Seven candidates had already been announced for the Moldovan presidential elections by August 31, the first day of the registration period. They include candidates from most of the main political groupings, and include four pro-EU candidates.
There were no surprises, except maybe for the pro-EU parties’ failure to agree on a joint candidate for the October 30 election, giving an advantage to rivals like Socialist leader Igor Dodon and Dumitru Ciubasenco of Partidul Nostru. Six of the seven are already registered, and more may step forward by the end of the period, but none that will significantly change the overall picture.
The pro-European parties Dignity and Truth (DA) and Social Action (PAS) have both made nominations, going back on promises unite behind a single candidate. Charismatic former Minister of Education Maia Sandu (PAS) and activist Andrei Nastase (DA) have both registered for the elections. In principle, they could support each other if one of them qualifies for the second ballot. But their failure to agree from the very beginning diminishes the impact on the electorate of such mutual support afterwards.
Two other pro-EU candidates, Iurie leanca and Mihai Ghimpu, also registered on August 31. Their candidacy will further diminish the odds of Nastase and Sandu, who have similar political views and more support among voters.
Ghimpu is the only one of the four pro-EU candidates who has spoken out in favour of Moldova’s unification with Romania. However, he has presented himself as a “right-wing candidate” not stressing his unionist views, as these are not likely make him particularly popular. Support for re-unification was around 20%-30% when measured last year, but the topic is gaining prominence after recent controversial statements by US Ambassador James Pettit. However, the main topic of the electoral debates is likely to remain corruption and, to lesser extent, the external orientation of the country towards Europe or Russia.
Aside from the four pro-EU candidates, the pro-Russian Socialist party appointed his president Dodon for the presidential race. This came as no surprise since Dodon leads in the polls. He is definitely likely to qualify for the second ballot and holds solid chances of eventually winning the election. As president, he is expected to seriously challenge the fragile ruling coalition dominated by the Democratic Party and officially coordinated by controversial oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc. Capitalising on voters’ sentiment against corruption (rather than pro-Russian sentiment), Dodon could force early elections possibly starting a major political crisis. Externally, Dodon wants to moderate Moldova’s pro-EU actions and tighten ties with Russia.
Balti mayor and Partidul Nostru leader Renato Usatii will not be able to stand for election as he is too young, but his party has nominated Ciubasenco, who promised to dissolve the parliament immediately after he wins the presidential elections. Similar plans, although in a more moderate tone, were expressed by the Dodon. Ciubasenco could benefit from the failure to pick a single pro-EU candidate.
The final candidate is Marian Lupu, president of the senior ruling Democratic Party (PDM), who has been nominated by his party but is not yet formally registered. Despite the power gained by his party in parliament, Lupu is unlikely to win and will perhaps not even qualify for the second ballot.
Moldova will hold direct presidential elections on October 30, after the Constitutional Court invalidated an amendment to the electoral law that has resulted in indirect elections of the president since 2000. The court’s decision avoided a major political crisis, since no two-thirds majority was likely to be formed by the time President Niculae Timofti’s term expired on March 24. Timofti has acted as interim president since his term expired.
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