Moldova will hold early parliamentary elections on July 11, and President Maia Sandu signed a respective decree on April 28. The Moldovan leader's decision is known to have been sparked by a "constitutional coup" in which parliamentarians led by pro-Russian politician Igor Dodon illegally changed the composition of Moldova's Constitutional Court to maintain their political positions. Sandu managed to block the work of judges in their new illegal composition and, in fact, to dissolve parliament and call new elections.
Currently, Moldovan society is actively discussing whether the country's pro-European course will remain unchanged after the elections, or whether the country will "turn" towards Russia.
The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Republic of Moldova, historian Marko Shevchenko, spoke in an exclusive interview with Ukrinform about the political mood in Moldova, about a future coalition and about the development of relations with Ukraine after the elections.
THERE ARE MORE MOLDOVANS WHO SUPPORT PRO-EUROPEAN VECTOR OF THEIR COUNTRY'S DEVELOPMENT
Question: Mr. Ambassador, do you see any factors in the election campaign pointing to a possible victory of pro-Western forces in Moldova?
Answer: At the end of 2020, during the presidential election in Moldova, most voters cast their ballots for Ms. Maia Sandu, who spoke under slogans from the pro-European agenda. This year's opinion polls show that the number of citizens who support this vector of the development of the Republic of Moldova is now greater than the number of those who hold the opposite opinion.
At the same time, simple arithmetic laws rarely apply in politics. In particular, the real election winners are usually political parties and blocs that form a majority in parliament and appoint their own government.
Question: What political parties and blocs are leading in the election campaign?
Answer: The main election struggle in Moldova is currently unfolding between pro-European forces, left-wing pro-Russian parties and populists. The pro-European Action and Solidarity Party is in the lead in all ratings. On the other hand, left-wing parties and populists, although less popular than [the Action and Solidarity Party], have the experience of close "friendship against" the incumbent Moldovan president, Maia Sandu, in parliament. On their side is also powerful Russian propaganda, and its activity has not been limited at all in Moldova since the end of 2020.
Question: Votes at polling stations abroad were decisive during the last presidential election. Should this factor be expected to work this time too?
Answer: Yes, experience shows that all electoral calculations will not be realistic if the factor of the Moldovan diaspora is not taken into account (its sentiments are not reflected in opinion polls). The votes of foreign Moldovans were decisive for Maia Sandu's victory in November 2020. And now the main question is whether Moldovan voters abroad will demonstrate on July 11 a level of electoral mobilization similar to the one they showed in the fall of 2020.
CONFIGURATION OF MOLDOVA'S NEW PARLIAMENT AND GOVERNMENT DEPENDS ON MANY FACTORS
Question: Do you have a forecast as to which parties are most likely to join the new coalition after the July 11 elections?
Answer: Opinion polls now do not give any unambiguous answer to even a simpler question: how many parties will be able to send their representatives to the Moldovan parliament? Therefore, independent observers have different views on whether a one-party pro-European government could be formed in Moldova, as well as on a possible coalition and its configuration.
There is also no answer to the question of whether Moldovan left-wing and populist parties will get enough votes to block the legislative initiatives of the pro-European government in the event of its creation.
Will the deputies stop "migrating" between factions on the basis of some behind-the-scenes agreements in the new Moldovan parliament? Have political parties managed to compile their voter lists well enough to protect themselves from such a phenomenon? These are just some of the questions and the answer to them will influence the configuration of the future government in the Republic of Moldova.
UKRAINE AND MOLDOVA WILL CONTINUE TO SUPPORT EACH OTHER
Question: Under what scenarios can Moldova's relations with Ukraine develop after the elections?
Answer: Most citizens in both countries are in favor of the European direction of their development. The interests of both Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova on the international stage and in the security sphere largely coincide. We unequivocally support each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty. On a bilateral level, we have no contradictions that would be impossible to overcome.
Therefore, regardless of the domestic political situation, the further development of Ukrainian-Moldovan relations will evolve according to a positive scenario. There is no doubt that Ukraine and Moldova will continue to support each other on the international stage, in particular on the path to European integration, develop economic cooperation and trade, tourism and human relations, and implement joint infrastructure projects.
I am also confident that we will also continue our close cooperation on the Transnistrian settlement and various aspects of international and regional security. And, of course, I hope that Moldova will take an active position in a new format initiated by Ukraine - the Crimea Platform. In general, I am optimistic about the future of Ukrainian-Moldovan relations.
Question: What is changing in the approach of the new political elite in Moldova to relations with Ukraine?
Answer: Earlier this year, the presidents of Ukraine and Moldova declared their intention to restart relations between the two countries. After that, the pro-Russian part of Moldovan politicians criticized Maia Sandu for allegedly anti-Russian elements among these intentions. Instead, these plans aroused keen interest among normal thinkers and even somewhat inflated expectations. This became clear only recently when they began to say that a reboot was announced, but where is the promised groundbreaking move forward?
When I hear such remarks, I explain that progress in itself requires the daily, persistent and inconspicuous work of civil servants and diplomats. It is possible to overcome the inertia of certain indifference in recent years only by making efforts on both sides at the same time. This is especially difficult in the face of personal uncertainty among officials at various levels in Moldova, where the government resigned in December 2020, but many leaders, appointed under former President Igor Dodon, remain in office (as acting heads).
It is clear that in such circumstances many issues still have to be resolved, such as the agreement on the construction of the Yampil- Cosauti bridge. But despite all the above, I believe that shortly after the parliamentary elections, the Moldovan parliament will appoint a new government, with which we will be able to resolve all issues relatively quickly.
Russian propaganda in Moldova trying to create new disagreements
Question: How significant is the influence of the Russian Federation on the situation in Moldova today?
Answer: Moscow currently has a serious influence on all spheres of life in this country. Russian propaganda is tirelessly and ingeniously trying to fan old disagreements and create new ones. The Russian Federation controls the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova, where a large group of Russian troops subordinated to the Western Military District of the Russian Federation (with all the consequences for the security of both Moldova and Ukraine) is stationed. Political forces that advocate the closest possible relations with the Russian Federation and in whose favor the entire Russian propaganda machine in Moldova works 24/7 remain prominent on the political stage. Russian capital maintains a strong position in the economy of the Republic of Moldova, controlling a number of important industries, including energy.
Question: Despite the Russian influence and the upcoming elections, what forecast for the development of Moldova is the most realistic in the near future?
Answer: I would like to return to where we started this interview. At the end of last year, Moldova preferred the pro-European president, who is making incredible efforts to ensure that life in the country starts changing for the better. We now have reason to hope that our neighbors will soon have a parliament with a pro-European majority capable of launching an ambitious reform agenda announced by President Maia Sandu. The first results of this persistent work to eradicate corruption, improve the justice system, address social issues, etc. will be the best arguments that will make Moldovan citizens not look back at the Soviet past imposed by Russian propaganda, but look confidently to the European future.
Volodymyr Lyvynskyi, Kyiv – Chisinau
Photos from open sources