Between East and West – where does this leave the Republic of Moldova?
For a country that witnessed an anti-communist revolution in 2009, which signed the European agreement in 2014 and saw a pro-European coalition in governance for 5 years, the victory of the Socialists (same Communists in a refashioned party) was probably downright shocking. Yet, if the plebiscite proved memorable, it was because it divided people on an unprecedented level, making the prospects of Moldova joining the European Union hazier than ever before.
The uniqueness of this scrutiny also lies in the fact that it was completely unpredictable. Preceding elections saw the Communists and Socialists appealing to a largest group of supporters among the elders, the Russian minorities and the Northern regions, while the democratic parties saw consistent loyalty in big cities such as Chisinau and amongst youth and intellectuals. On this occasion, the Socialists had stolen even the capital from the liberals and democrats, gaining the largest share of votes. The capital which was previously considered the nest of democracy and progress in Moldova, the city which was European in outlook and has always elected liberal mayors in the last decades has voted for the party that deems European Union dangerous and regards Russia’s invasion of Ukraine acceptable.
At first glance, it might not be that hard to understand why the Socialist, Communist and other pro-Russian parties were elected by the majority of the citizens. Their allegiance to Putin and his aggressive foreign policy enthused the Russian minorities, those who still long for the Soviet Union and those who reject the European values. Moreover, a fair amount of votes given to the pro-Russian parties represented an outcry of protest against the pro-European parties which have been governing Moldova for the past five years. The pro-liberal media and bloggers, quite straightforwardly labeled electors as brain-washed and ignorant, pointing to a government which failed to deliver the changes it promised. Moldovans had the chance of signing an agreement with the European Union and set the country on its course of European integration, but they still face the internal problems such as corruption within the judicial system in Moldova, and an economy surviving mainly due to the remittances sent by emigrants from abroad. The European Union remains a distant dream for certain political groups, youth and intellectuals. In the context of the country’s long-term development, Moldova’s people desire a government building onto a coherent economy, a reformed judicial system, a reformed police system, an improved educational and medical system. Changes were initiated and many failed in the process, whilst others simply became dismissed or ignored. Much evidence involving pro-European politicians being involved in crime and corrupt schemes is often deliberately concealed. The pro-European government might have had the unique chance to open the discussion with the European authorities and brighten the prospects of this country’s future, but it has failed to intervene in the domestic problems which hinder the country’s internal progress.
In spite of the majority of votes gained by the Socialist Party, if pro-European parties will join in yet another coalition, they will be able to govern again due to their joint number of seats acquired in the Parliament. The country has afforded them a second chance and probably the last one, for their members to finally leave aside their personal interests and act according to their party manifestos and deliver the changes promised during the electoral campaign. It is still the case that the Socialist and the Communist Parties have a large number of seats in the Parliament which might pose a serious problem in two years’ time when a new president will be elected. For the time being, the pro-European coalition obtained another mandate from the people to govern, to implement reforms and to firmly settle Moldova’s path to European integration. In a statement issued by Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, the EU declared itself willing to stand ready and continue its close cooperation with the Republic of Moldova on its path towards more transparency, rule of law and a stronger market economy.
The times ahead will certainly prove bitter and demanding for the coalition, given that their mistakes led to the opposition winning over a large share of seats in Parliament. It is certain that the Socialists will claim their victory in the elections every time an argument takes place in the legislature, hence always pressuring the coalition into affecting political change. The scene is set for a tumultuous political future; while the new formed pro-European coalition will be initiating monumental reforms and changes in order to gain back the confidence of their electors, the pro-Russian parties will coagulate into a strong opposition in the Parliament and will attack any law proposal, vigorously opposing any attempt to further negotiate with the EU. The only factor which is worse than a consistent gridlock in the legislative process is the stark division that a small country like Moldova is witnessing. More than half of the population believes that Moldova should adhere to the Russian standards while the other half simply voted in favour of the pro-European parties due to fear that Moldova will submerge again to Russian influence and not necessarily because the liberal-democratic parties won over their confidence. In times of strong support for the Socialist and Communist parties and shaky approval of pro-European affiliations, one is yet to witness the path on which this country embarks.