On November 30, 2014, Moldova elected its new parliament. Though the incumbent European oriented government which consists of the Liberal Democrats, Democrats and Liberal Reformers, won the most votes but they lost seats from the previous election in 2010. The opposition, consisting of the Communists and Socialists, gained seats in this election. The final 2014 results are:
Based on these results, there are several important conclusions and likelihoods.
1) The pro-Kremlin Socialist Party showed surprisingly strong results – especially since they didn’t compete in the 2010 elections. Just weeks before the election, it appears the Kremlin gave the party its’ blessing and billboards of party chairman and MP Igor Dodan and MP Zinaida Grecannii (a former Communist Prime Minister) meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin blanketed Moldova. In addition, the Socialists campaigned as openly pro-Kremlin and anti-European. A last minute court decision to disqualify the Homeland (Patria) Party due to evidence of foreign financing (i.e. Russian) eliminated any remote possibility of a pro-Kremlin majority from being elected. The Patria Party which is led by Russian businessman of Moldovan origin, Renato Useti, was polling in double digits in most surveys prior to disqualification. However the support for the Socialists was only around five percent in the polls prior to the Patria disqualification indicating that they were the direct recipient of most of those “would-be” voters. However it is important to note that the vote total for the pro-Kremlin forces (Socialists and Communists) was unchanged from 2010 (even one percent less from 39% to 38%). Thus while there was a redistribution within the pro-Kremlin electorate, the electorate’s support did not grow (perhaps only became more radicalized). This is an important counter argument to the Kremlin’s claims that Moldova favors a future with Russia instead of with Europe.
2) The Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova and Prime Minister Iurie Leanca suffered the most from the election. The party lost 1/3 of it’s’ votes from 2010 resulting in the loss of 9 seats in parliament. While the negotiations are underway among the three European oriented parties in the coalition to form the new government, it is likely that Prime Minister Leanca will be the sacrificial lamb. The speculation is that the Premiership is now likely to go to Andrian Candu, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament from the Democratic Party (the party which received the second largest number of votes within the coalition). Candu is a financial professional with a generally positive image. The impetus for this change in leadership derives less from a desire to sack Leanca and more from the motivation by Moldovan oligarch Vlad Plahotunic to have a close ally hold the position. Plahotunic’s maneuverings led to the fall of the original coalition government’s fall in 2013 which was led by Vlad Filat, the chairman of the Liberal Democrats.
3) A possible agreement whereby the Liberal Democrats cede the Premiership to the Democrats and Candu/Plahotunic could involve the presidential election of 2016. Under Moldova’s Constitution, the president is elected by 61 out of 101 members of parliament and not directly by the people. Since the presidency carries a four year term and the president cannot be dismissed by the whims of parliament, some believe that former Premier Vlad Filat may now turn his focus to this post. However, this will require a 2/3 vote by parliament to change the Constitution to allow the direct election of the president by the people instead of parliament. To accomplish this Filat (and any other potential candidates) will need the votes of either the pro-Kremlin Socialists or the Communists led by former two term President Vladimir Voronin (as well as all three partners in the coalition). Due to the supermajority requirement of 61 votes (instead of 51), Moldova was without a president for more than 900 days from September 2009 till March 2012 as parliament failed in multiple votes to obtain enough votes to elect a president. Given the surprisingly strong showing in the parliamentary election by the Socialists last week, they are the most likely to agree to this constitutional change, especially since it was their leaders (Dodan and Grecannii) whose defections from the Communist party paved the way for the election of current president in March 2012. Such a move might receive the blessing of the Kremlin’s since the president controls the foreign policy and defense apparatus (i.e. NATO aspirations) as well as the practical fact that without new elections, pro-Kremlin forces in Moldova are stuck in the minority for the next four years.
4) Moldova’s pro-European coalition saw an 11% decline in their support from 2010. Governing parties almost always lose seats rather than gain them – especially when the economy remains weak (in Moldova’s cases it is due to Russian embargoes and an overall weak global economy). Nonetheless, the results were clear for Prime Minister Leanca who said, “We understood your message. You will not elect us again if we do not really reform the economy. This is Moldova’s last chance.” What he didn’t say – but all Moldovans know – is that corruption continues to be a cancer on the economy and the current government has made mostly cosmetic changes to treat the problem. Without real anti-corruption and economic reforms soon, the Moldovan pro-European coalition will ultimately fail. As Ukraine’s new government and parliament begin their work, the results of the neighboring Moldovan election should serve as a stern warning to fight corruption and fix the economy – or face tough losses in the nearest election.