Moldovan president dissolves parliament, calls snap election

Moldovan president dissolves parliament, calls snap election
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest April 29, 2021

Moldova’s President Maia Sandu dissolved the parliament on April 28 and called early elections for July 11. Sandu took the move immediately after the Constitutional Court ruled that the state of emergency instituted by lawmakers — criticised by Sandu and her supporters as an attempt to block early elections — was unconstitutional. 

The prolonged political turmoil in Moldova, which started with the general elections in February 2019, may eventually reach an end if Sandu’s pro-EU party wins a convincing majority in parliament. 

Since winning the presidency, Sandu and her supporters have been seeking to force a snap election to replace the current parliament where former president Igor Dodon’s Socialist Party (PSRM) is the largest party, and has tried its utmost to prevent the dissolution of the parliament. 

With a majority in parliament, Sandu — who defeated Dodon to win the presidency in November 2020 — would have a chance to pursue genuine reforms, primarily in the area of justice, that her supporters are still waiting for. In doing this, she is expected to count on substantial support from European partners.

“Dear citizens, a few minutes ago I signed the decree to dissolve the current parliament,” Sandu wrote on Facebook on April 28. 

“Through this decision we have paved the way for citizens to be able to choose a new parliament that will serve the interests of the country and the people. Power is now in the hands of the people. The power is in your hands. I trust that our citizens will choose the right path to creating a developed and democratic state where people can live in peace and well-being.”

This scenario is not unlikely. The latest poll carried out by the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Moldova shows Sandu’s Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) leads by a considerable margin over Dodon’s pro-Russian PSRM, with 33% of the vote versus 19%. 

Apparently conceding defeat in the lengthy political battle between the two, Dodon accepted Sandu’s decision and hinted at an alliance with the Communist Party (PCRM), which he left years ago to set up his own political vehicle. But this might be only the last mistake by Dodon and his party, which is unlikely to survive his defeat in the December 2020 presidential elections.

A year ago, Dodon was on the ascendant. He had teamed up with Sandu in an unlikely and short-lived alliance to oust the Democratic Party, led by his main political rival Vlad Plahotnuic, from power. After Plahotnuic fled the country, Dodon turned on Sandu, managing to remove her from the prime minister position and install his former adviser Ion Chicu. 

But Sandu made a comeback, running on a reform platform in the 2020 presidential election to prevent Dodon from winning a second term. Since then, polls show Dodon and his Socialist Party are constantly losing ground. Neither Dodon nor his party demonstrated a clear strategy after the election. It is possible that they expected last-minute support from Russia (which never came).

The prime minister picked by Dodon, Chicu, resigned at the end of last year in an attempt to provoke a major political crisis. And Dodon was successful in fuelling the political turmoil until March 23 when his candidate to replace Chicu, Mariana Durlesteanu, unexpectedly pulled out, giving Sandu the opportunity to appoint her own candidate in a matter of minutes and thus prepare the ground for snap elections. 

Sandu’s defeat of Dodon in the presidential election last year may mark the beginning of a new stage of development in Moldova, though the country first has to address the deep health and economic crises. With few financial resources, Moldova has struggled to finance lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and its GDP plunged by 7% last year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

As well as defeating Dodon, Sandu’s PAS has also sidelined its former partner in the pro-EU platform ACUM, the Dignity and Truth (PPDA) party led by Andrei Nastase. While the PAS is leading in the electoral polls, surpassing the PSRM even in the polls carried out by polling agencies traditionally erring in favour of the Socialists, the PPDA faces the bleak outlook of not meeting the 5% threshold to enter parliament. 

While Sandu’s PAS is seen as supported by the EU and international financial institutions, Nastase’s PPDA has been suspected of a more radical stance and ties with controversial businessmen. Nevertheless, he won the elections for Chisinau City Hall and he may play a relevant role in the future as well.