CRPE Policy Brief No. 43. Presidential elections 2016 – Maia Sandu or Igor Dodon: What does Bucharest have to do following the presidential elections in the Republic of Moldova, Authors: Bianca TOMA, Alexandru DAMIAN
The results of the presidential elections in the Republic of Moldova could generate two types of reactions. The first is the perception that the geopolitical option of choice is clearly the West – in case of a victory of the pro-European reformist – Maia Sandu. The second would be abandonment, with the victory of the pro-Russian leader of the socialists – Igor Dodon, in the second round of the presidential elections on Sunday.
None of the above mean that Moldova is saved forever or that Europe has lost Moldova forever. CRPE has identified eight responses to a series of undetermined issues and questions regarding the relationship between Romania and the Republic of Moldova, which could lead, after these elections, to a “Europeanisation”, to supporting reforms and to cutting off the corrupt system and the oligarchs from the state resources.
In reality, Maia Sandu’s victory would send out a signal that power is no longer concentrated in the hands of a single interest group, but her mandate would be limited by a Parliament controlled through obscure means by the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc. The power conferred by Constitution to the President of the Republic of Moldova, is, indeed, restricted. This should put expectations and Bucharest’s support into perspective. Dodon’s victory would generate disappointment, outrage and a temptation of abandonment from Bucharest. If Bucharest does react emotionally and gives in to the temptation to abandon Moldova, this decision could affect precisely those who support Romania and the EU. Moreover, the challenges of Russian propaganda targeted towards Bucharest through Igor Dodon should not be fuelled by Romanian officials.
The first round of the presidential in the Republic of Moldova was a test for a reformist civic movement, coagulated around Maia Sandu. With a campaign focused on deoligarchization and support for the fight against corruption, Maia Sandu’s results so far is encouraging, given the moral bankruptcy of the classic pro-European parties. These parties obtained extremely poor results, proving that the pro-Westernisation message lacks content if submitted through unreformed vehicles. In addition, the withdrawal of the PDM candidate represented a “poisoned apple” for the coalition around Maia Sandy and a win for the Socialist Party. The critical point in the first round was the withdrawal of Andrei Nastase, the leader of the Platform for Dignity and Truth, in favour of Maia Sandy. This move allowed the creation of a strong enough coalition around her. Without financial support and with the media in the hands of the oligarchs, Maia Sandu became the symbol of a reformist movement which is now facing a maturity test.