Corruption and state capture by oligarchs are the biggest problems facing Moldovans today, despite efforts to portray the ongoing presidential election as a battle between east and west, the country’s former Prime Minister Ion Sturza said in an interview with bne IntelliNews on November 2.
The pro-Russian leader of the Moldovan Socialist Party, Igor Dodon, will face Maia Sandu, the candidate representing the pro-EU opposition, in the second round of the president election on November 13.
In the first round on October 30, Dodon took 47.98% of the vote - just short of the 50% needed to give him a first round victory - followed by Sandu on 38.71%. The third placed candidate, Partial Nostru’s Dumitru Ciubasenco, trailed with just 6.03%, according to the Central Election Commission.
Polls taken before the October 30 vote indicate Dodon is most likely to win the second round, as many voters are fed up with successive corrupt and ineffective pro-EU governments. In particular, the lack of action after around $1bn was stolen from three local banks has angered many within Moldova, especially after the parliament approved plans to repay the money from the public purse.
However, speaking to bne IntelliNews on the sidelines of the Foreign Investors Summit 2016 in Bucharest, Sturza indicated the result was not a foregone conclusion.
“It would appear from first analysis the Socialist candidate is more advanced, but we hope we can change this trend and for the pro-European candidate to win this election, which is very important for the future of this country,” he said.
While much has been made of the election’s role in determining whether Moldova will continue its path towards the EU or switch back towards Russia, Sturza considers this is a diversion from the real issues facing Moldovans.
“The biggest challenge for Moldova today is to fight corruption, oligarchs and to fight of course our poverty,” he said.
“Everybody tried to divert our discussions to geopolitical things but for normal people it doesn't matter if it's west or east, Europe or Russia. They want to live decent lives and not to be humiliated by oligarchs.”
Sturza was Moldova’s prime minister from February-November 1999 before quitting politics for business; he is currently the founder and chairman of private equity firm Fribourg Capital. He briefly contemplated a return to politics in 2015 when President Nicolae Timofti nominated him for prime minister, but he failed to gain support from MPs and Pavel Filip, a Democratic Party member close to oligarch Vlad Plahotnuic, was elected instead.
While ostensibly backing Sandu, Plahotnuic - who already has a high degree of control over both the parliament and the judiciary - is believed to be privately pushing for a victory for Dodon, who is rumoured to be an easier target for blackmail than his opponent. A victory for Dodon would therefore mean that Plahotnuic would have control over all Moldova’s key institutions.