Presidential elections scheduled for October 30, 2016 take place in a very complicated social-political and economic context. The political crisis erupted in December 2014, when the Moldovan authorities announced that a billion US dollars was illegally evaded from the banking system. The announcement was made shortly after government’s secret decision to give repayment guarantees to the National Bank of Moldova (NBM) for lending from its reserves to three robbed commercial banks. But it is noteworthy that the announcement was made immediately after the parliamentary elections of 30 November 2014, meaning that the government kept this information secret from citizens in order to win elections. NBM lending to the three robbed commercial banks caused the collapse of the national currency — Moldovan leu (MDL) by about 30%. This is a suggestive estimation — a billion US dollars in 2014 amounted to about 1/3 of NBM currency reserves, which decisively determines the exchange rate of the national currency. A massive citizens’ protest followed and lasted about a year.
In these circumstances the authorities have handled the situation quite deftly. After several governmental crisis marked by the change of 5 prime ministers in 2015 (2 of them plenipotentiary PM and 3 temporary PM), the parties in power managed to form a parliamentary majority in the end. This happened due to induced splitting of two parliamentary factions, that of the Communist Party of Moldova (PCRM) and of the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (LDPM). Consequently, 2/3 of the Communist faction and about 1/2 of the LDPM faction had allied itself with the two ruling parties since 2009 — the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) and the Liberal Party (PL). The task of the new government, sworn in on January 20, 2016 under massive protests contesting its legitimacy, was to stabilize the political situation, to regain the trust of citizens and of development partners, with the support of which the economic survival of the Republic of Moldova is extremely difficult.
To achieve the established goals the Government has developed a Roadmap on priority reform agenda that was to be implemented between March and July 2016. Government’s intention to implement in just 6 months a series of very complicated reforms, which were deferred over the last 5 years, was meant to demonstrate government’s potential and determination. In fact, the Roadmap was suggested by the EU Council conclusions on Moldova. Development partners, primarily the EU and the US, sent the message that an exemplary implementation of the Roadmap by the Moldovan government is the only possibility for the resumption of external financial support.
But one of the extremely important factors to stabilize the domestic political situation was to dismantle the protest movement, which gradually came to have as main slogan the dissolution of the parliament and early parliamentary elections. Protest movement had become really dangerous for the government only when it was joined by political forces with different views, including cardinal opposing geopolitical views, that paired to amplify the protests. It it not for sure whether the government has inspired or not the Constitutional Court’s decision of 4 March 2016 that unexpectedly changed the way the President of Moldova is elected. It is clear however that this decision of the Constitutional Court instantaneously changed protest leaders’ agenda — at least one of the leading protesters becoming interested to fight for the presidential office. In this way the government has taken the necessary time to implement the Roadmap invoking the ability to stabilize the socio-political situation and to regain the confidence of citizens and of development partners. The opposition, particularly those protesting, continue to deny the legitimacy of the current government and its performance to normalize socio-economic and political situation in the country.
In such a context the presidential elections will take place. The stake in these elections is very high, even if the powers of the directly elected president remain unchanged. It is obvious that if the incumbent government candidates win in the elections, the current political class would regain full legitimacy. Conversely, they would lose legitimacy if an opposition candidate wins. Candidates of the current government insist that in the upcoming elections there is a geopolitical stake, a choice between Moldova’s pro-European development vs. pro-Eurasian. Opposition candidates do not deny the geopolitical stake, but they also stress out that a corrupted government can not promote neither policies in the interest of citizens, nor genuine pro-European ones. These stakes shows how important this qualifier it is for elections — being these elections free and fair or not, especially when the power’s candidates have media, administrative and financial advantages, highly disproportionate to those of the opposition.