By Keith Harrington

The upcoming Moldovan elections, scheduled for February 24, will be contested between the three largest parties of the country.1 The incumbent Democrats, the Socialists and the electoral bloc consisting of Action and Solidarity Party and the Dignity and Truth Party (known as ACUM- DA PAS).

The Democrats, led by oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, and the Socialists, led by current President Igor Dodon, are two largest and most well-funded parties in the country. Despite representing supposedly differing geopolitical positions, with the Socialists advocating closer integration with Russia and the Democrats paying lip service to the idea of European integration, the two are thought to cooperate closely on a number of issues.

The pair worked together to pass Moldova’s controversial electoral reform. These reforms transformed the country from a totally proportional system, to a combination of proportional and uninominal system.

Considering the supposed close level of cooperation between the Democrat’s and the Socialists, the electoral bloc of ACUM- DA PAS appears to be the only real opposition in the country.

The government’s recent hostile actions toward the bloc, led by Maia Sandu and Andrei Năstase, appears to concur with this assumption.

On November 16, 2018, the government of Moldova issued a Soviet era report concerning the involvement of NGO Open Dialogue in the country. The report claimed that Open Dialogue, led by Lyudmyla Kozlovska, had affiliations with the Russian security services. Furthermore, it argued that the purpose of the organisation was to lobby against Moldova in European capitals, inferring that it was due to external meddling rather than internal issues that Moldova’s funding from the EU was recently suspended.

In addition to making these wide-reaching accusations, the report also linked both Sandu and Năstase with the apparent shady dealings of Open Dialogue. Despite claiming that the pair were affiliated with Open Dialogue, the only proof provided was the fact that the NGO had purchased plane tickets for the pair to attend a conference.

It is also thought that the recent electoral reforms were directed at the ACUM- DA PAS Bloc. The electoral reform leaves less space for those not affiliated with the Socialists or the Democrats to get elected, severely hindering the election prospects of those representing ACUM- DA PAS or other smaller parties.

It is unsurprising that the Democrats have grown fearful of Sandu, Năstase and their colleagues. Considering that EU-Moldovan relations are at an all time low, due to endemic corruption and an apparent disregard for democratic norms, the Democrats will be hard pressed to present themselves as a pro-EU party.

ACUM-DA PAS is seeking to capitalise upon these short comings, by not only promising to tackle the endemic corruption, but also to accelerate Moldova’s European integration process.

It is also not surprising that the government would view the ACUM-DA PAS bloc as a potential threat, given the popularity of both Sandu and Năstase within Moldova. Sandu’s popularity is clear, given that she was runner up in the 2016 presidential elections, and secured 38% of the votes in the first round.

Năstase is also considerably popular within Moldova, having received the largest amounts of votes in Chisinau mayoral election last year. Năstase is clearly viewed as a threat by the government authorities, as evidenced by the controversial decision to annul the results of the elections.

Great obstacles have been placed before Sandu, Năstase and other members of the ACUM-DA PAS election bloc in the lead up to the elections. Given the vast amounts of money held by both the Socialists and the Democrats, and the latter’s monopoly over the media, the odds are certainly stacked against Sandu and many others. Despite their small size however, it is clear that both the Socialists and the Democrats are wary of the threat from the ACUM-DA PAS election bloc.

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