new evidence of the trust people have in Maia Sandu. Even today, PAS has few visible charismatic leaders and is still associated with the image of Maia Sandu.
Most likely, the president will go very close to party policy interference, which she mustn’t do, though, as holding the presidential office doesn’t allow it. The signs have already shown. Maia Sandu will tour the Western diaspora for a transfer of “electoral dividends” to PAS.
In fact, PAS relies heavily on the votes of the diaspora, which made a big difference in the presidential elections held last autumn. Without a good mobilization of the diaspora, PAS will have big problems reaching its target of over 40 mandates in the future legislative configuration.
Even though it has improved its network in the country, PAS is still weak compared to other local parties. It is still a poor party, with not enough administrative and logistical resources. However, the party has shown ability to organize online campaigns, especially in the diaspora, and this would somehow make up for the internal shortcomings.
PAS can also benefit from a favorable ground in the coming months, now that the Republic of Moldova has enough doses to move on to the third phase of vaccination of the population. President Maia Sandu’s resolving the pandemic crisis will obviously fill the PAS’s electoral piggybank.
The options of the other right-wing parties
However, as always, the right remains divided in Chisinau. The second largest party, the Dignity and Truth Platform Party (PPDA), is not currently considered for the creation of an electoral bloc, following the model of the NOW Bloc in the February 2019 parliamentary elections.
Relations have become rather cold between the two parties after the landing of the Sandu government in November 2019 and the non-combat move of Andrei Nastase, the PPDA leader, in the Chisinau City Hall elections in the summer of 2019, when for the first time the capital, traditionally a stronghold of the pro-Europe and pro-Romania right, fell into the hands of pro-Russian forces.
Even if PPDA wanted an alliance with PAS, the Party of Action and Solidarity has already veiledly urged PPDA to go together with the small unionist parties with tiny percentages, and therefore with no chance of entering Parliament on their own. The suggested move would not be that bad, as recent polls have shown that PPDA would also score below the 6 percent threshold that would allow it to enter Parliament.
The degradation of the unionist parties, represented by corrupt leaders, willing to make any compromise in order to stay in power, has been a gradual but continuous process. From 10%, where they stood a decade ago, today some of the few unionist groups are barely reaching 1-2%. Their electorate has largely migrated to PAS and, to a lesser extent, to PPDA. Today, the National Unity Party (PUN) and the Unirea Political Movement are not able even together to cross the minimum threshold required to get represented in Parliament. Last but not least, the right will have a "spoiler party" set up by the former left-wing prime minister Ion Chicu - the Party for the Development and Consolidation of Moldova (PDCM) - which hopes to score at least a few percent, although its popularity is down to the minimum.
Moreover, in this niche, the Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR) from Romania has too announced its participation in the parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova. It has already taken over an existing Moldovan party and has officially registered, with proper documents and under this logo, for the parliamentary race. The participation of AUR will further divide the right-wing vote, despite the growing number of declared unionists in the Republic of Moldova.
AUR wants to electorally speculate and capitalize on this wave of enthusiasm created by the help that Romania has offered the Republic of Moldova in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. An interesting move, but not enough to cross the threshold, which will throw these votes in the general redistribution roulette and will not keep them in the right zone.
The result of the elections is very likely to be contested, given that both the left and the right are fragmented. What is certain is that the left is beginning to coagulate in blocks, while animosity and personal pride remain constant traits in the right-wing political game. Moreover, all parties in the left zone are pro-Russian, which will make it easier for Moscow to find a common denominator in order to create a legislative majority.
If PAS is the only one that enters Parliament from the pro-European right-wing, any combination with a left-wing party will be nothing short of a reissue of the "monstrous coalition" forged in the summer of 2019 between PAS and PSRM, which had the expected outcome. Maia Sandu’s victory in the presidential elections and the PAS's attempts to provide her with a parliamentary and governmental platform to implement the necessary reforms and thus modernize the country will have been in vain and everybody would once again get on the same carousel of the endless negative political story that has defined the Republic of Moldova in the past 30 years.