Signs that this election can be either crucial or catastrophic - I

IPN Analysis: The November 30 parliamentary election will be either crucial or catastrophic for the Moldovan state and society, and this is the first and most important feature distinguishing it from other elections. It includes a host of other particularities, such as the geopolitical overtone, the influence of the regional factor, the foreign interference, the emergence of new types of political actors, an electoral confrontation by the principle “all against one”, the unpredictability of the outcome and of the potential configuration of the government, the intensive use of political manipulation, the contrast between an overall peaceful campaign and fears of potential violent outbreaks, or worse, of a regional hotspot like the one seen in Ukraine.

The years 2014 and 1991: similarities and differences

Some say the importance of the upcoming election can only match that of the proclamation of Moldova's independence in 1991. Usually those making this this comparison, using the label 'crucial' for both events, are the politicians of pro-European orientation who are trying in this way to convince the electorate to follow this path. The most high-sounding phrases used during this campaign have urged the voters to choose between the “civilized European future” and the “dark communist past”, between the “prison of nations” and the “freedom of European democracy”; a more philosophical formulation says the the November 30 election will be a “civilizational choice”. As a rule, such politicians, as well as other supporters of the European idea, use real figures and facts to demonstrate the benefits of the European integration, some of which can already be seen. The pro-European choice is represented by a number of weighty political parties such as the Liberal-Democrats, the Democrats, the Liberals and the Liberal-Reformists , as well as by smaller parties such as the People's Party, the Green Party, Antimafia and others.

The promoters of the other choice, the pro-Eastern one, use slogans that are less exalted and operate with fewer facts, figures and actual benefits. They are less influential in terms of party size, standing in polls and access to administrative and information resources. The most prominent representative of this segment is the Socialist Party, which in the meantime, however, has scaled down its pro-East choice to a pro-Russia one, perhaps as an electoral maneuver. The “Customs Union is Moldova's Choice” Bloc has maintained the broadness of its pro-East option, but this hasn't helped them overcome the narrowness of their voter pool, because these parties have neither sufficient influence nor chances of entering the Parliament, and so have other minnow electoral competitors of the same orientation. The Communists, which still wield a great deal of influence in the Moldovan society, cannot be included without reserve in these ranks, as they haven't demanded the denunciation of the Association Agreement with the EU and haven't included membership in the Customs Union among their campaign priorities.

This echoes the year 1991, because now, just like then, the more educated part of the Moldovan society are proposing a cardinal change, an advance to a new step of development, following a model and instruments successfully implemented by other countries, including nations with whom we share a Soviet and socialist past. Additionally, it has the electoral advantage of exploiting the country's achievements on the path of modernization and Europeanization. But unlike the spirit from the Independence period, despite all that evidence, the European choice doesn't enjoy the same amount of popular support, with the two geopolitical alternatives maintaining a relation of parity for quite some time. We won't discuss here why this is happening, we'll just note some of the similarities and differences.

Another similarity with the early 1990s is the sense of an imminent violence, like that seen in the Nistru conflict, which also put a brake on our progress. If the activation of that brake had anything to do with our efforts to reorient ourselves along other vectors than the Eastern ones, one should expect that similar or more “effective” methods might be used, in addition to those already applied in the region.

Moldova between Ukraine…

Elaborating on the topic of our neighborhood, we can identify another particularity of the upcoming election. The armed conflict in Ukraine (with some involved or less involved actors using notions such as “separatist rebellion”, “covert foreign aggression” or “anti-terror operation”) has influenced to a certain degree the pro-European and pro-Eastern inclinations of the Moldovan voters. This influence becomes more evident as casualties and destruction increase and as people become increasingly aware of the threat of the conflict approaching Moldova's borders and, God forbid, going beyond. That influence can be seen in a drop, albeit insignificant, in the number of Moldovan supporters of the Russian president Vladimir Putin. While insignificant, like I said, this still counts as a decrease and it almost automatically means a proportional reduction in the number of supporters for the pro-Eastern and Pro-Russian Moldovan parties. True, the pro-European parties can be suspected of somewhat exaggerating things in this respect, for electoral purposes included, but the patterns that IPN mentioned here and in other recent opinion pieces vindicate them of any direct accusation.

The Ukrainian factor in this election provides yet another prop for the pro-European parties after the neighboring nation elected a pro-European parliament and President. While until recently Moldova was able to escape a “benevolent” accession to the Customs Union and Eurasian Union precisely due to Ukraine's rather cold stance towards them, now as Ukraine increasingly approaches the EU, its seems even theoretically impossible for Moldova to join those, with such an immense geographical barrier lying between. However, Ukraine is still far from being a genuinely European state and one should expect that it will face still more obstacles along this path. On the other hand, political parties don't always tell voters the whole truth during campaigns. Further, the pro-Eastern parties have quite openly declared they might use the 'Maidan' approach to take over power in the event of a 'wrong' outcome of the parliamentary election. At the same time, some of the political actors that promote European integration haven't themselves “ruled out” a replication of the “Maidan” in Moldova “in certain circumstances”. So the Ukrainian factor may still hold more. The information space, both the public and the “kitchen” one, is full of dark reports and rumors.

…and Romania

Two weeks before the parliamentary election in Moldova, the Romanians elected a president that is “not like the rest”. Both the pro-Eastern and pro-Western proponents interpreted this pick in their favor. What's certain is that Romania's example demonstrates that a massive involvement of the society can make a difference. Very soon we'll see which parties will have been more successful in convincing the electorate to, first, go out and vote and, second, make a chiefly geopolitical choice between “progress” and “destruction”.

Valeriu Vasilică, IPN

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