Election weekend in Moldova

November 26, 2014

This weekend sees elections in Moldova – another nation that has signed and ratified the Association Agreement with the EU recently, much to Kremlin angst.

Currently the Communist party is polling at about 25%, and the Socialist Party, which is particularly weak this election, is on or about the threshold to enter parliament.  Whether that Socialist Party weakness has anything to do with President Putin’s overt support for the party is subjective – as is the outcome of any pondering as to why President Putin overtly backed the Socialists.  To kill their chances and divert their vote to either the Communists or a certain other runner soon to be commented upon perhaps?

In bygone days this combined Communist/Socialist approximately 30% polling, would have left the pro-European integration parties with a firm electoral mandate, in no way putting any doubt over the continued adherence to the recently ratified agreements with the EU.

However, this year there is a new candidate with some momentum polling about 18%.  Naturally “populist” in nature, a candidate who claims to be both anti Association Agreement and anti Eurasian Union too.  Currently, anyway.  His manifesto is more or less maintaining the status quo between Europe and Russia whilst eliminating corruption, renationalising previously privatised State assets, and espousing the imperialist nature of Romania toward Moldova.

The populist candidate is Renato Usatii, a thirty-something Moldavian who has made a fortune in business with a specific Russian client.  Indeed, he is very well connected in Moscow.  His business more or less has the monopoly in supplying specialist fabrication equipment to Russian Railways, run by Vladimir Yakunin.  Mr Yakunin being a long time friend and trusted ally of President Putin.

Whether or not Mr Usatii knows Mr Yakunin or Mr Putin personally is somewhat irrelevant.  Anybody who knows anything about Russia and the necessary maneuvering required to corner any significant market there, knows only too well, this does not occur by ability or business acumen alone – indeed often neither count for much.  It is about who you know and how a deal can be structured to insure “everybody eats” from it.  In short, cronyism/corruption – the combating of which is one of the cornerstones of the populist manifesto Mr Usatii is running under.

Anyway, a return to the polling numbers.  Approximately 25% + 5% + 18% comes to 48% of the vote that is for candidates who are either outright, or very likely to make, European integration a glacial process – or attempt to reverse it.  A somewhat safer margin for the pro-European factions should the Socialists fail to gain 5% or more of the vote and thus fail to enter parliament perhaps – but still a significant number that can make swift progress complicated.

Ergo, the question arises as to whether there will be a repeat of the Ukrainian scenario for Mr Usatii, when the populist support for the Radical Party significantly contracted on the day at the polling station?  Alternatively, will it significantly increase – if so, at a constituency cost to whom?

Keep a watchful eye on Moldova this weekend.  There will be repercussions both within and beyond its borders, whatever the result.


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