By Petru Negura
The Party of Action and Solidarity won the early parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova on July 11, 2021, by 52.80%, far ahead of its main electoral competitor, the Bloc of Socialists and Communists (27.17%), and the Shor Political Party (5.74%). It is the first time in the history of Moldova that a right-wing or center-right party wins a majority in Parliament on its own. The key messages the PAS – and before it, Maia Sandu, the former president of the party and current President of Moldova – focused on were fighting corruption and expanding the rule of law. To truly bring about change, the new government now needs broad support from society to promote justice reforms and strengthening state institutions.
One novelty of this election, compared to the previous ones, is that all the major competitors overlooked the geopolitical and identity debates. Yet, the Socialist Party continued the tradition of cultural battles, launching debates on “traditional families,” advocating the “traditional” role of women in the family and discriminating against gay couples. PAS focused its messages on the fight against corruption, openly expressing its support for the program of President Sandu. Apocalyptic and messianic political and geopolitical messages did not miss from this campaign either. The Socialists formed an electoral bloc with the Party of Communists, their recent rivals, to fight against “fascism” and “union with Romania,” although the unionist message was missing from the program of their main electoral competitor. President Sandu, PAS and other right-wing and center-right parties called on the electorate to prevent the return of “thieves” and “the corrupt” to power. Both camps seemed to have forgotten the short-lived cohabitation in June–October 2019 between the PAS, the Dignity and Truth Platform and the Socialists to prevent the Democratic Party of oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, accused of “capturing the state”, from coming back to power. This cohabitation cut off in October 2019 on the grounds of heavy feelings of mistrust and disappointment between the parties involved.
The result of these elections marks a clear victory of the new political forces over the traditional parties. The “theft of the century” (the great bank fraud from November, which involved some leaders of the leading parties) severely affected the trust of Moldovans in state institutions. Yet, the crisis also contributed to the reconfiguration of the political field in Moldova. During 2015, in the wake of anti-government protests, two political forces emerged, the Dignity and Truth Platform (PDA), which later became a political party, and the PAS, led by Maia Sandu. These forces were structurally different from the traditional parties. Both PDA and PAS were created through bottom-up mobilization, and not from above, by politicians endowed with economic capital—the so-called oligarchs. Both continued to exist thanks to the support of their supporters, and not through obscure funding. These parties avoided geopolitical and identity debates and focused on fighting high-level corruption, de-capturing the state and establishing the rule of law.
But the coming to power of an honest and competent political force would not bring about systemic political change. The solution to escape from the current political and societal crisis lies in breaking the vicious circle of corruption and underdevelopment by strengthening the state institutions AND civil society. Simultaneously with the renewal of political elites and reconfiguration of state institutions, the Moldovans themselves have to involve more in building horizontal structures of society’s cohesion through genuine forms of solidarity, trust and participation. A strong and bottom-up structured civil society would also put pressure on the decision-makers to perform effective reforms to the benefit of the society. In the absence of an active bottom-up engagement to develop a comprehensive “country project,” any government, however honest and competent, risks consuming itself in honorable attempts and good intentions.
Dr. Petru Negura is currently research fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies in Regensburg. He is also a lecturer at Free International University of Moldova (Chisinau) and researcher at the Centre for Sociology and Social Psychology within the Institute of Legal, Political and Sociological Research, Moldova.
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