In the Republic of Moldova, October was marked, first of all, by the expectation of the presidential elections scheduled for November 1, as well as by the official start of the pre-election race, while the rest of the news feeds faded into the background or were used for the candidates’ PR activities. The already low level of pre-election rhetoric fell even lower: in the process, the registered participants switched to deaf and cynical tone and reproaches against each other.
Waiting for the outcomes
The Central Election Commission announced the rules for the presidential elections in Moldova in the context of the pandemic. The CEC chairman of the Republic of Moldova, Dorin Chmil, specified that on November 1 all polling stations in the country would be equipped with protective and disinfecting equipment, and officials would comply with the rules established by the National Commission of Public Health. He added that 8 million lei (about $500 thousand) worth protective equipment, such as face masks, gloves, disinfectants for hands and surfaces, protective screens, thermometers, suits, were purchased for 2,143 polling stations.
In light of the events in Belarus, the presidential candidate Igor Dodon, on his YouTube channel, stated that “our security officials have enough resources to deter Maidan”. He also added that “We do not have the protest potential like Belarus. Unless it is brought from abroad, it will not take place. I do not believe in destabilization and “maidans” with no external actors’ geopolitical support. Otherwise, with a strong government in the country, any attempt to destabilize the situation will lead nowhere”.
The independent candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Dodon, did not respond to the invitation and did not come to the debate, organized on October 27 by Maia Sandu, his opponent from the Action and Solidarity party.
Meanwhile, a former ally in the AKUM bloc, and now a presidential candidate, Andrei Nastase, suggested that Maia Sandu should withdraw from the election race in his favor and received a logical refusal. Nastase’s ratings leave him an extremely vague chance of reaching the second round.
While the rest of the presidential candidates were engaged in the usual campaigning, the Shor Party technologies did not stand still. In their promo video, the party chairman Ilan Shor virtually returned to the streets of Orhei. Ilan Shor, sentenced to 7.5 years for fraud, is now hiding in Israel, while the Court of Appeal has been considering an appeal against his sentence, for the third year now. Meanwhile, in the video, Shor is talking to Violeta Ivanov, his party’s presidential candidate. Earlier, during the event where Violeta Ivanov was officially presented as a candidate for the presidency, the leader of the Shor party also appeared virtually on the human-size screen.
On October 21, Bogdan Tirdea, an MP from the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova, presented his new book “Сivil Society of Moldova: Sponsors. NGO-cracy. Culture wars”. The deputy writes there about the “postmodern army” funded from abroad, the “Soros network” of nongovernmental organizations and compares the budgets of public organizations with the budgets of hospitals.
In this context, the Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Moldova, Peter Michalco, reacted to the attacks against the civil society, and noted that he is “alarmed by the rude, unfounded and malicious attacks on the civil society and independent media in the Republic of Moldova”.
The Eastern Partnership National Civil Society Platform released a public document expressing its concern about this situation and calling for an end to the attacks on the civil society. The document was signed by all 92 member organizations.
“The European Union and relevant international organizations should closely monitor the situation in the Republic of Moldova”
No new restrictions due to COVID-19. But it is not certain
He noted that the suspension of “economic activity in April-May hit the economy very seriously.” Igor Dodon also emphasized that “in the second quarter of this year, we had a decline in GDP by 14%, and in general for the first half of this year – minus 8%.” According to him, an unprecedented drought has also hit Moldova this year. “We received a loan from the IMF this year to support the economy. Our balanced foreign policy and our pragmatism are yielding concrete results. Also, the Russian Federation was always there and helped. We are considering the possibility of supplying grain from Russia for the state reserve. Anyway, for today the food security of Moldova is ensured,” added Igor Dodon.
However, these statements are more likely of a pre-election context and are intended to show that “the situation is under control”. Given the growth in the number of people infected with COVID-19 in the Republic of Moldova, it is possible that after the elections (and possibly after the second round), the authorities will announce new restrictions and follow the example of the European countries.
The Ministry of Finance of Moldova and the European Commission signed an agreement on gratuitous financing of the Republic of Moldova for €9 million. According to the Infotag news agency, the funds are for the project “Fund to support healthcare system response to COVID-19 emergency and reforms under the Moldova-EU Association Agreement”.
The document consists of four components: strengthening the capacity of the health system to respond to the emergency situation due to COVID-19 (€5 million), strengthening oversight capacity, corporate governance and risk management in the financial sector (€2 million), strengthening the rule of law, justice and security (€1 million), capacity building and resilience of local media (€1 million).
In the hope of a good outcome
The European Union and relevant international organizations should closely monitor the situation in the Republic of Moldova, as the presidential elections, scheduled for November 1, will be a real “test of democracy and the rule of law,” the European Parliament said in a statement.
On October 20, the European Parliament adopted a report with assessment of the implementation of the Association Agreement between the EU and the Republic of Moldova, with 554 votes in its favor, 70 against it and 65 abstentions from voting. The text reaffirms the EU’s commitment to support the “European path” through the political association, economic integration, and reforms. The text also emphasizes“ “Moldova’s constructive contribution to cooperation within the Eastern Partnership framework”.
MEPs also call on the Moldovan authorities to ensure “free and fair” elections and to continue improving the relevant electoral legislation. The Moldovan authorities should also refrain from changing rules and regulations for political gain,“ “which will always end in political unrest and instability affecting commitment to structural reforms,” the European Parliament said in a report.
Igor Dodon did not come to the debate at the invitation of Maya Sandu.