23 candidates are participating in the campaign for July 11th parliamentary elections, fighting for the 101 seats in the Chisinau Parliament. The problems facing the Republic of Moldova, such as poverty, corruption and the oscillation between East and West, are also reflected in the electoral messages used by the competing parties, and the central themes of the election campaign are the geopolitical vector of the Republic of Moldova and the fight against corruption.
Presidents’ parties, favorite in the election race
The Action and Solidarity Party, founded by President Maia Sandu, and the Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists, led by two of Maia Sandu's predecessors, Vladimir Voronin and Igor Dodon, took the lead in the polls. “Let's start the good times” is the campaign slogan of PAS, a pro-European party, which advocates the implementation of reforms in accordance with the commitments made by the Republic of Moldova under the Association Agreement with the EU, especially with regard to the justice system and the fight against corruption, as well as economic development. PAS relies on the electorate which, in the presidential elections, massively supported the party's founder, Maia Sandu. During the campaign, PAS candidates have talked about fraud and embezzlement schemes, have organized various actions with the slogan “Send thieves to prison”, presented their anti-corruption programs as well as economic development and welfare programs.
The Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists promises that “together we will bring Moldova back on the path of ensuring social equity and economic development. Together we will win!” . The Party of Socialists and the Party of Communists promote the rapprochement of the Republic of Moldova with the Russian Federation. Although the electoral program talks about the industrialization of the economy, the development of agriculture, the health-care system and education, the main message promoted by PSRM-PCRM representatives in this campaign has a strong geopolitical and apocalyptic flavor: Moldova risks disappearing as a state if pro-European parties come to power. The West wants to control the power in Chisinau and threatens the independence of the state, while Russia is the most reliable partner of the Republic of Moldova, etc. All these statements are related to the taking over of the mandate of head of state by Maia Sandu, who in the opinion of the Socialists is selling Stephen the Great’s Moldova to foreigners. She is also blamed for having caused the increase in the prices of goods, gasoline and oil, for destroying the health-care system, for wanting to close schools and town halls, and even for the famous one-billion-dollar theft. Also, the PSRM and its leader Igor Dodon have brought several accusations and threats against the European and American ambassadors to Chisinau.
On the edge of the electoral threshold: parties named after their engine-leaders
“We work for the people” is the slogan used in the election campaign by the “SHOR” Party, led by the fugitive Ilan Shor, sentenced by a court of first instance to 7 years and 6 months in prison in the case of the one-billion-dollar theft. He started doing politics in order to avoid justice in the criminal cases he is involved in and has enough support from part of the electorate to re-enter Parliament. The media channels that he owns promote messages similar to those of PSRM. In fact, the Shor Party and the PSRM used to be allies in Parliament, voting together, at the end of 2020, a series of controversial laws, denounced by the opposition and challenged at the Constitutional Court. Ilan Shor, who fled the Republic of Moldova in 2019, together with Vlad Plahotniuc, and is wanted internationally, organizes online electoral events where he usually appears on a screen while getting cheers and standing ovations. And he was even nominated by his party for prime minister.
The “Renato Usatii” electoral bloc participates in the campaign with the slogan “An iron fist in a velvet glove”. Renato Ustaîi, the mayor of Bălți, is a populist politician who has also distinguished himself through his alleged connections and contacts with the secret services. Usatii is trying to present himself as a vigilante, and his electoral program proposes the liquidation and reformation of anti-corruption and security institutions and the formation of a “Moldovan Mossad”, but also the constitutional ban on dual citizenship for high state dignitaries and leaders of the national security and intelligence bodies” (in particular the Romanian citizenship, regained by most Moldovans). Usatii, who made his fortune in Russia, insists that Moldova must remain neutral.
Looking for voters: Pro-European and unionists
The DA platform, led by the former Interior Minister and Chisinau mayoral candidate Andrei Nastase, has evolved in parallel with PAS and has a similar, pro-European and anti-corruption discourse. The two parties also went to the polls together and were governing partners. The deputies of the DA Platform have been the most active in the current Parliament in denouncing and exposing the state’s most serious embezzlement schemes, being part of the parliamentary committees that investigated the theft of the billion, the leasing of the Chisinau International Airport, the laundering of Russian money through the Laundromat scheme, irregularities at the State Railway of Moldova, etc. The campaign slogan of the DA Platform is “Good deeds bring us together”. Opinion polls place this party on the edge of the electoral threshold, just below it.
Two parties promoting the union with Romania are also running in these parliamentary elections - PUN and AUR. “Help achieve the union!” is the slogan of the National Unity Party, a unionist, pro-European and pro-NATO party. PUN’s electoral program is built around the goal of uniting the Republic of Moldova with Romania. PUN is led by the historian Octavian Ţîcu and claims that the union is a historical and ethnic right.
“Vote for AUR, choose Romania” – The Alliance for the Union of Romanians is a Romanian party that has emerged in Chisinau on the occasion of the July 11 parliamentary elections. AUR took on its lists the representatives of the Save Bessarabia Union and of the Liberal Party, a party that a few years ago was the main exponent of the unionist trend, but which was eroded by governing together with the Democrats headed by the oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc. AUR stood out immediately through various actions with media impact such as the protest in Varnita, near the Transnistrian separatist region. In addition to the party's declared unionist message, AUR and some publications that support it, carry out an active campaign against Maia Sandu. Attacks on the president are widely taken over by the PSRM affiliated press. In one of the recent events carried out in front of the headquarters of the Intelligence and Security Service, AUR has accused Maia Sandu of wanting to eliminate this party from the election race.
Pocket parties that rely on a public figure
As with every parliamentary election in the Republic of Moldova, the list of candidates includes those of the Green Ecologist Party, with the slogan “Green for health, for the future”, which advocates a healthy environment. This time, the party has been joined by the civic activist Oleg Brega, who makes the party more visible than it used to be in the previous campaigns.
Another party present in all electoral races - the Law and Justice Party (PLD)– also boasts a fresh asset. The “General Alexei” party usually reactivates itself on the eve of the election and promises a fierce fight against corruption – “The law is for everyone”, warns the PLD's electoral slogan. This time, top of the list is Mariana Durleşteanu, former Minister of Finance during the communist government, who was recently nominated, just before the call for early elections, for the position of prime minister, by the PSRM-Shor coalition.
The former prime minister Ion Chicu, another close ally of Igor Dodon’s, who resigned the day before Maia Sandu took office, triggering early elections, set up a political party and registered for the electoral race. “Together for the country”, is the electoral call of the Party of Development and Consolidation. “The decision to create the PDCM is grounded in our firm belief that in a relatively short time, the state of affairs in the Republic of Moldova can be changed for the better, and people's lives can be significantly improved”, the electoral program of the former prime-minister reads.
Clone-parties and campaign trolls
Parties about which experts say aim to confuse the election campaign and distort the messages of the parties more likely to enter Parliament, harass some candidates, or test certain messages have also registered for the current race. Their favorite target is President Maia Sandu.Topping the ballot list for parliamentary election is PACE, the We Build Europe at Home Party, with the slogan “We bring order to Moldova. For the people”. The party, led by the former deputy chief of the General Police Inspectorate, Gheorghe Cavcaliuc, claims to be a party with pro-European, center-right and social-liberal doctrines. PACE launched itself in the election campaign in a very eccentric way, with a funeral mise-en-scene in the yard of an abandoned house, where a young woman came out of a coffin, a scene meant to illustrate Moldova’s situation. Earlier, PACE representatives had laid a coffin in front of Parliament in protest of the state of emergency. Gheorghe Cavcaliuc was the chief of police during the PDM government, led by Vlad Plahotniuc.
“We have a choice” is the slogan of the Party of Joint Action - the Civic Congress, the new project of the former Communist ideologue Mark Tkaciuk. He tried to get the elimination of AUR from the election campaign, claiming the party is calling for “the liquidation of Moldova’s independence”. However, the courts have rejected the request filed by the Civic Congress to annul CEC’s decision regarding the registration of AUR.
The Patriots of Moldova Party started the campaign with the proposal to organize a referendum for the accession of the Republic of Moldova to the Russian Federation. The leader of the party Mihail Garbuz sees the Republic of Moldova as a separate federal subject, which would maintain its status as a republic, its Government and Parliament. He believes that this will resolve the Transnistrian conflict, as well as other economic and energy issues.
The businessman Veaceslav Platon, recently released from prison and acquitted in the bank fraud case, has also stood out in this campaign. He takes part in electoral debates on behalf of the independent candidate Veaceslav Valico. Asked recently about the allegations regarding his involvement in the “Russian Laundromat”, he refused to answer, and instead attacked President Maia Sandu, whom he accused of interfering in the justice system, saying she was no different than Plahotniuc.
One of the campaign trolls is the leader of the Party of Regions of Moldova, Alexandr Kalinin, who said, during a TV electoral debate, that if he reached Parliament, he would give the Russian language the status of state language, and those stating that the Moldovan language is called Romanian, would be criminally liable. He refused to answer the questions as they were not addressed to him in Russian and threw a bottle of water at the ProTV panel.
The New Historical Option Party changed its name to the Alternative and Chances Party shortly before the election campaign. The party requested its registration as an electoral symbol of the abbreviation PAŞ, which makes a direct reference to PAS, the logo of the Action and Solidarity Party. However, the Central Electoral Commission denied the request.