Political speeds in Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia: in search of a “virtuous circle”, OP-ED



The reanimation of democracies in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia necessitates large-scale political projects and higher legitimacy on the part of society. The entry into a “virtuous circle” of good governance needed by Ukraine, Moldova and even Georgia involves the use of the rules of game from which “nepotism” is excluded and the oligarchs are removed...


Dionis Cenuşa

The capacity of the Moldovan, Ukrainian and Georgian political classes to overcome the governance vices is at distinct electoral and civic testing stages. The renewal of the electoral cycle remains a technical exercise with particular democratic indicators, but not everywhere and not fully embodying participatory characteristics. There is yet no critical self-assessment inside the major political protagonists, while the requirements of the voting public oscillate between existential constraints, such as vulnerability to corruption and intimidation, and the hyper-optimistic expectations from any new(er) political player.

A critical situation took shape in Moldova, where the parliamentary elections generated a change in the ratio of forces between the main national political parties, which moves yet things towards snap parliamentary elections. The ruling Democratic Party ripped voters from the Socialists who are aligned to the agenda of rapprochement with Russia, anchored mainly into the presidency of Igor Dodon (IPN, April 1, 2019). The extraparliamentary opposition formed of the DA Platform and the Party “Action and Solidarity” (PAS) entered Parliament under the umbrella of the political bloc “ACUM” and anti-oligarchic slogans (IPN, April 15, 2019). But the government views of two parties out of the three major ones – the Socialists and ACUM – are contradictory in terms of geopolitics and policy content. At the same time, these forces refuse to form a coalition with the Democrats owing to the negative fear of association relevant to the Socialists or to the chronic animosities between ACUM and the political party controlled by oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc.

Ukraine enters a new zone of political turbulence even if many treated the election of Volodymyr Zelensky for presidency as an ultimate success. His victory over ex-President Petro Poroshenko is no way due to his political merits, but is due to his non-affiliation to the corrupt political system that is vehemently challenged by Ukrainians. The massive vote received from 13.5 million citizens (73% of the total who voted) in the runoffs (April 21, 2019) conferred absolute legitimacy on him, but this started to fissure only two days after his inauguration (May 20, 2019). Contrary to the promise to lay the basis of a government model distinct from the existent one, the new President resorted to practices typical of “nepotism” when he promoted reliable persons close to him to high-ranking positions. The controversial appointments started with lawyer Andriy Bogdan, know to be close to the oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, considered by Zelensky a business partner. This took over the presidential administration, becoming thus the key figure in the presidential decision-making process. The ignoring of the meritocratic principle continued with the integration of at least four colleagues and friends into state bodies – Serhiy Trofimov, Ivan Bakanov, Serhiy Shefirm and Yuriy Kostiuk (BBC, May 22, 2019). Zelensky’s presidency seems to be struggling between the necessity of promoting a new generation of professionals, as he promised in the election campaign (Unian, April 21, 2019), and the ensuring of a loyal environment that would prevent any attempt of betrayal. But the favoring of loyalty in exchange for meritocracy helped Zelensky’s critics to initiate an online petition that seeks the President’s dismissal. During one day it gathered over 25,000 signatures that doubled in another four days (56,374 signatures), even if the petitioning period requires about three months (91 days) (Presidential Office of Ukraine).

In a quieter way, the Georgian politics also witnesses signs of instability that are yet detrimental to the political monopoly established by the Georgian Dream Party controlled by oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili. Returning to the party’s administration 14 months ago (April 2018) following the resignation tendered by Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Ivanishvili didn’t manage to prevent small fragmentations inside his party. Described as a part of the “democratic process” (Agenda.ge, February 26, 2019), the abandonment of the ranks of Ivanishvili’s party wasn’t drastic even if provoked the loss of the constitutional majority (113 MPs of the total 150). During practically three years of government, his party fell under 110 seats of MP of the 116 held initially after the November 2016 elections (Civil.ge, December 18, 2017). Though partially significant, the internal rupture was caused by the crisis linked to the the integrity of the 28 judges that should be appointed for life to manage the Supreme Court (Agenda.ge, May 1, 2019), and by the conflict related to the initiative to revise the pension system in terms of inter-generational solidarity (OC-media, February 22, 2019).

Arguments in favor of holding snap elections

The snap parliamentary elections were already included in the agenda of the Ukrainian political scene for July 21, 2019 following the decree of President Zelensky published on May 21, 2019. The same event can swiftly occur in Moldova when the deadlines for activating Parliament expire. The President Dodon is clarifying the legal deadline for dissolving Parliament in June and for later announcing snap elections (Constitutional Court, May 22, 2019). Under the electoral legislation, the elections could take place in the autumn of 2019 (Election Code, Art. 76). The first reference point for calculating the deadline for eventual early elections is the validation of the elected MPs – March 9, 2019. The second one is the expiration of three month from the first and only session of the Parliament, which was blocked by the Socialists for the reason that a majority coalition wasn’t set (March 21, 2019). If Ivanishvili’s party is massively deserted, the snap elections before the ordinary elections planned for 2020 could become an attractive idea, especially because it allows using the mixed voting system (valid until 2024). For now, unlike Ukraine and Moldova, snap elections are most improbable in Georgia.

The holding of snap elections can have a significance if they pursue at least three clear objectives: 1) implementation of an ambitious reform agenda impossible with an old Parliament; 2) breaking of a serious political stalemate; or, 3) avoidance of degradation of control over the power.

The first objective is visible in the case of Ukraine, where President Zelensky plans to transfer the success of the presidential elections to his party “People’s Servant”. A friendly Parliament would enable him to adopt the populist measurers promised to the people in the election campaign. Recent polls place the party on first place with about 40% of the sympathies of Ukrainians decided to vote  (See the Table below), while the other parties are at a distance of about 30% (Gordonua, May 16, 2019). The appearance of the Party “Voice” led by Svyatoslav Vakarciuk could change the situation (NewEasternEurope, May 16, 2019). If his return to the forefront takes place, then this can attract the fresh voters of Zelensky, who are dissatisfied with the latter’s manifestations of “nepotism” and his association with some of the oligarchs (Ihor Kolomoisky). The accumulation of a maximal number of votes depends on the electoral legislation that contains the mixed vote whose revision is supported by less than 30% of the 450 Ukrainian MPs (Unian, May 22, 2019).

Table. Main political parties with electoral chances in Ukraine (%), election threshold 5%

Political party


“Servant of the People”


“Opposition Platform” (pro-Russian)


Petro Poroshenko Bloc “Solidarity” (renamed “European Solidarity”)


Yulia Timoshenko’s Party “Batikovshina”


“Power and Dignity”


“Civic Position”


Source: Sociological group “Rating”

The achievement of the second objective through snap elections is inevitable in Moldova, where the impossibility of forming a coalition can lead to the dissolution of the Parliament elected on February 24, 2019. The early elections risk having a destructive character as the keeping of the mixed vote will maintain practically the same result for the tree main political forces: PSRM – 35 seats, PDM – 30 and ACUM (PAS and DA Platform) – 26. From this viewpoint, the existing political crisis would not be solved, but only delayed and, respectively, perpetuated. Together with this, the possibility of restoring the foreign financing would be postponed. At the same time, the political destabilization in the country keeps discouraging the investors and has a stimulating impact on emigration flows.

The snap elections for Georgia can serve only as an attempt to restore the social contact with the people, who more often protest for better living and working conditions. The waiting of the next ordinary legislative elections can be accompanied by risks even if the mixed vote is maintained including for 2024 (Agenda.ge, March 17, 2018). On the one hand, the Georgian polls show the Georgian Dream is supported by only 21%, while the United National Movement by 15%. On the other hand, of the list of 37 politicians, oligarch Ivanishvili is perceived most negatively - 39% (OC-Media, May 21, 2019). The snap elections are a saving solution, but could enable Ivanishvili to cut the opposition’s élan.

Instead of conclusions…

The reanimation of democracies in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia necessitates large-scale political projects and higher legitimacy on the part of society. The entry into a “virtuous circle” of good governance needed by Ukraine, Moldova and even Georgia involves the use of the rules of game from which “nepotism” is excluded and the oligarchs are removed.

The more ambitious the electoral offer is, the closer and more uniform should be the cooperation between the state institutions – the executive power and the legislative one. For these reasons, the snap elections can be used to re-construct the political system if the proportional representation system is restored to counterbalance the instruments of influence that the oligarchic groups in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia possess.

Dionis Cenuşa


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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