Ruling party candidate drops out of Moldova's presidential race

Ruling party candidate drops out of Moldova's presidential race
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest October 26, 2016

The candidate of Moldova’s senior ruling Democratic Party (PD) for the presidency, Marian Lupu, announced on October 26 he is withdrawing from the race and will support the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) candidate Maia Sandu.

The withdrawal comes just days before the presidential elections scheduled for the end of the week and is very surprising considering pro-EU opposition candidate Sandu is a harsh critic of the government and of oligarch Vlad Plahotnic, who is the coordinator of the ruling coalition and informal leader of the PD. The announcement also raises questions about whether Sandu will benefit from this situation, considering the lack of popularity the PD has in the country.

Although she might win some votes from Lupu’s supporters, she might lose others from Plahotniuc’s critics who have supported her so far. However, Sandu rejected the PD’s support which she called “a poisoned apple”.

At the same time, Moldovan press claimed that the candidate of the European Popular Party of Moldova (PPEM), former Prime Minister Iurie Leanca, could also withdraw from the race.

At a press briefing, Lupu said he would also support Sandu as she stood more chances of defeating the pro-Russian leader of the Socialist Party, Igor Dodon, in the second round. “Moldova has to continue on its European path,” Lupu said. “Moldova needs a pro-European president, who will work with the parliament and the government, not to start new wars and political crises. The future president has to be a balancing factor in the internal politics and a good promoter beyond the borders."

He also claimed that recent analysis has shown that the election of a joint candidate of the pro-EU opposition has not generated the expected results and has strengthened the left instead of strengthening the right.

Sandu was confirmed as the sole presidential candidate of the pro-EU opposition earlier in October, being supported by the Dignity and Truth Platform (PPDA) and the Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM).

Lupu added that after analysing the situation, the PD had reached the conclusion Sandu had more chances of defeating Dodon in the second round.

“PD’s objective is not to win an electoral race, PD’s objective is that elections are won by the pro-European candidate who stands the biggest chance in the second round,” Lupu said.

A recent poll carried out by Intellect Group showed that Dodon would get 31.4% of the votes and Sandu would come next with 14.8% backing in the first round. While support for Dodon has fallen by almost 2pp, Sandu’s popularity has increased on average by 3pp. Sandu would have been followed by Lupu with 13.9% backing.

In a Facebook post, Sandu rejected PD’s “false” support, calling it a “desperate move which confirms that Dodon is the candidate Plahotniuc wants.”

“PD has decided to clean its image by declaring this false support for me. With this poisoned apple, Plahotniuc wants to help, in fact, Dodon. Being supported by Plahotniuc and promoted by his media holding has the sole purpose to compromise me,” Sandu said. She expressed her hope that Moldovan citizens would understand what was behind “this dirty game.”

“Neither me nor the Moldovans need Plahotniuc’s support. The people will know how to make the right choice,” she added.

PPDA leader Andrei Nastase also said he considered that Lupu’s backing was false and the aim of the PD was to support Dodon.

“It is true that his gesture was poisoned and cowardly. Why? Because behind this decision is Plahotniuc’s and PD’s interest to support for the presidential post their comrade Igor Dodon, who is convenient, controllable and easy to blackmail,” Nastase said, according

On the other hand, Dodon claimed that the PD’s decision was part of a scenario “directed by the Americans, which ends with all pro-governmental and pro-European forces into one electoral platform.”

Meanwhile, a decision is also expected from the PPEM's candidate Leanca as the Moldovan press is speculating that he might also withdraw. “We have discussed the surprising decision of Marian Lupu, which reconfigures the political spectrum and the positioning of all the candidates. A final decision regarding the future steps will be made tomorrow, taking into consideration the citizens’ interests,” Leanca wrote on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Renato Usatii has confirmed that his party, the influential pro-Russian Partidul Nostru, will back Dodon if its own candidate Dumitru Ciubașenco fails to make it to the second round of the election.