Moldova Faces Growing Geopolitical Antagonism

Moldova has entered an uncertain political period due to the election of Igor Dodon, a pro-Russian political leader and head of the Socialist Party, as president in November 2016. For the first time in the country’s history, the offices of the president and prime minister belong to politicians with conflicting geopolitical stances. While the pro-EU political forces, led by the Democratic Party, control parliament, the representative of the pro-Russian parliamentary opposition won the presidency.

According to the latest polls, public support for the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union has surpassed support for the EU – 58% versus 49%. Even if the EU is more familiar to the Moldovan public, they express more interest in the largely unknown Eurasian geopolitical project.

This trend will only intensify with Igor Dodon’s ascent to the presidency. His political views match Russia’s goals of rolling back the European integration process in Moldova and in the entire region. Consequently, Moldova will face deeper political divisions and confrontational narratives about the country’s geopolitical orientation. These divisions will cause pressure that will surely grow with the approaching 2018 parliamentary elections.

The geopolitical clashes between the Democratic and Socialist parties may actually be staged to benefit both political groups. This sort of “acceptable” antagonism creates perverse consequences for Moldovan society, which already has potential for fragmentation.

To expand his support, President Dodon has employed various populist tools. First, he defined a range of domestic scapegoats, such as the movement promoting unification with Romania and sexual minorities. External “scapegoats” include the European Union and the United States, which support the non-governmental sector. By blaming scapegoats for Moldova’s problems, Dodon distracted popular attention from more pressing issues.

While geopolitically oriented political forces fight for power, relations between state and citizens weaken further. Old cleavages are preserved, and new ones emerge with the rise of pro-Russian opposition forces. A more conflicted society attracts more populism, while more populism keeps Moldovan politics stuck in a vicious circle of bad governance.

A contribution for Moldovan Monthly – a publication of Foreign Policy Research Institute.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Igor Dodon, Rusia pretutindeni, UE şi RM

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