Early parliamentary elections in Moldova opened a new page in the country’s political development.
For the first time in history, a stable pro-Western and pro-European mono-majority will emerge in Chisinau, while EU and US could unblock external support for Moldova.
President Maia Sandu’s party garnered an unexpected 52% of the vote, more than anticipated, and won a stable parliamentary majority. Thus, Sandu finally concentrated almost all the power in her hands for the first time since 2019. The only thing she lacks is a constitutional majority, and Sandu will have to conduct extremely awkward negotiations in such votes.
The other two parties that entered the Parliament are quite toxic to both Sandu’s electorate and political negotiations with them. These are her main opponents: the left-wing bloc of socialists and communists and the notorious populist party SHOR led by businessman Ilan Shor, who was put on an international wanted list for stealing as much as a billion dollars from Moldovan banks.
Although these elections proved a victory for pro-Western forces in Moldova, they posed certain challenges that Sandu and her government will now have to overcome in order to stay in office and not to lose their rating based on the exaggerated expectations of their electorate, which voted for pro-Western party because of the hope for changes in quality of life, conditional “improvement,” rather than for any specific ideology.
The President of Moldova and her team immediately face several obstacles.
The first is a toxic and irreconcilable political opposition with which Sandu is unlikely to find common ground or even reach situational agreements without significant reputational damage.
The second is a staff shortage. State institutions in Moldova are inefficient, weak, and often criticised for corruption and excessive bureaucracy. To change this, reformers are needed to lay the foundations for long-term, phased transformations that will ensure a smooth transition to the new system of government and will not repulse people.
Sandu’s team does not have many specialists, and a high rating will force her to act faster and resort to tactical popular steps rather than unpopular profound reforms.
The third obstacle is the lack of division of responsibility for the decisions made. Since Sandu’s Party of Action and Solidarity secured a mono-majority, they will have to bear “mono-responsibility” for all their actions, not only make decisions single-handedly.
Plans to involve representatives of other parties, such as the right-wing Dignity and Truth platform led by Andrei Nastase, which did not make it to the Parliament, failed. Therefore, Sandu and her team will be alone in the government and will have nobody to share the responsibility with.
The fourth obstacle is external factors. Of course, the elections in Moldova were the West’s tactical victory but this does not mean that the country will aim openly at a pro-Western vector. After all, more than a third of the population is a pro-Russian, Moscow-oriented electorate that Sandu cannot simply ignore.
In addition, it should be noted that the left-wing opposition forces lost not because Russia’s influence on Moldova diminished or because people despaired of Russia but rather because of low turnout: many Socialist and Communist voters did not come to the polling stations.
This means that the elections in Moldova, in and of themselves, do NOT bring any changes to Chisinau’s foreign policy. Sandu will be forced to talk to both her Western partners and Russia, and many fundamental decisions, such as the situation in Transnistria, will be made by external players.
For Ukraine, the elections in Moldova turned out to be a positive event as they create opportunities for further development of bilateral relations now that the President, the Government, and the Parliament will be politically and ideologically closer to Kyiv.
However, Ukraine must take advantage of this to get closer to Moldova, intensify diplomacy on the Transnistrian track, and help the country break away from Russia’s sphere of influence.
Iliya Kusa, UIF international politics expert