Moldova is set to witness a runoff election on November 15 after the first round on Sunday, November 1, failed to produce a conclusive result. In Sunday’s election, pro-EU candidate Maia Sandu from the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) secured 36.1% of the votes and a marginal lead over the incumbent, pro-Russia president Igor Dodon. Dodon is backed by the Party of Socialists Of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) and won 32.66% votes. Only 42% of the 3.2 million voters in the country cast their votes in the first round of polls held amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, eight candidates contested the polls in the first round.
The evenly poised result and upcoming second round of polling has opened another arena for a standoff between pro-EU and pro-Russia politicians, similar to what is being witnessed in some other post-Soviet Eastern European countries, including Belarus and Ukraine.
From 1998 to 2008, Moldovan polity was dominated by the pro-Russia Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM). Since 2009, pro-EU coalitions and parties have gained prominence. Under a pro-European coalition government in 2014, Moldova signed an agreement for greater cooperation with the EU.
In 2016, the presidential election was won by Dodon from the PSRM who defeated Sandu from the pro-EU PAS.
The 2019 parliamentary elections and the constitutional crisis
In the parliamentary elections held in Moldova in February 2019, no party won a simple majority in the parliament, leading to political instability in the country. In order to meet the three-month deadline stipulated by the Moldovan constitutional court to form a new government, PSRM joined hands with the ACUM bloc, led by PAS and the Dignity and Truth Platform Party (DA). A cabinet was formed with Sandu as the prime minister on June 8. The following day, the constitutional court, under the influence of the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) led by oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc and ex-prime minister Pavel Filip, suspended Dodon on the grounds that he had failed to dissolve the parliament to make way for new elections, and replaced him with Filip.
The move to dissolve the parliament and de-legitimize Sandu’s government triggered a constitutional crisis and led to widespread protests. Following the uproar and an international outcry, the constitutional court revoked its controversial ruling within a week and forced Filip to resign, thereby reinstating the Sandu cabinet and Dodon as president.
However, the PSRM-ACUM coalition broke down in November 2019 and Sandu’s government was ousted in a vote of no-confidence. Following this, the PSRM, with the support of a section of the PDM, formed a minority coalition government with Ion Chicu as prime minister, once again pitting the pro-Russia and pro-EU blocs against each other.
The response from the Left
The PCRM had called for a boycott of the polls and organized a protest demonstration in front of the constitutional court and the central election commission in Chisinau on October 29, demanding the cancellation of the elections due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The European Left (Stînga Europeană) party in Moldova had also raised concerns about conducting the elections amid the pandemic.
According to the PCRM, ”in general, we can say that the farce called ‘presidential elections’ has failed as only 1, 214, 757 people came to vote, i.e. only 42.76 % of voters in Moldova.”