Post-election Moldova: Pro-EU absolute majority, pro-Russian opposition.
“It is true that the European agenda will be stronger than ever. The electoral success of the PAS will result in a pro-EU majority in parliament and a strong government anchored in the European vector …”
In full harmony with the most optimistic polls, the Action and Solidarity Party’s team (PAS) won the snap parliamentary elections. This success was largely based on the image of President Maia Sandu, who promoted participation in the vote, against political corruption, throughout the election campaign, including election day. The score accumulated by the PAS represents another electoral victory for Maia Sandu, who demonstrates maximum political efficiency in achieving political objectives, methodically, one by one.
The turnout was below 50%. About 1.4 million people went to the polls or nearly 100,000 fewer than in the 2020 presidential election. The diaspora’s vote was also about 40–50 thousand votes lower than the second-round record of last year’s presidential election when more than 260,000 Moldovans voted abroad. President Sandu tried very subtly to get votes in favor of her party. The individual political-electoral activity of PAS should not be ignored at all, because the party collected the most donations compared to other competitors and actively communicated with the population all over the country. The joint efforts of PAS and its spiritual leader Maia Sandu allowed them to get about 300,000 more votes in 2021 than in the first round of the 2020 presidential election when about 488,000 votes were cast for Sandu.
Lastly, the PAS massively outperformed all parties on the right and left of the political landscape by receiving almost 772,000 votes. This allows it obtaining an absolute majority of 63 seats in the new parliament (but below the constitutional majority: 67 seats). The main electoral rivals of the PAS, the Communists and Socialists Bloc, attracted almost 400,000 votes and obtained fewer than 35 seats, allowing them to become the main opposition force. Another party that also entered Parliament is Ilan Șhor’s Party, which despite the negative image of the fugitive oligarch, managed to gather more than 84,000 votes and remain in parliament with up to 6 seats.
From electoral victory to the monopolization of power
With over 60 seats in the new legislature, PAS has achieved remarkable successful in several important ways:
Primo, it is the first pro-EU party in the country’s electoral history to gain a majority in the legislature. This did not succeed even for the pseudo-pro-EU oligarchs in the period 2009–2019, who had at their disposal numerous media sources and impressive financial resources.
Segundo, the PAS is the second party after the PCRM to obtain a comfortable majority in parliament since 2001, with which it will dominate the legislative office and in all parliamentary committees.
Tertio, the last aspect consists in the political power conferred by the electorate to form the government in solitude. As in the case of the communist government in 2001–2009, the PAS can appoint any government it wishes without any political impediment from coalition members.
In the context of the astonishing victory, the PAS obtains all the levers of power in the state, from the presidency (Maia Sandu) to the parliament and the future executive. For this reason, the entire responsibility for the governing act in the next four years will lie with the PAS and its political exponents, who will gradually appear in all state structures — from ministries to state agencies and enterprises. With the total monopolization of power, the PAS will become the object of monitoring by civil society and the media, but also the political target of all political parties, both on the right and on the left.
The imminent geopolitical polarization of parliament
The PAS victory is a strong message from the pro-European electorate, which demonstrates that the European vector has an invigorated potential behind it. Expanding political control of pro-EU forces will generate a complex of “victim” among pro-Russian forces. Reduced to less than 35 seats in parliament, the Bloc of Communists and Socialists, along with the Shor Party, will create a common front and try to focus on geopolitical rhetoric to discredit the PAS and Sandu’s presidency.
The objective of PAS-led foreign policy will be European integration and the implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU. With an absolute majority in Parliament, Moldova will be able to easily attract the European assistance of around EUR 600 million already promised by the EU in June 2021. In this regard, the new Association Agenda will be adopted very soon, which will draw the direction of rapprochement with the EU for the next two years.
On the other hand, the uneasy of relations with Russia is not excluded, partly because the latter will support the pro-Russian opposition in the new parliament in Chisinau. Furthermore, the relations with the Russian side can be complicated by the deepening of the dialogue between Chisinau and Brussels, including on the line of foreign policy coordination. President Sandu did not rule out that the future government if it is pro-EU could even join the policy of sanctions against Belarus, which is under the tutelage of Russia. The avalanche of European integration at all levels might push the Russian dossier backstage. In any case, the relationship with Russia will require attention due to the Transnistrian conflict settlement and the need to maintain contracts for the supply of Russian gas, until it is possible to easily purchase gas from Romania.
With the activation of contacts with the EU, which will coincide with the Eastern Partnership summit in December 2021 and the takeover of the rotating presidency of the EU Council by France in January 2022, the new pro-Western government will focus on a strategic relationship with the US. From this point of view, Moldova finds itself in an extremely positive circuit at the international level and can align itself with the reform processes in the region, which are gaining intensity in Ukraine (less so in Georgia). Thus, Moldova can become an important player for the “Associated Trio” (IPN, June 2021), which allows the promotion of the European cause in the eyes of Europeans.
In lieu of conclusions…
Moldova is entering a new political cycle, with an emphasis on structural reforms and the fight against large-scale corruption, which will attract assistance and investment from the West. It is certain that the European agenda will become stronger than ever in the past. The electoral success of the PAS will result in a pro-EU majority in parliament and a strong government anchored in the European vector.
Once the pro-Western character of Moldova under the “yellow” government gets pronounced, a cooling of relations with Russia seems inevitable, largely due to the decisions taken by the latter. The geopolitical rhetoric in Parliament developed by the pro-Russian opposition will try to capitalize on the existing geopolitical polarization of the society. For this reason, the relationship with Russia must not be abandoned in any case, but on the contrary, repaired. Given the strong electoral legitimacy gained by the PAS, President Sandu can start a firmer diplomacy in the direction of Moscow, based on the argument that Moldova wants constructive relations with the East, but the course of European integration is irreversible and unconditional.
Dionis Cenușa is a political scientist, researcher at the Institute of Political Sciences at Liebig-Justus University in Giessen, Germany, MA degree in Interdisciplinary European Studies from the College of Europe in Warsaw. Areas of research: European Neighborhood Policy, EU-Moldova relationship, EU’s foreign policy and Russia, migration and energy security.