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Serious Changes Await Moldova With Election Of Maya Sandu As President – Analysis

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The Constitutional Court of Moldova has appointed its session for December 10, where it will consider the issue of approving the results of the presidential elections held in November.

According to Art. 122 of the Election Code, the Constitutional Court issues an opinion on the compliance or non-compliance of elections with the law within ten days after receiving documents from the CEC, but not earlier than the final resolution of complaints by the courts in accordance with the procedures established by law.

In the second round of elections, which took place on November 15, the leader of the pro-European Action and Solidarity Party, former Prime Minister Maia Sandu, won 57.72% of the vote, while the incumbent President Igor Dodon received 42.28%. His term expires on December 23. The inauguration of the new president is scheduled for December 24.

Meanwhile, Maia Sandu has already made several high-profile statements. In particular, she called Moldova’s debt to Russia for gas, the total amount of which is about $ 7.5 billion, “dishonest.”

“On the right bank [of the Dniester river], we have practically no debts to Gazprom, because we pay and we have paid all these years. But on the left bank of the Dniester they have not paid for gas and they have a very large debt. Of course, we cannot pay this debt. It would be unfair and dishonest,” she said.

In addition, the politician advocated the withdrawal of the Operational Group of Russian Forces (OGRF) from Transnistria, as well as the replacement of Russian peacekeepers with a civilian observer mission under the auspices of the OSCE.

“In Transnistria there is an operational group of troops of the Russian Federation, regarding which there have never been agreements on the part of Moldova. Therefore, the position of the state is that these troops should be withdrawn, and weapons should be removed from the territory of our country. […] Due to the fact that there has been no danger of armed clashes for a long time, the position of the Moldovan side is that this [peacekeeping] mission should be transformed into a civilian mission under the auspices of the OSCE,” Maia Sandu stated.

Commenting on her words, the press secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov indicated that a change in the status quo could lead to the destabilization of the situation in the region.

“Russia is playing an important role and any changes in the status quo, which is based on the letter and spirit of international law, may lead to a serious destabilization,” the Kremlin spokesman pointed out.

“We expect that all this will be discussed and no drastic moves will be made in this regard,” he added.

OGRV numbering about a thousand soldiers and officers is located in Transnistria. They are involved in conducting a peacekeeping operation and providing security for warehouses in the village of Kolbasna, where there are over 20 thousand tons of ammunition, brought there after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from European countries.

Russian Blue Helmets were brought into the war zone on 29 July 1992 in accordance with the agreement on the principles of peaceful settlement of the armed conflict in the Transnistrian region, signed on 21 July 1992 by the presidents of the Russian Federation and Moldova in the presence of the leader of Transnistria. They are currently maintaining peace in the dividing security zone along the Dniester, together with the peacekeepers of Moldova, Transnistria and a group of military observers from Ukraine.

Analyzing potential changes in Moldovan policy under the new leader, Anatoly Dirun, Scientific Leader, Tiraspol School of Political Studies, noted that the election of Maia Sandu will strengthen the vector for European integration.

“The new president received carte blanche from the Moldovan voters to carry out a whole package of reforms. Of course, as president, Maia Sandu will strengthen interaction with regional structures within the framework of GUAM [a regional organization created by Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova in 1997], will restore relations with Ukraine and strengthen dialogue with Bucharest. But at the same time, the new president will avoid geopolitical discussions with her opponents, justifying her steps primarily by the national interests of Moldova, and not by the desire to resist Russia,” the expert said.

According to him, the pressure of Chisinau on Tiraspol will significantly increase.

“There will be pressure on the big business of Transnistria represented by the Sheriff firm, which today controls the situation in the republic as a whole. Sandu will try to make the best of the regional situation, namely the ‘Ukrainian factor,’ for imposing political conditions on the settlement of the situation by Transnistria. We will soon see what will come of this. While she has to resolve some internal problems, Tiraspol has a little time to consolidate its position,” Anatoly Dirun added.

Vincent Henry, expert of Paris-Est University and Babes-Bolyai University in Romania, expressed the opinion that the victory of Maia Sandu was not a surprise, but her very good percentage was less expected.

“Maia Sandu has a pool of around 33 % of voters who are very favourable to a closer relationship with the European Union, and she also made her best scores within the Moldovan diaspora in Europe. She also benefited from a strong rejection of Igor Dodon. The latter had all the powers in hand but did not show much apart from empty rhetoric. Dodon has also shown a mysogynistic coarseness towards his opponent that has not been appreciated in a country that aspires to real change and is rapidly evolving socially and culturally. His disastrous management of the health crisis further aggravated the mistrust towards him. He is also suffering from new revelations about his complicity with the oligarch Plahotniuc who has been on the run since 2019. Everyone understood that their opposition of previous years, one playing the pro-Russian politician, the other the pro-Western, was nothing but political theatre intended to eliminate their main competitor, Maia Sandu,” he said.

Answering the question about the likelihood of Moldova joining Romania, Vincent Henry stressed that at the moment it is very low.

“The subject is not discussed in Romania and nothing is prepared in this regard as the subject is no longer of much interest to Romanians, especially among the younger generations. The majority of Moldovans does not ask for union with Romania, the few unionist candidates who ran in the last elections obtained only a few percent of the votes. Maia Sandu has never really taken a stand on the issue, she is the candidate supported by the European Union and European capitals are very reluctant to change borders. Today and even if the issue comes up in the debate regularly, especially in moments of crisis, it is not a hypothesis that is seriously taken into account. The choice of Maia Sandu was simply not made on the question of a hypothetical union,” the expert explained.

He also drew particular attention to the results of other participants in the presidential race, stressing that a quarter of Moldovans voted for candidates “with a strange past who promise to overthrow the system”: Renato Usatii, who was put on the international wanted list by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs for organizing a criminal community, won 17% of the votes, and Violeta Ivanova, who represents the party and the interests of Ilan Shor, the former mayor of the city of Orhei, who found himself at the center of high-profile corruption and political scandals in Chisinau and fled abroad, got 6,5% of the votes.

“In these conditions, Moldovan political life is still likely to be very animated and uncertain,” Vincent Henry suggested.

In turn, Armand Gosu, Associate Professor, Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Bucharest, noted that by electing Maia Sandu, people voted for reforms and the fight against corruption.

“However, the President of Moldova has limited powers – this institution has less weight in the power structure. Therefore, Sandu insists on the need to hold early parliamentary elections. The current parliament is elected under a controversial electoral code drawn up by former oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc. It was a mixed system – single mandates and voting for lists. The voting for lists, which Maia Sandu prefers, with the lowering of the electoral threshold, would more accurately reflect the preferences of the electorate,” the expert said.

He also shared the opinion that the union of Moldova and Romania is impossible at this historical stage.

“Today, after 30 years of Moldovan statehood, when Moldovan political leaders, who are in favor of reunification, gain 3% in elections, such a scenario is difficult to imagine. Moldovan public opinion will take time to forget that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bucharest supported the oligarch Plahotniuc, the most hated politician in Moldova, until the last second,” Armand Gosu said, adding that the project of reunification with Moldova was never seriously discussed in Romania.

Speaking about Transnistria, he expressed hope that the new president, after reforming the prosecutor’s office and the judicial system, “will be able to eliminate criminal schemes,” which “will lead to the collapse of the separatist regime.”

“In recent years, Ukraine has also shown greater interest in this dossier, and cooperation between Kiev and Chisinau will significantly limit smuggling through Transnistria. Of course, Sandu will be able to mobilize the Western capitals to become more involved in the search for a political solution to the Transnistrian conflict. But if Russia failed to advance its vision of the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict when Dodon was the president, it will be much more difficult to achieve this with Maia Sandu,” Armand Gosu said.

Meanwhile, political analyst Andrei Safonov is confident that the new President of Moldova will not be able to resolve the Transnistrian issue in the way she sees it.

“Maia Sandu considers Transnistria as part of a unitary Moldova, but Transnistrians voted for independence in a referendum. She advocates the rapprochement of Transnistria as part of a unitary Moldova with the EU and Romania and the withdrawal of Russian troops, however, the Transnistrians are committed to the alliance with Russia and the Eurasian integration project, and also advocate the timeless presence of Russian troops on the territory of Transnistria,” the expert explained.

“These approaches are mutually exclusive. The real way out in such a situation is to maintain the military-political status quo and settle non-political issues, for example, in the field of transport, freedom of cargo and passenger flows, economy, ecology, and so on. If Chisinau takes into account the realities, then it will be possible to find mutually acceptable solutions. But if the opinion that Russia can be squeezed out and Transnistria can be subdued prevails, then the tension on the Dniester, of course, can increase,” Andrei Safonov said.

In his opinion, Maia Sandu is a more pro-American and pro-Romanian politician than all previous Moldovan leaders, except for the leadership of the country’s parliament in the early 1990s.

“Now the foreign policy of Moldova and the actions of the new leader will definitely become more pro-Western and pro-Romanian. Another thing is how much more radical and adventurous this policy will become. There may be different options,” the political scientist noted.

He also drew attention to the weak position of Igor Dodon, who was unable to mobilize his supporters even in Russia to come to the polling stations, calling it a “real political failure.”

“Now the battle will begin for the new composition of the country’s parliament. It will be as important as the battle for the presidency was, since Moldova is a parliamentary republic. If Sandu manages to get a majority there, then the policy of Chisinau will lose its balance. If not, a ‘trench war’ will begin again between pro-Westerners and pro-Romanians on the one hand, and those who take into account Moldova’s ties with Russia, on the other,” Andrei Safonov concluded.

Source: https://penzanews.ru/en/analysis/66927-2020

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