In snap elections held in Moldova yesterday, the party of the pro-EU/NATO liberal President Maia Sandu, the center-right Action and Solidarity Party (PAS), had just under 53% of the vote, while its main rival, the Socialists and Communists (BECS) bloc of former President Igor Dodon, had a little more than 27%.
Sandu, a former World Bank economist, has become “a symbol of change” for many in the country, but she especially found support among the diaspora voters living in Western Europe. PAS won 52.80% of votes and 63 seats, obtaining a majority in the 101-seat parliament. BECS received 27.17% of votes and 32 seats. Voter turnout was a paltry 48.41% (consider Syria’s May Presidential Election had a voter turnout of 78.64%), suggesting that PAS and Sandu do not have widespread support among Moldovans and that there is much disillusionment with the country’s political system.
Despite the low voter turnout, and even though most of the polls showed a clear victory for PAS, none of them predicted such a categorical victory. An entire center-right electoral segment collapsed, especially when we consider that the Democratic Party (PDM) had 24% in 2019 but in 2021 the entire electoral segment went to PAS. It suggests that voting Moldovans see their future embedded with the liberal West believing it will reverse the cycle of poverty and improve the country, something it has not experienced in a serious way since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
In 2019, the Moldovan political elite, known locally as the oligarchic camp, had the support of about 30-35% of the electorate. They were essentially crushed and eliminated by liberal forces. This was an important part of the Moldovan electorate as it resisted the introduction of neoliberalism in the country, something that will surely be brought to Moldova now that a former World Bank economist has the majority of power in the country.
The Moldovan electorate has become accustomed to voting with local politicians, many of whom turned to the pro-European camp. Through the method of convincing local politicians to turn to the liberal camp, an illusion emerged that any opposition to them meant that they were part of the old "pro-Russia oligarchical camp." However, many of those against the Moldovan liberals were sovereigntists detached from the oligarchs and not agents supposedly receiving their orders from Moscow.
Moldova has serious issues with agriculture, reforming the justice system and economic development, among other problems. Voters are hoping that Sandu can resolve these longstanding issues, particularly in the justice system and the fight against corruption. However, the system will have to be rebuilt and this will be very difficult. With the likeliness of neoliberalism being imposed on the country, it can be expected that there will be a flurry of construction projects and economic reforms. As is usually the case, this will only benefit a very few and gives the illusion that it is for the well-being of the whole country.
PAS will also soon realize just how important Russia is for Moldova, especially in the economic sphere and finding a solution to the Transnistrian issue, a breakaway region on the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. It is recalled that Sandu’s first international visit since becoming president was to meet her Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev in January. This was the first interaction between the two neighboring countries at the highest level in recent years. The pair is radically opposed to Russia in the belief that it will help their countries prospects into becoming European Union and NATO members. They discussed "mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity" and their willingness to face "geopolitical challenges" supposedly emanating from a common "aggressor." They never directly named Russia, but given their known position against Moscow, it is obvious who their statement was directed towards.
Now that Sandu’s PAS dominates the parliament, it can be expected that Moldova will descend into extreme Russophobia in the same way that the Baltic States did to secure their memberships into the European Union and NATO. However, just like the Baltic States, Moldova will likely discover that neoliberalism will not be the catalyst to reverse mass emigration and reducing poverty – Moldova is the poorest country in Europe with a GDP per capita of $2,289.
Paul Antonopoulos is a research fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.