Moldova’s ruling pro-EU party wins local elections but loses big cities

Moldova’s ruling pro-EU party wins local elections but loses big cities
Defeated PAS candidate Lilian Carp with supporters. Carp was beaten in the race for the Chisinau mayor post by incumbent Ion Ceban. / PAS
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest November 7, 2023

Moldova’s ruling pro-EU Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) achieved the best results among all parties in the local elections held on November 5, party leader Ion Chicu announced upon the release of preliminary results.

But the performance, skewed towards small rural localities rather than big urban ones, is totally atypical for a relatively new, modern party that supposedly relies on highly educated young voters.

The pattern can be explained by the migration of incumbent mayors with significant credibility to PAS before or on the occasion of the local elections, with the aim of getting central authorities’ support and financing — and not for their particular political commitment.

PAS campaigned on a pro-EU platform with the slogan ‘Team Europe’.

“We thank all the citizens who voted for Team Europe! … The citizens have chosen the European way! We have no other way! We are moving forward to European Moldova!” the party wrote on Facebook on November 6, urging Moldovans to turn out and vote in the second round of the elections on November 19. 

However, Ion Ceban, a former Socialist with his own political vehicle suspected of being backed by Russia, won the mayoral seat in Chisinau in the first round with 50.6% of the votes. In the second-largest Moldovan city, Balti, the third candidate backed by fugitive oligarch Ilan Shor (after his first two candidates were eliminated) will fight in the second round against Renato Usatii, another politician far from Moldova’s core pro-EU electorate.

Out of the 898 mayoral seats, the PAS got 244, 27% of the total or 39% of the 265 seats that were already distributed in the first round. The party has candidates in another 135 localities and theoretically could get 44% of the mayoral seats nationwide.

Regarding the large municipalities — centres of Moldova's 32 counties — PAS won the mayoral seats in only three of the 21 seats already distributed in the first round.

In 19 of the 32 county councils, the PAS has the largest number of members — but this does not necessarily mean they will be able to form a majority. The PAS has no ally among other parties, while the opposition parties may well form alliances.