Moldovans will vote for president next Sunday. Backed by Putin, the incumbent, Dodon, warns of opposition “protests”. His rivals, Maia Sandu and Andrei Năstase, accuse him of rigging the vote. Final results will be announced on Monday, or 16 November in case of a runoff. Lying on the border between East and West, Moldova is split between pro-Russia and pro-Europe camps.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – Tomorrow’s presidential election in Moldova is following a script similar to that of Belarus. Incumbent pro-Russian president, 45-year-old Igor Dodon (picture 1), could lose power but appears unwilling to live office.
Two days before the elections, Dodon said he feared the destabilisation of the country after the vote, and warned the candidate of the opposition Action and Solidarity Party (PAS), 48-year-old Maia Sandu (picture 2), who was prime minister for a few months in 2019, that her recent protests will be used by groups of young extremists (the so-called gopniki) to occupy the seats of power.
A third candidate, the leader of the liberal-populist party Dignity and Truth Platform Party (Platforma-DA), 45-year-old Andrei Năstase (picture 3), urged the “young and strong” to prepare to defend “people’s votes” at polling stations.
For Dodon’s Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova, its pro-European adversaries are a threat, and plans to organise protests after the results of the vote are released; meanwhile, the opposition is already accusing the president of rigging the vote.
Dodon claims that he knows about plans to seize the presidential palace in Kishinev in the coming days, behind the smokescreen thrown up by Maia Sandu’s call for “peaceful protests,” like those by the women of Minsk.
The final results will be announced on 2 or 16 November in the event of a runoff ballot. Although eight candidates are running for president, Dodon’s campaign has targeted Sandu directly, seen as his main rival
The two represent Moldova’s alternate visions. The incumbent president is in favour of greater “Eurasian” integration with the Russian Federation; Sandu instead wants Moldova to integrate with the European Union whilst reaching a deal with Russia.
The two leaders also reflect the country’s ethnic divide. Dodon is an ethnic Russian, whilst Sandu is Romanian, but has said that she wants to become the president of all Moldovans.
Many remember an historic decision by Sandu when she was prime minister, namely removing Russian as a compulsory subject from the school curriculum.
“The time has come for good people to come together and put Moldova on the right path,” Sandu said.
The current government is led by Prime Minister Ion Chicu who has promised to lower the price of gas, which is imported from Russia, to keep voters away from any pro-European temptation.
Gas is very expensive in the country, so much so that many Moldovans are forced to heat their homes with wood. For years, many of the public officials who control trade with Russia have been accused of corruption.
At a recent meeting of economists of the Valdai Discussion Club, a Moscow-based think tank, Russian President Vladimir Putin came out in favour of Dodon, hoping to see him re-elected.
Moldova, a 3.5 million people, lies on the border country between East and West. Like Ukraine and Belarus, it is divided between pro-Russia and pro-Romania camps.
Alongside its eastern border lies Transnistria (Pridnestrovie), a “neutral” territory, scene of past clashes between Russians and Moldovans. Today it is mostly pro-Russian, even though many residents hold Moldovan passports.
Many fear that they will be brought to Moldova from the city of Tiraspol to vote in the elections at polling stations near the border on the Dniester River.
To stop them, opposition parties, in particular Platforma-DA, are organising patrols to watch the river banks to stop, to quote Andrei Năstase, any ” convoy organised by KGB generals”.