Moldova shows a ‘moderate yet clear’ pro-EU stance at local elections

Local elections in Moldova November 5, 2023. Screenshot of a YouTube video from the Euronews YouTube channel. Fair use.

On the November 5, Moldovans went to election poll stations to elect some 12,000 officials at over 800 local elections, including the mayor of the capital, Chişinău.  

The turnout was just over 40 percent nationwide, higher compared to the past ballot in 2019.  

NewsMaker reported that the preliminary outcomes of the local elections in Moldova indicate moderate yet clear backing for the incumbent pro-EU PAS party (The Party of Action and Solidarity). Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Andrei Spinu, who is also a member of, commented on November 6 on the outcomes of the general local elections held on November 5th. Spinu congratulated PAS, noting that the party won in 19 regions across the country. Although the PAS mayoral candidate for the capital Chişinău, Lilian Carp, was defeated by the current mayor Ion Ceban, representative of opposition party the National Alternative Movement (MAN) , the minister stressed that PAS will have “a strong faction in the Chisinau Municipal Council. We have achieved a good outcome — 20 municipal councilors from PAS will advocate for the development of a European-standard city,” he added, meaning Chişinău.

While major opposition parties do not explicitly endorse pro-Russian stances, they do voice reservations about Moldova's bid for EU membership. Radio Free Europe notes that the fact that incumbent mayor Ion Ceban has been reelected as mayor of Moldova's capital, is a potential setback for pro-Western President Maia Sandu‘s party as the government is pushing  reforms to advance the country's candidacy to join the European Union and distance itself from Moscow's influence.

Spinu, however, said that, according to the first-round voting results, PAS mayoral candidates secured victories in 240 localities within Moldova.

“The pro-European vision has triumphed across the nation. This is the most significant takeaway from these elections,” Spinu stated, as reported by the NewsMaker

The local elections in Moldova on November 5 were carried out out after the disqualification of all candidates from the Chance (Shans) party, which is seen as a surrogate for the populist pro-Russian Shor Party of the fugitive Moldovan oligarch Ilan Shor

This action was possibly the most severe among several contentious decisions taken by the pro-EU authorities in Moldova. They aimed to curb or mitigate their electoral losses following explicit promises made by Ilan Shor — who has been sentenced to 15 years in jail for bank fraud but is currently in Israel — of cheap gas to those localities where his party's candidates (Chance party candidates) would win in the first round of voting.

The sanctions followed a revelation from the Commission for Exceptional Situations (CSE) about the Chance party candidates allegedly using illegal money from Russia in the campaign, Prime Minister Dorin Recean said on November 3, 2023.

The decision to disqualify the candidates was made on November 3, just 2 days before the elections, citing “reasons of state security” and the “hybrid warfare” being waged by Russia against Moldova.

Due to the state of emergency declared in Moldova as a consequence of the war in Ukraine, the government has the authority to make such decisions, circumventing standard procedures. The Central Electoral Commission's (CEC) decision came to light following reports from the Intelligence and Security Service, which indicated that it had uncovered several instances where the party had allegedly received funds from Russia and citizens of third countries, including Kazakhstan and Turkey.

Following this decision, the Chance party reached out to the Prosecutor General's Office on November 5, 2023, demanding that legal proceedings be initiated against members of the CES, writes NewsMaker.

In their statement, the party alleged that the CES had engaged in “obstructing the free exercise of the right to vote and the falsification of election results,” and accused them of “misconduct and abuse of power.”

Meanwhile, in some municipalities, candidates supported by Ilan Shor but not belonging to the Chance party won the elections.

Moldova has accused Moscow of trying to overthrow its pro-Western government since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, Radio Free Europe reports. Russian forces occupy  Transnistria, Moldova's predominantly Russian-speaking separatist region on the border with Ukraine.

This final nationwide ballot precedes the 2024 November presidential elections in Moldova, with the former Soviet nation aspiring to European Union membership and a move away from Russia's sphere of influence.

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