President Maia Sandu’s Action and Solidarity Party PAS scored an overwhelming victory in the 2021 snap election, garnering about 775,000 votes, or 53% of the total, and as a result won 63 out of 101 seats in the Moldovan Parliament. While the pro-Russian Bloc of Communists and Socialists suffered a serious electoral defeat, President Maia Sandu has received the support of a solid parliamentary majority to fulfill her presidential promises, focused mainly on fighting corruption and achieving European integration.
The failure of unionists in the latest election
At the same time, an even more humiliating defeat in the latest legislative election was suffered by the so-called unionist parties, which were not even able to clear the electoral threshold, despite polls measuring the unionist electoral pool at about 35-40%. In other words, the PAS won the election by declaring itself to be a supporter of Moldova’s accession to the EU, not by following the path of union with Romania (the shortest and fastest), but with its own powers, succeeding in stealing the unionist electorate.
At first glance, judging by the electoral results, PAS received all the political leverage needed to carry out a deep and successful reform of Moldovan society, even if the victory came in the midst of a pandemic. But appearances proved to be deceiving. It quickly became clear that, while the PAS government had good intentions to reform society, it had very little understanding of how to actually pull it off. On top of that, the energy crisis occurred shortly after the election, causing rampant inflation and a significant decline in people’s living standards. And the Russian invasion of Ukraine put the very existence of Moldovan statehood at risk had the Russian army been able to carve out a land corridor to the Transnistrian region.
Unprecedented openness of the West
In this critical situation, the Maia Sandu/PAS government was able to secure an unprecedented openness of the West towards Moldova, culminating in our country obtaining EU candidate status. Admittedly, this indisputable success became possible against the background of Russia’s war against Ukraine, which dramatically changed the EU’s position towards the conditions that must be met by the accession aspirants. At the same time, foreign policy efforts opened the tap of consistent, unprecedented aid from Western development partners for Moldova.
However, as far as domestic affairs go, the PAS government has faced a sea of acute and unsolved problems. First of all, we have the stagnation of the justice reform and anti-corruption efforts. And of course, the economic woes. Today, Moldova is in great economic difficulty, being disproportionately more of a consumer than a producer. It is a chronically underfinanced country, with great difficulties in procuring energy and with acute social problems. Compounding this is massive depopulation: a great deal of the active workforce, who could otherwise contribute to the economic growth and progress of Moldovan society, is working and living abroad, with the trend being on the rise.
Domestic inefficiency puts development vector at risk
In democracies, a decline in living standards usually can’t be compensated with foreign policy successes. If this happens to a government, in most cases it will pay the political price of losing the next election to the opposition. It seems like this will be the case of the PAS in the future legislative election. And while in democracies the alternation of parties in government is usually one of the most effective ways of improving things in society, the case of Moldova is a special one.
The problem is that PAS’s departure from power threatens to reverse our country’s development vector from European integration towards the Eurasian space dominated by aggressor Russia. Such a vectorial U-turn would mean the loss of assistance from Western partners and the establishment of an oligarchic authoritarian political regime as per the Russian model.
However, the Russian aggression against Ukraine has made life more difficult for the pro-Russian parties in Moldova. With Socialists and Communists remaining largely unaltered in their pro-Russian positions, the war has made some of those who advocated a closer relationship with Moscow in the past to think again. In Moldova, there has been a demand for new forces able of representing the interests of Russian speakers, but without bowing to the Kremlin. These sentiments have been read by the parties and politicians who, before the start of the war, used to criticize the PAS government for being “too European” and called for cooperation with Russia. Now they criticize the authorities not for the pro-European course, but rather for its inept implementation, while calls for friendship with Russia are disappearing from their discourse or are being elaborately camouflaged. Considering this, a part of the electorate with moderate pro-European views could lean towards the pro-Russian parties, as most polls show a high probability for a coalition of such parties to win the next election.
PAS lost the unionist electorate
The previous election was won by the PAS with the major contribution of the electorate with unionist views. Unionists by definition belong to the pro-European political camp. There is no risk of such votes from the disenchanted unionists going directly to the pro-Russian parties. The threat in this case is that they might not show up to the polls at all, considering their increasingly visible dissatisfaction with how the PAS government has been dealing with domestic challenges. At the same time, it is obvious that a massive turnout among unionists in the next election would be absolutely key in keeping Moldova on the European track.
But it is equally obvious that the exemplary mobilization of the unionist electorate this time around can no longer occur on the political platform offered by the PAS, with its feeble pro-Romanian component, incapable of stirring the enthusiasm of voters with a clear Romanian consciousness. PAS’s governmental solutions do not produce any attractive socio-economic effects for the unionist electorate in the immediate or even medium term, let alone affective reactions at the level of national consciousness. With great probability, it can be predicted that PAS will lose an impressive number of unionist voters in the next election, with this deficit being able to decide the fate of the European course of Moldova.
The solution is a Eurounionist Electoral List
The cardinal solution for securing the continuity of the European course lies in the emergence on the Moldovan political landscape of a coagulant unionist force, with a political program of national reunification that is credible for the pro-Romanian voters in Moldova. Today there is no unionist party capable of inspiring confidence and hopes of victory among the Moldovan unionists. What is needed is an innovative idea of political organization of the unionist segment, which goes beyond the boundaries of the existing parties and neutralizes the personal and group selfishness of their leaders, who are otherwise very vocal in the public space, but who are unable to lead a coagulating unionist project
In other words, to preserve the European course of the Republic of Moldova, a Eurounionist National Electoral List is needed, which has to produce a Convention of pro-Romanian political forces, capable of massively mobilizing the unionist electoral segment for the upcoming elections. Only in this way will a strong and numerous unionist group be created in the future makeup of Parliament, which together with the PAS will recreate a pro-European government capable of accelerating Moldova’s integration into the EU by implementing the perfectly European project of Romanian national unity.
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.