Early Elections in Moldova and the Geopolitical Power of the Diaspora. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa



In the context of the demographic shrinking of the electoral group, the diaspora is becoming a political actor with a considerable role in influencing the balance of power in the future parliament, as well as the geopolitical orientations within it ...


Dionis Cenuşa, Senior Contributor

Before the snap elections of July 11, 2021 (NEE, April 2021), the fight to attract the diaspora vote seems to become the central theme of the electoral campaign. As in the 2020 presidential elections, pro-EU forces are investing high hopes in the electoral contribution of the diaspora. Their pro-Russian opponents do not hide their concern about the possible undesirable impact of the diaspora on the composition of the future parliament. If the number of foreign votes received by Maia Sandu in the presidential elections is repeated (around 92% of 262,000), then it is more likely that her party, the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS), will move closer to the parliamentary majority (51 of 101 deputies).

The opening of polling stations abroad has become one of the most sensitive issues in the election campaign. Under the influence of the political factor, the majority of members (5 out of 9) of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) opposed the increase of polling stations abroad to 191 polling stations. Public pressure from political actors in the country, but also from the diaspora, forced the CEC to revise its previously agreed list of 139 sections, which led to a somewhat insignificant increase in polling stations, from seven units to 146. Argument used by the BCC He referred to budgetary austerity, which is not entirely wrong, because for economic reasons only 56% of the 125 million MDL (about €5.8 million) needed for the correct organization of the elections were allocated. However, from the beginning, technical and financial solutions had to be found to guarantee the constitutional right to vote for Moldovan citizens abroad. Optimal and economically feasible technical solutions could include doubling or tripling the number of votes (now limited to 5,000 units per polling station) for polling stations where voting in 2020 was most intense or extending the voting period abroad from one to two days. Such solutions would have shown a favorable attitude of the CEC towards voters in the diaspora. In any case, the latter should not be disenfranchised, but on the contrary, become even more involved in the political processes of the country.

Since the elections in early 2010, interest in the diaspora vote has gradually increased, but mainly from Moldovans who have gone to work or settled in the West. It appears that due to the socio-economic opportunities obtained in the western states, the emigrant Moldovans increased their manifestation of civic responsibilities with their country of origin. Furthermore, the improving integrity of the new generation of pro-European political parties and leaders has intensified the interactions between the diaspora and national political processes. The expansion of new communication technologies has facilitated the (re-) connection of the westernized diaspora with Moldovan political affairs. These are some of the main considerations that have stimulated the participation of the diaspora in the elections during the last decade (See Table 1).

Table. The vote of Moldovan citizens abroad and the number of polling stations.


Diaspora voters

Polling stations abroad

Early parliamentary elections 2009



Early parliamentary elections 2010



Parliamentary elections 2014



Presidential elections 2016, round I



Presidential elections 2016, round II



Parliamentary elections 2019



Presidential elections, round I



Presidential elections 2020, round II



Early parliamentary elections 2021



Source: Author’s compilation based on data retrieved from www.e-democracy.md

Electoral activism in the diaspora: the West vs. Russia

The electoral potential of the diaspora attracts the attention of at least three electoral contenders: PAS, “Platform YES” party and Bloc of the Communists and Socialists. The first two try to adapt to the interests of the Western diaspora. Its objective is to mobilize at least the same number of votes obtained by Maia Sandu in the second round of the 2020 presidential elections: 243,605 votes. However, it is true that an absolute majority of these votes could only end up in the basket of PAS. The latter is the political expansion of President Sandu, who feels very attached to the diaspora, so she can also be called the "president of the diaspora." In any case, the “Platform YES” party needs the diaspora to cross the electoral threshold of 6%.

Unlike the pro-EU forces, the intentions of the socialist-communist tandem are completely different. First, it seeks to minimize the electoral impact of the vote cast by the Western diaspora. This objective is reflected in the decision of the members close to the Socialists of the electoral body (CEC) not to increase the number of polling stations. Such a decision would have mainly favoured the vote of Moldovans in the western states. This tandem of left-wing parties is also using a hostile discourse against the diaspora in the West, which is compared to an "agent" of external influence against the sovereign interests of the population living in Moldova. Previously, this idea was widely exploited in the second round of the 2020 presidential elections.

In addition, the communist-socialist bloc wants to stimulate the electoral behavior of Moldovans who emigrated to Russia. In 2020, Socialist leader Igor Dodon tried to use personalized dialogue with President Vladimir Putin to collect votes from Moldovan workers in Russia in exchange for a promise to facilitate procedures to legalize residency. Of the more than 270,000 Moldovans who were legally residing in Russia in 2020, some 15,000 people reacted to Igor Dodon's call and voted for him in the second round of the presidential elections. In the period 2020-2021, during the pandemic crisis, the Russian authorities simplified the procedures for the issuance and extension of patents in order to alleviate the shortage of foreign labor. Traffic restrictions and other negative effects of the pandemic have halved the population of Moldovan immigrants in Russia - to 132,900 thousand people in 2021. This unfavorable context could be useful for Igor Dodon, who will repeatedly try to play the role of "middle man" between the Russian state and Moldovan migrants. Otherwise, he would not have planned trips to Moscow and St. Petersburg to hold meetings with the diaspora until the end of June. However, Dodon's mission is extremely complicated, since Moldovan migrants in Russia tend to show a passive attitude towards electoral exercises in Moldova. This type of attitude may derive from the absence of a positive perception of the functioning of a representative democracy in Russia, where civil liberties are continuously degrading (IPN, February 2021).

The impact of the diaspora on the electoral results of the PAS

The outcome of the western diaspora vote on PAS performance in early elections can be estimated on the basis of the 2020 presidential elections. Of the 487,635 votes obtained by Sandu in the first round, the diaspora contributed 104,605 ​​votes. In the second round, the result obtained by Sandu (around 1 million votes) was strongly diluted by the votes directed by the rest of the candidates, who supported her against Igor Dodon. Therefore, for maximum precision, only the votes of the first round are taken into account, because they were given strictly to Maia Sandu (487,635 votes). To that are added another 157,498 new votes from the diaspora offered in the second round. In this way, hypothetically, it can be deduced that the PAS could attract around 645,000 votes, but provided that the diaspora participates in the early elections of 2021 as actively as in 2020. Also, as in the case of the second round of the elections 2020 presidential elections, participation in 2021 must bring to polling stations in total at least 1.6 million voters at home and abroad (about 16.000 votes por seat).

If the PAS manages to obtain around 645,000 votes, then this party could become the most voted party, but this may not be enough to exceed 50% of the votes and form a comfortable majority. Such a conclusion can be reached if the results of the 2014 parliamentary elections are analyzed when the vote was carried out in a proportional system and the turnout was 1,649,402 voters. Therefore, with around 645,000 votes in its favour, the PAS can achieve the combined result of PSRM and PLDM in 2014: around 650,000 votes (See Table 2). In such a case, aproximately 40% of the PAS votes woud constitute up to 48 seats. Of these, 15-20 seats could reach the PAS of the diaspora vote. But this political party needs the same support from the diaspora as Maia Sandu's vote in the second round of the presidential elections (243,605 votes). However, the reduction of mandates for the PAS in the diaspora also depends on the success of other parties in seducing the votes in the diaspora, in particular the “Platform YES” party, the Bloc of Renato Usatii and the parties that advocate for unification with Romania.

Table 2. The results of the 2014 parliamentary elections

Political parties


Votes, %


The Socialists Party




The Liberal Democratic Party




The Communists Party




The Democratic Party




The Liberal Party




Source: Author’s compilation based on data retrieved from www.e-democracy.md

In lieu of conclusions …

Voting in the diaspora has unavoidable geopolitical overtones. Western Moldovans vote more actively than those living in Russia. Furthermore, the former vote for political parties that promote European integration and not really for those with pro-Russian approaches. In the context of the demographic narrowing of the electoral group, the diaspora is becoming a political actor with a considerable role in influencing the balance of power in the future parliament, as well as the geopolitical orientations within it.

Dionis Cenuşa, Senior Contributor
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.
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IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.

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