Moldova: What Next for Pro-Russian Forces?

Political forces regroup after suffering punishing defeat in snap parliamentary elections.  

Moldova: What Next for Pro-Russian Forces?

Political forces regroup after suffering punishing defeat in snap parliamentary elections.  

Igor Dodon, the leader of the Socialist Party, and Vladimir Voronin, the leader of the Communist Party.
Igor Dodon, the leader of the Socialist Party, and Vladimir Voronin, the leader of the Communist Party. © Igor Dodon's official facebook page

For Vladislav, 68, a tractor driver from Criva village in Briceni county in the northern part of Moldova, voting against the pro-Russian electoral bloc last month was a hard choice.

"I have aged, and maybe it’s time for some younger people to lead the country. People who did not necessarily live our times during the Soviet Union," he said.

Vladislav explained that he had voted against his traditional political inclination because he hopes to see his two grandchildren more often. His daughter Natalia, 37, has lived and worked in Italy for many years, and he hopes she will come back to live in Moldova if the country takes a more pro-European direction.

The early parliamentary elections Moldova held in mid-July have left a bitter taste for pro-Russian political forces in Moldova, who suffered a pronounced defeat.

The Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists (BeCS), led by two former presidents Vladimir Voronin and Igor Dodon, gained only 32 seats out of 101.

Together with the Ilan Shor Party, the pro-Russian forces gathered only 38 mandates, leaving the pro-European Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) with a vast majority of 63 seats.

BeCS co-president Dodon announced on July 17 that their forces now had to merge into one strong entity.

"We must unify the centre-left parties, and the bloc we have created would be a good platform for further discussions," Dodon said during his weekly video blog.

He added that the elections had shown that the centre-left had excellent potential, mentioning Our Party, led by the populist mayor of Balti Renato Usatii - a businessman who has interests in Russia - and The Civic Congress led by the former communist and presidential adviser Mark Tkachuk. Usatii gained 4.1 per cent of the vote, and The Civic Congress won 0.77 per cent, which left them below the five percent electoral threshold.

"Therefore, it is necessary to unify and reform the centre-left forces to further enter into the political struggle. We are ready to propose a project in this regard, even this fall," Dodon concluded.

Valeriu Ostalep, a political analyst and former Moldovan vice-minister of foreign affairs, noted that the pro-Russian sector was experiencing significant problems.

"Dodon is down from every point of view,” he said. “Usatii and Tkachuk are demoralised, and about half of the Moldovan electorate is not represented.”

Ostalep argued that Russia’s involvement will no longer be as straightforward as in previous political manoeuvring.

"Now very few people on the left want their involvement in politics with these rules of theirs, as they worked with [illicit] money taken from who knows where," he said.

Ostalep suggested that BeCS might even try to use the breakaway region of Transnistria to destabilise the entire country, as Russia still keeps between 1,500 -2,000 soldiers on the left bank of the Dniester River.

Following the election, Russia made clear its opposition to the new pro-European power installed in Chisinau.

Russia will "strengthen the Transnistrian factor" if the Moldovan government chose an anti-Moscow line, senior Communist lawmaker Leonid Kalashnikov told the Interfax news agency the day after the elections.

"If Sandu continues to pursue an anti-Russian policy, skilfully hiding it under the disguise of alleged cooperation with Russia, it will be another fiasco…the country will not get out of this pit then," he continued.

Dodon and Voronin had put a decade of intense political rivalry behind them to unite for the elections, forming a common bloc with Moscow's blessing and under its close surveillance. The first vice-president of the Communist party in Russia , Kazbek Taisaev, described it as "a wise step meant to save Moldova".

In May, after the two men signed an agreement to fight the elections together, Dodon said that their alliance symbolised a union against common political opponents.

"Foreign factors, with the help of their political instruments in Chisinau, want to impose on citizens a set of pseudo-values, anti-family, anti-Christian, unsuitable for our nation. They also aim to liquidate the Moldovan identity," he warned at the time.

However, after the elections, Dodon promised that his bloc would serve as a "responsible opposition" and Socialist deputy Corneliu Furculita told Prime TV on July 20 that the pro-Russian opposition would be vigilant in holding the government to account.

"There are mechanisms, tools, including simple motions on ministers. We will call on ministers to report. They better prepare from now on, do their homework well, as they will come to parliament very often," Furculita said, adding that PAS ‘s signature anti-corruption policies "must not turn into a witch-hunt".

But PAS vice-president Vladimir Bolea argued that that Moldova’s entire future depended on the success of this current government. Economic improvement could allow the emergence of genuinely   left-wing parties and feed political diversity, as opposed to the current rigid system fuelled by Moscow.

"We had some so-called left-wing parties that primarily represented the pro-Russian geopolitical movement. They were not ideological parties but geopolitical parties," he continued. "Suppose PAS succeeds in modernising the country and recovering its economic situation. In that case, the left-wing parties will be equally or even less represented in the next legislative cycle after 2025."

This publication was prepared under the "Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project" implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.

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