Moldovan pro-EU opposition confirms Sandu as presidential candidate

Moldovan pro-EU opposition confirms Sandu as presidential candidate
By bne IntelliNews October 17, 2016

Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) leader Maia Sandu was confirmed as the sole presidential candidate of the pro-EU opposition at a press conference on October 15.

The announcement brings to an end lengthy speculation over whether Sandu or Dignity and Truth Platform (PPDA) leader Andrei Nastase would represent the pro-EU opposition in the October 30 presidential election. Polls indicate she will face the frontrunner - Socialist Party (PSRM) leader Igor Dodon - in the second round of voting. 

In a show of unity, Sandu and Nastase held a joint press conference on October 15 to confirm the decision. The two parties are supported by the Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM), which has not proposed own candidate but said it would back anyone picked by its two partners.

Previously it appeared that the two could fail to reach agreement and end up splitting the pro-EU vote by running separately. Instead, they have adhered to their original plan to field a single candidate to fight against both the pro-Russian opposition and the ruling coalition, which is suspected of involvement in the banking frauds that resulted in $1bn being siphoned off from three Moldovan banks.

Held in Nastase’s home village, the press conference has restored the unity of the two parties. Further efforts by the PPDA, which has a far more extensive grip on the masses across the country than the PAS, could boost Sandu’s score in in first round of the presidential elections scheduled for October 30. Nastase’s statements on October 15 indicate the PPDA will actively get involved in Sandu’s campaign.

Nastase also asked Sandu to include some of the main goals of the PPDA among her targets for the first year of her presidency should she be elected - including the holding of early elections as quickly as possible. 

The PPDA wants the issue of the $1bn stolen from the banking sector to be resolved through international investigations into the money siphoned off from and laundered through Moldova, stronger efforts to recover the money and prosecute those responsible, and the use of all legal means to avoid paying back the money from public funds. 

The party advocates a tough stance on corruption. It wants an independent head prosecutor to be appointed and for the National Anticorruption Centre (CAN), now part of the prosecution office, to be turned into a separate body similar to the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) in Romania. It also wants new rules on the transparency of mass media ownership and the elimination of monopolies.

Other firm goals of the PPDA include the increase of public pensions at least to subsistence levels and stimulation of foreign and local investments to create jobs. 

The move, just two weeks before the first round of the elections, consolidates Sandu’s position, though she still has to close a gap of roughly 7pp to catch up with Dodon. However, with only one pro-EU candidate, the ruling coalition holds little if any chance of seeing its candidate, Marian Lupu of the Democratic Party (PD) reaching the second round. 

The second official poll conducted for Moldova’s three pro-EU opposition parties by Konrad Adenauer Foundation showed that without Andrei Nastase, voters’ preferences would be Dodon - 33.40%, Sandu - 26.54% and just 12.20% for Lupu. 

The PD, the political vehicle of oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, reportedly prefers Dodon to Sandu as president. After abstaining from attacks against Sandu with the visible aim of promoting her rather than Nastase as the single pro-EU candidate, Plahotniuc’s party and its extensive media group is now expected to focus criticism against her. But even with Dodon as president, the ruling coalition would face hard times since the PSRM insists on early elections.  

A fourth party that had been part of the pro-EU opposition coalition, the European Popular Party of Moldova (PPEM) has nominated its leader, former Prime Minister Iurie Leanca as own presidential candidate. The transnational European Popular Party (EPP) leader Joseph Daul suggested Leanca support the sole pro-EU candidate, but PPEM leader refused to do so. Daul praised the unity of PPDA and PAS and strongly suggested PPEM – which is part of the EPP - follow the example of the two. However, in a Facebook post on October 15, Leanca claimed that he would be a far better president than any other pro-EU candidate.   


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