NDI Delegation to Assess PRE-ELECTION Environment in Moldova
The repositioning of the Democratic Party of Moldova on the political arena that was announced recently represents a correct and necessary act from the party’s political viewpoint, but also a forced and insincere act and this involves a particular risk for the party, for other political parties and for Moldovan society in general.
The repositioning is a correct and useful act for the political goals of the PDM, which, and this is not a secret, tends to remain in power and to even further strengthen its already powerful positions after the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of next February. In this regard, the electoral context of the repositioning is undisputable.
Two target groups
The political maneuver has two targets: 1. The population of the Republic of Moldova, which is a notion synonymous with “the voters of the Republic of Moldova” in the electoral periods, and 2. The opponent and similarly partner political parties.
The “pro-Moldova”, “pro-citizen” message is addressed to the public and is well-calculated because it takes into account the people’s psychology, vital, priority and even primary interests of the person and community, respectively of the voter/voters. It is hard to find a more convincing political and electoral message that would attract a maximum of supporters in times of peace. Even the critical, combative messages compete with difficulty with a “positivist” one aimed at the daily preoccupations and even the instincts that guide life, all the more the geopolitical messages, especially after these were compromised by the whole political class.
The signals launched by the PDM to parties announce some of these that they should “step aside” or even “free the political roadway” because one with a “more powerful engine” than others comes, others that it is ready to cooperate with them and the rest that it partially or fully freed the earlier occupied lane.
Things not always turn out as planned
All these, in theoretical terms. In practical terms, things could pan out as the Democrats plan, but could equally cause a number of difficulties in a not too distant future because the repositioning occurred by force and this generates suspicions about insincerity and, respectively, could suggest hidden goals besides the publicly announced ones.
The conclusion about the forced reorientation of the PDM is based on at least two reasons.
The first reason has extreme origins. For already known motives, including the introduction of the mixed voting system and the invalidation of the Chisinau mayoral elections, the ruling Democratic Party deteriorated the relations with the European Union, which is the first and most important development partner. This makes the use of the pro-European electoral slogan in the future electoral campaign impossible and the party thus swiftly enough replaced this with “pro-Moldova”. The PDM had to abandon the geopolitical approach of its electoral message also because its relations with Russia have been deteriorated for a long time. Therefore, from geopolitical angle, the party’s positions are rather frail to bank on them. In the short period that remained until the elections, the party could manage to infiltrate its new image into the voters’ conscience, but could also fail to do this or could do it only partially.
The second reason is related to the evident duality that exists inside the county as to the primacy over the European course in the Republic of Moldova. During several years, the primacy was claimed both by the government and by the opposition that calls itself “pro-European” and “anti-oligarchic”. By the recent repositioning, we can presume that the PDM conceded the primacy on “the pro-European front” to the opposition. But the Democrats acted so not due to the opposition’s power of persuasion, but rather because of the lack of support on the part of the European institutions that refused to cooperate “by force”. And this fact wasn’t probably decisive either when deciding to abandon the pro-European slogan. It was rather the complete lack of prospects to build a pro-European parliamentary majority after the parliamentary elections of next February that made the party take such a decision. It now counts less who bears responsibility for this complete lack of prospects - the government or the opposition. What matters is that in the old format, the causing of early elections by the model of 2009 could have been the only possible stake of the future elections and the PDM could not accept such a development. We will yet see if it took out a winning card and managed to distance the danger of early elections after the ordinary ones by its reorientation.
Pro- and/or against -Europe?
Willingly or unwillingly, the PDM contraposed its new “pro-Moldova” orientation to the European course that it promoted in the previous elections and ruling alliances. And it acted so because it had no other way out as it could have been rejected or abandoned by the “course itself”. In reality, the old and new courses of the PDM do not exclude each other, but rather supplement each other or are even interlinked if they are addressed with sufficient political sincerity. In an objective way, both of the approaches involve maximum attention to the care for and life of the citizens. The slogan “We Grow Moldova”, with which the PDM went in the previous parliamentary elections after embracing the European course, is a proof of this.
It’s true that the European course offers more clarity as to the model, mechanisms and financial resources used to satisfy the people’s needs that were tested during many years in the EU member states, compared with the untested and even nebulous “pro-Moldova model”. Not accidentally, the most spread and promoted formula, including by the PDM, until now was “to bring Europe at home”, where “Europe” meant first of all the model of organizing the life of citizens and the functioning of the state. For now, it is not clear if the PDM will offer us an own “Moldovan” model after the repositioning or we will follow the old, European course? If it keeps the old one, why was the course changed then? What risk does the eventual distancing from the tested model involve for society and the citizen?
On the other hand, the abandonment of the European course as an electoral slogan is sufficiently natural and expected for the PDM also for two reasons.
First. Accidentally or not, the European course in the Republic of Moldova was and is promoted by the parties of the center-right and the right as the PDM has always positioned itself as a party of the center and could thus be considered or felt like a semi-foreign body in the “pro-European” group of the Moldovan parties. In this regard, the long-term oscillation of the PDM since 2009 between a pro-European majority coalition and a pro-Eastern one, with the creation of the second one being moderated by a prominent figure from Moscow, becomes relevant.
Second. During nine years since the European course has been officially promoted in Moldova, this hasn’t gained too much additional space in the conscience and political preferences of our people despite the unprecedented support, including financial one, offered by the country’s main development partner. The reasons were already mentioned: mentality of the population, nostalgias for the past, foreign propaganda, etc. But the parties that ruled since 2009 are to blame for such a state of affairs first and foremost as they mainly compromised the European idea in Moldova by what they did or didn’t do. Until recently, the PDM also bore a part of the blame only, but since the start of 2016 until now, the responsibility is exclusive and, surely, the Democrats do not want such a burden before the elections that they consider very important for the party’s fate.
“They are theirs among foreigners and foreigners among theirs”
For the Moldovan parties, the PDM has several groups of direct and indirect, sincere and camouflaged messages.
It would be logical for the parties with an official message similar to the “pro-Moldova” one to feel regarded as potential partners with which the PDM would want to form pre- or post-electoral alliances and as potential direct opponents from which the Democrats would try to massively attract votes. This applies to the Party of Socialists and the Shor Party and the PDM probably has its own calculations for both of the variants. The cooperation with each of them before the elections provides advantages, but also involves major mutual risks. But a government coalition between the three parties after the elections is real and possible and in this the PDM would feel the best regardless of the number of seats obtained by each of them. The practice of the past nine years proves this. The fact that the Shor Party can enter Parliament with its own forces or with support from outside seems increasingly possible, especially after the trial of the leader of this party entered a break that ends not long before the upcoming parliamentary elections. There will be a short distance up to parliamentary immunity from there. The abandonment of the “pro-European” message enables the PDM to start discussion with the PSRM on common governance, practically “from a white sheet”.
The pre- and post-electoral cooperation with the current government partner, the European People’s Party of Moldova, cannot enter the public calculations of the PDM for now as this would be illogical for the Democrats after their reorientation and also very dangerous for the PPEM to which polls do not give many changes of entering the new Parliament. The announcement made by the leader of the PPEM, according to which the party will go by itself in the elections, forms part of the same logic.
Repositioning towards all positions
Normally, the abandonment of the geopolitical course as an electoral slogan means that the PDM concedes the given electoral pool to the pro-European opposition. If you do not have a slogan and activities, including electoral ones, on this segment, such a conclusion is fully justified. But it is evident that it won’t be so. Otherwise, the attacks on the part of the press and from the online sphere on the PAS-PPDA duo and other players that look at the European integration of Moldova in a way that differs from that of the government would have already decreased in volume and intensity. This didn’t happen and the situation is actually the opposite. IPN felt this itself as, after the PDM announced its reorientation, posts that go beyond any limit of decency appeared on the Agency’s forum as regards the publication of opinion articles on the European integration theme. This never happened since IPN was founded. We do not have conclusive proofs as to who these postings belong to, even if these could be easily obtained, but the coincidence mentioned above and the principle “to whom this is convenient” point to a particular direction.
This means that after its reorientation the PDM would keep its interest in the whole political arena of the Republic of Moldova so as to achieve its earlier declared goal – to become and remain the most important party in the country. It’s good that not the only one...
Thus, the repositioning of the Democratic Party of Moldova on the political arena represents a correct and necessary act from the party’s political viewpoint, but is also a forced and insincere act and this involves a particular risk for the party, for other political parties and for Moldovan society in general.
Valeriu Vasilicã, IPN
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