CHISINAU, November 15. / Corr. TASS Valery Demidetsky /. The second round of presidential elections will take place on Sunday in Moldova. The first, despite threats of protests from the opposition, was relatively peaceful and did not allow a winner to be identified: the leader of the pro-European opposition Party of Action and Solidarity, Maia Sandu, won 36.1% of the vote, beating the incumbent head of state Igor Dodon, who had 32.6%. The advantage of 3.5 percentage points was provided by Moldovan migrants in Western countries, which showed an unexpectedly high turnout.
The ended election campaign took place under the sign of the geopolitical confrontation already familiar to Moldova. It could not be avoided, despite the fact that Dodon promised to continue pursuing a balanced foreign policy, which implies both cooperation with the EU, with which Moldova has an association agreement, and the development of relations with Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union, in which, on the initiative of the current the republic received observer status.
In an interview with a TASS correspondent, Dodon said that during the second term he intends to achieve improvements in the economic and social spheres, to prevent the restoration of the oligarchic regime of Vladimir Plahotniuc, which was overthrown last year, to strengthen the neutrality prescribed in the constitution, as well as international peace in order to solve the Transnistrian problem and unite the country.
Harvard graduate Sandu, who enjoys a reputation as a pro-Western politician in Moldova, is convinced that the republic should move closer to the EU and NATO. She promises to expand cooperation with neighboring Romania and Ukraine, while not abandoning dialogue with Russia. At negotiations with Moscow, Sandu plans to seek expansion of Moldovan exports, the withdrawal of Russian military personnel and the removal of ammunition from Transnistria, and to resolve the issues of pension and social security for Moldovan labor migrants working in Russia. She also told a TASS correspondent that she is not going to cancel the Victory Day celebrations, as pro-European politicians demand, so as not to split the Moldovan society, and intends to defend the rights of the Russian-speaking population.
Finish line layouts
The elections divided the Moldovan society into two camps. The headquarters of the candidates also added fuel to the fire, which brought down a lot of harsh criticism before the second round. For this reason, most experts are in no hurry to draw unambiguous conclusions about who will win. But they agree that only a few percent can determine the result of the race, and a lot now depends on which of the two competitors mobilizes their electorate, despite the difficult conditions of the pandemic. Turnout in the first round was lower, according to the CEC, as many voters, especially the elderly, chose to skip out for fear of contracting the coronavirus.
The November 1 vote brought a lot of surprises: the third place with 16.9% of the votes was taken by the candidate from Our Party, the mayor of the second largest city in Balti, Renato Usatii, who is wanted in Russia on charges of illegal withdrawal of funds abroad. During the election campaign in Moldova, he promised to defeat corruption and harshly criticized the authorities. The indicator was also unexpected for Violetta Ivanov (6.4% of the votes), who represents the Shor party, headed by the banker Ilan Shor, who fled the country after being accused of embezzlement. The other four candidates, representing the once influential parliamentary parties, as well as those in favor of unification with Romania, failed in the elections, gaining together about 7%. Before the second round, all four announced their support for Sandu. And now the fate of the second round, according to political analysts, largely depends on where the left and center-left electorate of Usatii and Ivanova, who received a total of 23%, will swing.
In order to secure these votes, Sandu, despite the fact that she had previously called the Mustache a "bandit" and "accomplice" of Plahotniuc and promised not to have common affairs, sat down with him at the negotiating table. However, their cooperation, from the point of view of experts, can bring disadvantages to both. The bulk of Our Party's electorate usually supports politicians who advocate Orthodoxy, the institution of the family, and friendly relations with Russia. And they may not understand their leader's alliance with those who advocate rapprochement with Romania, the EU and NATO. For years, Usatii publicly criticized both Westerners and nationalists, calling for the celebration of Victory Day, and Sandu, being prime minister, declared a day of mourning for the victims of totalitarian regimes on the eve of the holiday of liberation from fascism, celebrated in Moldova on August 24.
Negotiations between them, as expected, did not bring any clear result. Usatii put Sandu on them a tough condition – to present in exchange for support a plan for the immediate dissolution of parliament. Having not received an answer to his question, he first promised to support her, stating that "he is not a fan of her," and then advised his supporters, who do not support either Dodon or Sandu, to boycott the second round altogether.
Usatii's actions are clear: "Our Party" is not represented in parliament and government, and he is preparing for the main battle – early parliamentary elections in order to get his share in the formation of power.
Presidential elections as a rehearsal of parliamentary
The protracted political crisis in which the country finds itself is unlikely to be resolved after the election of the president. Moldova is a parliamentary republic, and the possibilities of the head of state are limited, since he exercises most of his powers by coordinating his activities with the deputies. For the outgoing candidates, the presidential race became a kind of primaries before the very likely early parliamentary elections next year. All presidential candidates promised to dissolve the supreme legislative body elected under Plahotniuc and compromised by mass desertion of deputies.
At the same time, Dodon believes that giving the head of state a number of additional powers will improve governance and lead the country out of a protracted crisis. According to him, this requires a carefully thought out constitutional reform, which is already being dealt with by a specially created commission.
In case of victory, it will not be easy either for Sandu, whose party controls only 15 parliamentary seats. It will be much more difficult for her to form a new ruling majority and government – it is far from a fact that the leaders of other pro-European parties, who harbor resentment for the fact that she ousted them from the right electoral field, will become her allies. The pandemic and the crisis in the economy will probably be supplemented by political instability: making the most important decisions will be blocked, external partners will not provide loans to the government torn by contradictions, infrastructure projects will be frozen, and salaries and pensions will be threatened.
Voting in a pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic also left its mark on the elections. At the polling stations, voters will be given protective masks, disinfectants and gloves, and special markings will be applied to the floors to maintain a safe distance. Voters with respiratory symptoms will be brought home a mobile ballot box upon request.
The sites will open at 07:00 and will work until 21:00 local time (08: 00-22: 00 Moscow time). Over 2 thousand national and international observers, including representatives of the OSCE, EU, CIS and other structures, are planning to follow the process of expression of will. To maintain public order on election day, 6 thousand police officers will be on duty. They will provide security for 2,000 sites, as well as the transportation of documentation.
Voters will be handed ballots with the names of two candidates. In the second round, there is no mandatory turnout threshold, so the winner will be the one with the most votes. If both receive an equal number of votes, the winner of the best result in the first round will be considered elected.