Moldovan presidential elections: Lessons to learn, tasks to do for the 2nd round
Outcomes of the first round of the presidential elections surprised both local political experts and the external observers. But the second round, which was obvious because of many signals, brings even more uncertainties.
The elections proved few very interesting things:
- Polls can be both suggestive (score for Igor Dodon) and wrong (score for Maia Sandu);
- Voters are not easy going and the candidates should fight for each vote (about 50% participation in comparison with 57% at the parliamentarian elections of Nov. 2014 and 63% at those in Nov. 2010.
- Mass-media can influence the results. The fact that Democrats’ candidate abandoned the competition in favor of Maia Sandu triggered the context for the second round. Or, the media controlled by Democrats changed radically the rhetoric about Sandu, and some of their voters favored Maia Sandu, increasing her final scores (38%).
- Diaspora can play a decisive role, but it remains weaker than its real human capacities. The majority of the Moldovans who are abroad voted for Maia Sandu and less for Igor Dodon (72% against 13%). However, the number of Moldovans who outside the country is very small – about 40.000 persons, when only in Italy there are around 150.000 Moldovans.
- The central rayons of the country are more pro-Maia Sandu than the south and north, where Dodon gained a bigger share of voters (Look here the map).
Candidates, results and geopolitical orientation
The votes of pro-Russian electorate outnumbered those for the pro-EU candidates by about 100.000 persons (Results from 97.9%).
- Igor Dodon (Party of Socialists) – 48.7% – 670.831 votes – pro-Russia
- Maia Sandu (Party Action and Solidarity in alliances with Platforma DA and Liberal Democratic Party- 37.9 – 522.639 votes – pro-EU
- Dumitru Ciubasenco – 5.9% – 82.346 votes – pro-Russia
- Iurie Leanca (EPP in Moldova) – 3.1% – 43.255 votes – pro-EU
- Ghimpu Mihai (Liberal Party) – 1.8% – 24.979 votes – pro-EU
- Valeriu Ghiletchi (independent) -1% – 14.451 votes – pro-EU
- Maia Laguta (independent) – 0.7% – 10.410 votes – unclear
- Silvia Radu (independent) -0.4% – 5570 votes – pro-EU
- Ana Gutu (Party Right) – 0.1% – 2370 votes – pro-EU
Pro-Russia parties – 2 parties – overall votes – more than 753.177
Pro-EU parties – 4 parties (plus Platforma DA, Liberal Democrat Party and Democratic party who supported directly or indirectly Maia Sandu) and 2 independent candidates – overall votes – more than 613.264.
The most important aspects of the first tour of the presidential elections in Moldova are the following:
1. The participation lower than it was expected — about 49%, which is less than we had at previous elections (parliamentary). This results is influenced by quite weak participation of the younger segment of voters (18–25 years old). Also, there were voters who neglected the first round being sure they will get involved in the second one.
2. There will the second tour with pro-Russian Igor Dodon (around 48%) and pro-European Maia Sandu (38%).
3. Pro-Russian candidate received almost the same amount of votes as the latest polls showed, while Maia Sandu succeeded to accumulate more votes than expected.
4. Dodon was very close to win the elections from the first tour. This would happen if another pro-Russian candidate withdrew from the competition.
5. Sandu obtained more votes than polls showed. This is a cumulated results of her being the single candidate of three parties — Party of Action and Solidarity, Platforma DA and Liberal Democratic Party. Moreover, it also resulted from the abandoning of the elections by Democrat Party’s candidate Marian Lupu.
6. The existing 10% difference of votes between Igor Dodon and Maia Sandu, in favor of the former, is a handicap that will require significant efforts to be overcome. Sandu will need to focus on younger voters, and to consolidate the electorate who already voted for her. The same cumulative factors should be preserved by Maia Sandu (single candidate+indirect support of the ruling party). Also, the voters of Iurie Leanca, Silvia Radu, Valeriu Ghiletchi, Mihai Ghimpu, Ana Gutu, should be turned into Sandu’s voters.
7. Dodon can rely on the support of Renato Usatii’s party (about 5%). This can be sufficient to win the second round, but the votes of the undecided voters should be ensured to guarantee a victory.
What should follow?
8. The geopolitical discrepancy between Maia Sandu and Igor Dodon will play a crucial role in the second round. The accent on the external orientation of the country will play a bigger role in the debates.
9. Dodon will not be able to avoid Sandu in debates, like he did in the first round. He will need to answer questions about his affiliation with Plahotniuc and the oligarchic system. Sandu will need to be careful in this regard, because Plahtoniuc’s party has voters who supported her in the first tour. She should focus her critics on persons (Plahotniuc rather than Democrat Party members at local level) and not to extrapolate it to the electorate that support them (which are indirect victims of severe daily manipulation).
10. Russia can become more active, meaning that the clearly pro-Russian stakeholders (Moscow’s church, mass-media, political establishment in Russia) can be more visible. This will prove or not that Russia feels or not comfortable with political situation in Moldova, and if it is the case it should bet on Dodon more actively.
11. EU and other Western stakeholders will keep the same level of involvement (rather a low one). But all of them will be figure in debates.
Finally, both candidates will need to be very active in order to increase the participation of the voters. Maia Sandu will have to be more pro-active, but Igor Dodon should not get relaxed, because he has a bitter experience of losing in favor of pro-EU politicians in the second round.