Public debate: Strong and weak points of two finalists

Narrative report
on the organization of the debate
Strong and weak points of two finalists”. Public debates series held by the news agency IPN in its conference room with the support of the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”

Held on 12 November 2020, Debate No.10 brought together: doctor of political sciences Ion Duminica; communication expert Vlad Țurcanu and Igor Boțan, IPN project’s standing expert.

The citizens of the Republic of Moldova who will go to vote on November 15 can do an intellectual exercise and analyze candidates’ merits so as to choose one of them. The most important arguments “for” and “against” the two candidates for President were discussed by experts invited to IPN’s public debate “Strong and weak points of the two finalists”.

Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said the power of a candidate for an elective post resides in his/her charisma, intellectual capacities and experience, professional team and financial and media resources. A candidate for an elective post should primarily avoid fortunetellers, to produce and disseminate fake news that has the boomerang effect and the effect of bitterness that shows the candidate’s vulnerability. Such conclusions could be reached in the current election campaign in Moldova and in other places where electoral campaigns were conducted.

According to Igor Boțan, we should not forget that society in Moldova is divided and the two candidates actually represent almost equal segments. “There is the “byzantine” segment and its representative Igor Dodon, who enjoys life, is easygoing, promises a lot, etc. On the other hand, there is the pro-European challenger Maia Sandu who wants relatively rigid discipline and is afraid to break the legal and moral rules. Maia Sandu does not explore things she considers are disadvantageous to her, but she could turn them into an advantage. “For example, the family. She could give Vladimir Putin and Alexandr Lukashenko as examples as these destroyed their families. Irina Vlah also had a family, but is now single and is a successful politician. Maia Sandu’s argument could be: “We should not encroach upon the intimate life of people”. Or, another argument in favor of the slogan “It’s the time of good people” that is promoted by the PAS and is criticized by the opponents. For those who know history, this is the preferred slogan of the great Russian historian Vasily Klyuchevsky who explained: “the good people are not those who always do good, but those who cannot do harm”. This thing could have been exploited.

According to communication expert Vlad Țurcanu, what for Igor Dodon’s voters is an advantage or a strong point can be a weak point of Maia Sandu. “For example, when Maia Sandu says she is able to restore ties with the United States of America, such an argument can be used by Igor Dodon and is used for the voters who haven’t made up their minds, who are the supporters of Renato Usatyi. He can say that Maia Sandu is “the hand of Americans” and this would not make her popular with Igor Dodon’s voters. It would be problematic for Maia Sandu to formulate a speech for many of the inhabitants of Bălți town, for example, or of other places where she does not enjoy special support,” he stated.

Also, when speaking about the disadvantages of Igor Dodon, who is considered corrupt by Maia Sandu’s voters, these would say that he controls the system with “an iron hand”, crosses particular “red lines” and allows others to do it, while the voters of Igor Dodon sometimes perceive these instincts, reflexes as an advantage. They say that there are those who steal, but give us too, while Maia Sandu does not steal and is thus unable to build schemes that would favor others too. Maia Sandu continued her campaign after the first round of voting with a moral advance owing to the several percentage points by which she outstripped Igor Dodon. In the race for the presidency, what matters is how a candidate or another manages to attract Renato Usatyi’s voters. “It’s definite that Renato Usatyi does not act directly and continues to attack Igor Dodon, favoring this way Maia Sandu,” he stated.

Ion Duminica, doctor of political sciences of the Cultural Heritage Institute, said that from historical viewpoint, the Republic of Moldova had two presidential elections, with the first being held in 1996. Then, after the first round, Mircea Snegur was first, while Petru Luchinski came second. The sympathizers of Mircea Snegur already celebrated the victory of this, but Petru Luchinski won the runoff. “The fact that a candidate finished first does not mean that this will also win the run-off. In 2016, Maia Sandu also competed against Igor Dodon. Igor Dodon finished first and won the elections in the runoff.

According to Ion Duminică, general conclusions about the advantage or disadvantage of being the first cannot be formulated. “The image of candidate Igor Dodon catches the attention of the traditional voters with families. But particular voters can consider that he has a too big “family” that he would maintain at the expense of the others. On the other hand, Maia Sandu entered politics in the Republic of Moldova after 2010, coming from a Western area and being presented as a successful candidate who builds her career strictly on politics, not being burdened by a “family”. The message addressed to her voters is that she devotes her life to the whole society,” he stated. Ion Duminică considers the campaign message of Maia Sandu, “It’s the time of good people”, is positive and negative too as there is no filter for determining the good people.

The Agency published 4 news stories on the debate (see the English version of on 12.11.20, „Strong and weak points of two finalists. IPN debate” -; „Igor Boțan: Political culture in Moldova is favorable to candidate Igor Dodon” -; „Ion Duminica: It’s not clear how President – Parliament relationship will develop after elections” -; „Vlad Țurcanu about risks faced by candidates in runoff vote” -

Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN

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