Chisinau (dpa) – In the historic parliamentary elections, the former Soviet Republic of Moldova (Moldova) spoke clearly in favor of the pro-European course of its president Maia Sandu.
After counting all the votes, Sandu’s Action and Solidarity (PAS) party came in at almost 53 percent and has an absolute majority in parliament with 63 of the 101 seats. For many Moldovans, the 49-year-old is a beacon of hope when it comes to fighting corruption and developing relations with the EU. The crisis-ravaged republic near EU country Romania has been torn between Russia and Europe for decades.
Although Moldova is not even a candidate for membership, EU flags are flying all over the capital Chisinau. Not only has this been the case since Sandu took office a few months ago, but it has become particularly important today. Only 27 percent of Moldovans voted for the Russia-friendly communists and socialists around ex-head of state Igor Dodon, who had already lost to Sandu in the November presidential election. Dodon acknowledged defeat.
There is now a very clear new balance of power on which US-trained economist Sandu can initiate reforms. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis praised the Moldovans for “citizenship and clear decision for reform, rule of law and European integration”. The FDP member of the Bundestag Renata Alt called the result a “clear popular vote for the European path and the rule of law”. The EU must now support Moldova in reforms.
References to opaque financing of election campaigns
Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) praised the elections as well-organized and largely fair. However, they criticized the lax handling of opaque financing for election campaigns. Josep Borrell, EU Representative for Foreign Affairs, announced the EU’s readiness to support Moldova in addressing the identified shortcomings.
Moldova is considered the poorest country in Europe. Corruption reigns in the small republic and more and more well-educated citizens are moving abroad. Confidence in their own politicians was deeply shaken – this was also apparent from the turnout: about 48 percent of the 3.3 million voters went to the polls. Still, the election was a kind of “last chance” for Moldova, says Ion Manole of the democracy and human rights organization Promo-Lex of the German news agency. “If nothing changes now, even the last smart minds will leave the country.”
Russia’s influence is still great
It will not be easy for Sandu, who, despite the absolute majority in parliament, is the first woman in the presidency. On the one hand, the question is whether the former education minister has enough capable people to fill key positions, says Manole. Moreover, Russia’s influence on the former Soviet republic is still strong – especially in the Transnistria region, which has detached itself from Moldova, where the Russian army has been stationed since the early 1990s.
Most recently, Moscow complained about US and EU interference in Moldova’s internal affairs. Sandu’s pro-European stance should in no way improve relations with Russia, says political scientist Veaceslav Berbeca. There was a threat of conflict and possible new Russian sanctions against Moldova.
After all: Sandu is making a real leap of faith among the population, says Berbeca. The Moldovans are used to politicians walking away from the people immediately after the elections, suddenly driving around in expensive cars and displaying luxury. Sandu and her relatively young, unencumbered party, on the other hand, have so far bought their care to put the well-being of the population first, says Berbeca.
It’s just a symbol, but people in the capital Chisinau noticed it right away: When Dodon was president, the small park around the presidential palace was always closed, they say. As one of her first acts, Sandu had it open to the public.