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The eve of mayor elections

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Igor Volnitchi / June 30, 2005
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Would the July 10 elections be valid?

Currently the top question related to mayor elections is would they get the voter turnout required for validation. Under the law, elections are considered valid provided at least 1/3 of the total number of voters take part in elections. Statistics shows that the number of voters included in the voter rolls has been on the rise in the recent years. For instance, in the 2003 local elections 564 thousand voters were included in the voter rolls, while in the 2005 parliamentary elections 618 thousand. Parliamentary elections were held not so long ago, accordingly no major changes in the number of voters is to be expected. Consequently, for elections to be validated 206 thousand voters have to take part.

There are several grounds for fears of invalid elections. Firstly, political pundits and political leaders believe that the timing of elections is not right as many are in vacations and would not take part in elections. They claim the power forced CEC to set elections date for July 10 so as to diminish oppositions’ chances in elections. It is known for a fact that Communist party electorate is represented mainly by elderly and Russian speakers. The former does not take vacations at all. As for the latter, they are very disciplined when it comes to elections and might postpone their vacation for later. Things are totally opposite when it comes to oppositions’ electorate — not only do they lack discipline as compared to Communist electorate, they also lack civic consciousness. Practically, every second democratic voter would rather take a vacation than postpone it for political reasons.

Still it would be naive to consider that election date was set on July 10, only because it suited the governing party. In fact, the power didn’t even had the levers to influence that decision, as CEC had to follow on Municipal Council’s initiative to host elections in the capital. Under the law, following that initiative CEC had to set election date for the end of June, or early July. So it is a mere coincidence that the date set by the CEC is in the best interest of the ruling party, rather than an intricately contrived scenario. On top of that, low voter turnout and non-validation of the elections would hit hard democrats and Communists alike. Accordingly, the ruling party has the same interest as democrats do — July 10 elections to take place.

Second reason for elections to be considered invalid is the fact that students are out of town and would not be able to take part in elections. Opposition parties already blamed the ruling party “which has no interest in students’ participation in elections, as they usually vote for the democrats”. There are all the reasons to believe that even if the students were in Chisinau on election date, the situation wouldn’t be much different, as they are usually quite passive. For instance in the past elections, CEC printed 42 thousand certificates granting the students the right to vote in any locality, however a little over two thousand showed up to pick the certificates. Further, out of those who did show up not all voted. Consequently, even if the students were on July 10 in Chisinau their presence wouldn’t have had a significant impact on the voter turnout, nor on the votes garnered by electoral contestants.

Thirdly, there is a fear that many voters disappointed with the latest political developments would not show at the polling stations at all. This refers specifically to the Christian-Democrats’ voters, accounting for 15% in Chisinau and those of Socio-Liberal Party, 1.5–2% accordingly. The two parties, previously known for their anti-Communist position, voted for Vladimir Voronin as a President and joined Communists on several important initiatives. Many Christian-Democrat and Social-Liberal voters disappointed by their leaders might choose to boycott elections. This holds true for the Social-Democrat voters (1.5 — 2%) frustrated that their party fails to score a victory, no matter how hard it tries.

All the aforesaid factors might result in a low turnout. At the same time, CEC is inclined to believe that July 10 elections would be rather validated than not. Firstly, they rightly point that in the previous parliamentary elections the voter turnout in Chisinau reached 55%. Even if the aforesaid factors would determine voters’ passivity, they might steel at most 15–20%. If so, then another 35%-40% would still cast their ballots, enough for the elections to be validated.

CEC counts on the villages that are also part of the Chisinau municipality. The number of voters residing in those villages amounts to 100 thousand, out of which 70% regularly vote. Consequently, villages could provide one third of the so-much needed voters for the elections to be considered valid. The other two thirds could be secured by the loyal voters of the Party of Communists, “Moldova Noastra” Alliance and Christian-Democratic Peoples’ Party.

Currently no one could tell for sure whether July 10 elections would be valid or not. Still, a mention should be made that there are more chances for them to succeed than fail.

Chances of the candidates running for the mayoralty

What distinguishes this campaign from others is that there are no clear leaders in the race. Of course, Communist candidate Zinaida Grecianii and independent Dumitru Braghis have a certain advantage, which does not guarantee that one of them would be elected. One month ago no one doubted that it would be the Communist and Moldova Noastra candidates that would fight for the mayoralty, however the mistakes made by them and their parties hence have dramatically changed the situation.

Many political pundits say it was a mistake for Communists to designate Zinaida Grecianii as she is not known in Chisinau. To put it differently she is known but only as a Minister not as solver of the many problems Chisinau is facing. These pundits claim that the ruling party should have designated a good administrator or a well-known personality. Initially, these were the general expectations and the following were cited: former Prime Minister Ion Sturza, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Andrei Stratan, Chief of Trade and Industry Chamber Gheorghe Cucu, Former Energy Minister Iacob Timciuc, former Minister of Transportation and Communications Vasile Zgardan. Each of the aforesaid, according to pundits claims would have been much more suitable for the mayoralty as they are either well-known or have hands-on experience in solving Chisinau problems. Probably Communists counted that Zinaida Grecianii would first make an order in the municipality finances and after finding the funds would proceed to solving municipality problems. However these electoral calculations are hard to understand for an ordinary voter who would rather see a mayor knowing a little about many fields, than a lot in one field.

Furthermore, in contrast to the previous elections this time Communist candidate would face a tough competition on the centre-left playing ground. And this because another two candidates would fight for the same pro-Russian voters nostalgic for the old times, i.e. Valeriu Klimenko and Gheorghe Sima. The latter could count on no more than one percent, however the former representing “Ravnopravie” and the other two socialist parties (“Patria-Rodina” Bloc) may garner up to 8%. And this because Valeriu Klimenko might steal some tradionally-Communist voters disappointed with the policies promoted by the ruling party in the last year.

Zinaida Grecianii might easily concede the battle to Democratic Party’s Vladimir Guritenco. He might be voted by some moderate Communist supporters that enjoy the friendship between the Democratic party and Social-Liberals and Christian-Democrats. Secondly, Vladimir Guritenco might lure many voters of the Botanica district where he is a praetor and enjoys a positive image. Thus far, Botanica district has been considered Communists’ bastion.

The aforesaid factors might rob Zinaida Grecianii of many votes, experts forecast that she would garner less than 40% in the first round. There is no doubt, however, that she would get to the second round, when the big battle for the Mayoralty will be fought.

Albeit one of the favourites, still Dumitru Braghis might garner less votes that “Moldova Noastra” Alliance in 2003 elections. Former Prime-Minister refused to run on the party list and chose to run as an independent candidate. By doing so, pundits claim, he wanted to secure the support of Social-Democratic Party, Centrist Party, etc. However the move would cost him dear. Running as independent he might count on the 2% of Social-Democrat voters and 0.5% of the Centrist Union. On the contrary, by rejecting Moldova Noastra’s offer he risks to lose the electorate of the former Independents’ Alliance (traditionally voting for Urechean) and that of the former Liberal Party (led by Veaceslav Untila). All in all, they account for 15% of the Chisinau voters.

In addition, independent candidate Dumitru Braghis confirmed the rumours of scission within Moldova Noastra Alliance. This might also scare voters away, they might have voted for the leader of a party setting itself as the main opposition party, but would think twice before voting a “rebel leader” representing himself and a small group of followers. This complicates the task for the former Prime-Minister, still he stands real chances of getting to the second round and this only because other candidates are even weaker.

It is said that Christian-Democratic candidate might also end with less votes than usual. Thus far, Christian-Democrat candidates garnered between 10–15%, this time Gheorghe Susarenco’s rating is said to be as low as 5–6%. And this because he is not a party member nor does he have enough experience with the Christian-Democrats that might have attracted the party’s traditional electorate. Not less important the party has tarnished its image after voting for Communists.

It might well happen that some of the Christian-Democrat and Moldova Noastra voters would shift to independent Mihai Severovan. He might also win the support of liberal voters as he used to be a member of the party headed by Mircea Snegur and later by Veaceslav Untila; and of the/ Christian-Democrat voters being the closest to their ideals.

As for the rest of candidates they stand little chances of success according to many political analysts.

Why were new elections necessary? Factors that might influence elections’ outcome