Pro-EU parties set to win majority in Moldova

By bne IntelliNews December 1, 2014

 

Prime Minister Iurie Leanca's pro-EU coalition in Moldova will win a narrow majority, according to estimates after 87.6% of the votes had been counted from the November 30 parliamentary elections, reported Publika.md

The three ruling parties received 44.4% of the votes – more than the combined scores of the Socialist (21.6%) and Communist (17.8%) parties.  Only five parties met the 6% electoral threshold so the pro-EU parties thus hold 53% of the total votes received by the five parliamentary parties, and will be earmarked 53 seats in the 101-seat single-chamber legislative body. 

The turnout in the November 30 ballot was 55.86%, lower than expected but well above the one third threshold for the validation of the ballot.

The pro-European coalition is thus likely to remain in office, but it might need the support of the Communists for passing constitutional laws and to elect the new president in March 2016, which could slow the process of EU integration. The coalition can endorse any law with 50% plus a one vote majority, except constitutional laws that might however be needed sporadically during the judicial reform process as part of European integration.

Under the current constitution, the president is elected by lawmakers with a minimum of 61 of the 101 votes. Direct election of the president is an option considered by lawmakers in Chisinau, in order to avoid deadlocks such as the one that happened in early 2012. 

An electoral bureau member, Stefan Uratu, quoted by NewsMoldova.md, said that there were problems in voting in Moscow and St Petersburg, where the number of voting stations was insufficient. The government sent only 15,000 voting papers to Russia, where live an estimated 600,000 Moldovans, the online news service informed. However, by the end of the day only 6,000 Moldovans voted in Russia, according to Romanian B1 TV station - compared to 15,000 in Italy and 10,000 in Romania.  Up to 800,000 or one third of the working age population is assumed to reside outside the country, one third irregularly, according to research by Nora Ratzmann of the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at Oxford University. 

The largest number of votes was received by the Socialist party (PS) led by Igor Dodon, which prefers the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union to joining the EU. Dodon pulled out from the traditional Communist party PC to form his own, more radical, leftist part, which is supported by Moscow in preference to the PC.

The PS would win, according to preliminary estimates, more than twice the 10 to 11 seats predicted by the Public Opinion Barometer poll conducted by the Institute of Public Policies. Notably, PS received more votes than the combined score of PS and Patria Party in the Barometer. 

The Supreme Court endorsed the elimination of Patria on November 26. Patria is accused of benefiting from illegal foreign (Russian) financing. Patria’s leader Renato Usatii has left the country but has already announced demonstrations. 

The two options – EU or the Russian-led Custom Union, are more or less equally supported by Moldovans, as revealed by polls. Broadly speaking, the older, conservative voters having experienced the Soviet-era period, are more inclined to stick with the Custom Union, while the younger voters who have travelled abroad and even worked in the EU tend to prefer European integration.

The choice is difficult as Moldova’s future EU membership is not yet officially discussed, while the Eurasian Economic Union will only come into force next year and is in the early stage of setting up its own institutions. Furthermore, the frozen conflict in the separatist region of Transnistria complicates Moldova's European integration. The breakaway region of Transnistria is entitled to make its own choice independently in case Moldova chooses to take formal steps toward EU or Nato membership, Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov stated in October. The Association Agreement signed by Moldova with the European Union, however,  covers the territory of Transnistria.

Moldova already took major steps toward European integration when it signed the Association Agreement with the EU earlier this year. The agreement has been already ratified by the European Parliament. But the hopes for further EU membership are underpinned only by an official note specifying that the agreement would not be the final step of the country’s integration process. The most committed advocate of Moldova’s EU membership, the senior ruling PLD party, set 2020 as the target accession year.

Moldova’s Nato membership is even more problematic since it requires prior amendment of the constitution, which states the country's military neutrality. The junior ruling party PLD advocates amending the constitution and joining Nato. However, the ruling coalition as a whole does not openly share such views, as confirmed by Prime Minister Iurie Leanca on November 27. Moldova should remain neutral and join no military block, he said in a statement that was probably aimed at avoiding taking radical stances before the parliamentary elections.

On the other side, joining the Eurasian Economic Union would be supported by the large number of Moldovans working in the Russian Federation, as well as older voters educated during the Soviet regime, and ethnic Russians themselves.

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