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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Results of local elections in the republic of Moldova and socio-political situation in the republic as of november 2023

Moldovian local elections, the first round of which took place on November 5, 2023, revealed several interesting trends.

Firstly, the government (the ruling PAS party and the team of President Maia Sandu) is rapidly losing influence: PAS failed to gain a majority in any locality in the country, although 19 localities (mainly in villages) received their mayors. At the same time, this party is popular among a significant part of the population, especially young people (sociological studies show that 45% of the population have an optimistic or predominantly positive assessment of the activities of PAS, 35% have a negative evaluation, and 43% of respondents have a positive attitude towards the actions of President Maia Sandu).

Secondly, there is a small demand for protest sentiments in society, which have not yet resulted in support for a certain political party or an exact leader (the level of support for the opposition is 26% since the people do not see a genuine leader). But the example of Ion Ceban, the mayor general of the Chisinau municipality, indicated that citizens are ready to make their choice, breaking through the vicious circle. 44% of respondents believe that Moldova is going the right way, and 36% – the wrong one. But at the same time, 38% of respondents consider themselves pessimists (versus 26% of optimists and 31% of “neutrals”). 47% of respondents say they are ready to participate in protests, and 60% are ready to declare complaints against the authorities openly.

58% of Moldovan citizens consider the main problem to be high prices for essential goods and food (as a percentage of prices concerning the income of the population in Moldova, they are indeed higher than in Ukraine). 49% talk about the problem of poverty. 40% indicate high unemployment. 44% emphasise the issue of corruption. 39% talk about a demographic crisis (the outflow of citizens abroad, mainly young people). In 2023, Moldova lost twice as many citizens as a percentage of warring Ukraine. At the same time, only 44% of respondents would like their children to stay in Moldova, and 41% believe they should live where it is more comfortable (potentially ready to emigrate). Only 68% of respondents consider themselves patriots, a meagre figure and evidence of the depressiveness of the country and society.

Thirdly, regarding geopolitical orientations, Moldova remains oriented primarily towards the West. 57% of citizens prefer the European Union, and 17% – the CIS. Interestingly, only 8% of respondents positively perceive the NATO bloc. 38% of Moldovans have a positive attitude towards the President of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky and 35% have a negative attitude (even though only 10% of Moldovans want rapprochement with Ukraine). Only 21% of Moldovan respondents assess Vladimir Putin positively (56% negatively), but 36% of Moldovans prefer rapprochement with Russia. 51% of respondents would want rapprochement with Romania, but only 34% of respondents have a positive assessment of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

Fourthly, a harsh police regime has been created in Moldova (perhaps the challenging system of control over political and public life in Europe) with a gross violation of the political rights of citizens and political parties. 43% of Moldovan citizens avoid discussing politics because they consider it unsafe. 30% think it is dangerous to show their civic position and protest against the authorities’ actions. Every fourth person believes that going to the polls is useless.

The official election results showed that Moldovan society harbours quite a serious protest potential, which the authorities ignore, using exclusively relatively positive figures from sociological surveys showing high support for the authorities. Sociology has shown a vast number of “sociological partisans”: more than 45% of respondents refuse to answer interviewers’ questions, and many respondents try to “please” the interviewers and answer not what they think but in a way that they consider less dangerous for themselves (the same questions, given in different configurations, sometimes give opposite answers).

Today, the following political configuration has developed in the republic.

– The pro-Western camp, represented mainly by the PAS party (“Partidul Acțiune și Solidaritate”, “Party of Action and Solidarity”) and the entourage of President Maia Sandu. In this case, the Embassy of the United States of America plays the leading role in the country. US Ambassador to Moldova Kent Logsdon is a career diplomat and intelligence officer; his work was primarily related to studying the operational situation in Russia. His background includes the following positions: Director of the Operations Center, Director of the Office of Russian Affairs and Deputy Head of Mission in Tbilisi (Georgia), and Political Advisor in Kyiv (Ukraine). At one time, Logsdon studied at the Kennedy School in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and spoke Russian and Ukrainian. Interestingly, he arrived in Moldova immediately before the start of the Russian aggression against Ukraine (beginning of February 2022).

According to information received by Ascolta from representatives of local political circles, the US Embassy takes all political decisions in the country and then makes recommendations regarding the behaviour of the Moldovan authorities, security and law enforcement agencies. The young head of the Information and Security Service of the Republic of Moldova, Alexandru Musteata, plays a vital role in this system. He is 35 years old; before his appointment, he headed the representative office of the Soros Foundation in Moldova and was an expert at the NATO Information and Documentation Center. Moldovan experts say that Mustiata has political ambitions. At some stage, the issue of replacing Maia Sandu with Alexandru Mustiata as a candidate for the leadership of Moldova may arise at the US Embassy.

  • Several political forces represent the opposition
  1. Party of Socialists of Moldova (“Partidul Socialiştilor din Republica Moldova”), led by ex-President of Moldova Igor Dodon.
  2. Projects of businessman Ilan Shor, former mayor of Orhei and leader of the SHOR party, now living in Israel. The SHOR party, which held mass rallies in Chisinau and other cities of Moldova in the winter of 2022–2023, was banned by the court in April 2023. Party members registered the party “CHANCE” (“ȘANSĂ”), led by TV journalist Alexei Lungu. One of the iconic figures in this movement was the member of the Parliament of Moldova Marina Tauber. In the spring of 2023, the party managed to lead its nominee, Evgenia Hutsul, to victory in the elections for the Bashkan of Gagauzia. Three days before the elections, on November 2, 2023, the CHANCE party and its candidates were expelled from the elections by the central authorities of Moldova.

Ilan Shor, being prepared for such an outcome of the situation, called for voting for the nominees from the Revival party (“Renaştere”), led by Natalya Paraska. In the summer of 2023, the party accepted into its ranks a group of politicians who broke away from Igor Dodon’s Socialist Party (parliamentary deputy Vasile Bolea led this group). Bolea nominated himself for the mayor of Chisinau with a rating of about 0.8%. Throughout the campaign, there was a serious struggle between the party leadership and the Boli group. On November 3, Ilan Shor made a TV address in which he named five candidates for whom he called to vote in the elections (including Vasile Bolu). Hopes that his appeal would have an effect were dashed: Shor’s ratings fluctuate between 13 and 15%.

  1. Former Prime Minister and former presidential candidate Ion Chicu and the Party for Development and Consolidation of Moldova (“Partidul Dezvoltării și Consolidării Moldovei”). After the elections, he turned to politicians from the opposition camp with a proposal to create a unified political platform. However, his proposal was not heard.
  1. “Our Party” (“Partidul Nostru”), led by businessman and former mayor of Balti Renato Usatii, holds a pro-Russian and Eurosceptic position. However, due to the conflict with Shor and Dodon and the reluctance to unite with the socialists, Russia introduced personal sanctions against Usatii (formally, he was accused of involvement in criminal financial schemes). Now, Usatii, despite the opposition rhetoric, is working quite closely with the current government, playing the role of “Priest Gapon” in the opposition camp.

The general mayor (primar) of Chisinau, Ion Chaban, stands separately. A former socialist, he distanced himself from Dodon in 2019 and won the election for mayor of the capital. Being very popular because of his demonstrative apolitically and thriftiness, Chaban, shortly before the 2023 elections, initiated the creation of the Movement for a National Alternative party (“Mișcarea Alternativa Națională”). At the same time, Chaban was subjected to active criticism from both Sandu’s supporters and the opposition. Although popular in Chisinau, Ceban has virtually no support outside the capital.

In most processes, experts also try to see the interests of the fugitive oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, who now lives in London and sometimes tries to negotiate either with the authorities or the opposition. The Plahotniuc factor is not discounted, but in reality, the stories about his influence are too exaggerated.

Interestingly, uniting the MAN party of Ion Ceban with the European Social Democrats of Iurie Cecan, who is close to Plahotniuc, is being actively discussed in Moldova. This possibility is regarded as a “bad dream” of Maia Sandu since the European Social Democratic Party of Moldova enjoys the support of the largest party in Romania and personally of Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu. Thus, the Romanians may have their alternative field of play on the territory of Moldova, and Sand will lose its monopoly on “Europeanness”.

For now, this option is entirely hypothetical. Regardless, after the elections, Romanian political scientist Hans Hartmann, considered the “voice of President Iohannis,” said on Metropola TV: “Three serious incidents against Moldova have occurred since the beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine. And this lady (Maia Sandu), instead of analysing them and figuring out who from the East is interested in destabilising Moldova’s statehood, because not only Russia has such an interest. But she not only did not carry out this analysis in the interests of her country and the interests of Romania and the EU but continued to further destabilise Moldova with her accusations, which caused Russophobia.” In Chisinau, this was regarded as a direct negative signal to Sandu.

The elections in Chisinau, for which the authorities nominated their unpopular candidate, member of parliament Lilian Carp, had three intrigues:

  1. Whether Ceban would win in the first round.
  2. What will be the gap between the representative of the party in power and the leader?
  3. How many votes will the nominee from Ilan Shor get?

At the end of the elections, another intrigue was added: what will be the format of the majority in the municipal council?

According to the election results, Cheban won in the first round with a result of about 51%. During the vote count, attempts at falsification were revealed (for example, at one polling station, about 100 ballots for Cheban ended up in a stack of ballots for Karp). But this did not help either: the authorities could not achieve a second round. It is important that those around Maia Sandu immediately believed that Cheban could become her competitor in the presidential elections in November 2024, so the official media declared Cheban “pro-Russian” and a “Russian protégé” (in fact, Cheban never made any statements that could be positioned as a supporter or opponent of rapprochement with the Russian Federation). Interestingly, Ceban is the godfather of Shor’s nominee, Vasile Boli, but Moldovan experts claim that there are no connections between Shor and Ceban.

An intriguing situation has evolved in the Chisinau Municipal Council. Cheban and the government have 20 deputies each. Another nine belong to the socialists. Representatives of the pro-European platform “YES!” and the Shorov’s party “Revival” received one mandate each. For Dodon, this is an apparent defeat. But the question arises: with whom should Cheban form a coalition? He will be accused of betraying his party and voters if he is in power. If with the socialists, the authorities will receive “evidence” of Cheban’s work for Russia. Experts are inclined to believe that Cheban will still rely on the socialists since government officials will demand the most influential posts and will neutralise Cheban’s victory.

Severe intrigue has spread around the elections in the “second capital” – in Balti in the north of Moldova, where the electorate with clear sympathies for Russia predominates.

In the 2023 elections, the winner was undecided in the first round. The largest number of votes was received by Alexander Petkov (“Our Party”), the nominee of Renato Usatii (22.69%). Second place (21.52%) belonged to self-nominated Arina Korshikova, supported by Ilan Shor, the day before the elections. However, the Central Election Commission withdrew Korshikova from the election following a complaint from the incumbent mayor, Nikolai Grigorishin, who ended fourth with about 8%. The reason is her connections with Ilan Shor (although she was officially charged with violating election laws on election day). In 2021, Marina Tauber, who received 49% of the votes in the first round, was likewise withdrawn from the competition in Balti. In the second round, Petkov and socialist Maxim Moroshan will meet. Grigorishin, who wrote the complaint, is also considered Renato Usatii’s man. Thus, Usatii will propose to the “party in power” because Balti, a strategically important city from the point of view of governing the country, will continue to be under his control.

In the Gagauz Autonomy, opposition sentiments prevailed in the elections. Shor’s protege, Evgenia Gutsul, became Gagauzia’s bashkan (head) a few months ago. However, in the elections for the mayor of Comrat (the capital of Gagauzia), the current mayor, Sergei Anastasov, a representative of the Socialist Party, received the largest number of votes (45.43%). Second place (30.03%) went to “self-nominated” (actually Sandu’s nominee) Nikolai Dudoglo. Sergei Kulafly, for whom Shor campaigned on the eve of the elections, received 19.01%.

Vyacheslav Lupov, supported by the SHOR party, became the mayor of Taraclia (the area borders Gagauzia, where almost 90% of the city’s residents voted for him). In the city council of Taraclia, 83% were received by representatives of the Revival party, also oriented towards Ilan Shor.

Experts predict that official Chisinau faces a severe problem in the form of the Gagauz-Bulgarian alliance (or “southern alliance”), as Taraclia is one of the centres of the Bulgarian cultural and ethnic community of Moldova.

In the current situation, we can only expect a worsening of relations between Chisinau and regional elites, who will continue strengthening their opposition – especially a year before the presidential elections. Rumours that parliamentary elections in Moldova may also be postponed from 2025 to 2024 will contribute to deepening contradictions. Maia Sandu’s statements that municipalities that voted for opposition representatives in the elections will not receive subsidies from the centre will only strengthen this confrontation – many of its supporters, especially in the age category 35+, may turn away from the PAS party and Sandu.

It is worth assuming that popular self-awareness can only be awakened by actualising the expectation of social catastrophes. For example, the opposition could launch a “restitution campaign” under the slogan “the Romanians will return and take away their property and their lands.” Or the opposition may start a myth that a large number of Palestinian refugees will be resettled in Moldova. These rumours can have a catalyst effect, and Ilan Shor is quite creative. However, he does not feel the real situation in the republic due to his isolation (by the way, due to accusations of corruption, the attitude towards Shor himself is also specific: speaking about the perception of the majority of citizens, this is rather a version of Pavlo Lazarenko or Mikhail Khodorkovsky).

Political opposition circles in Chisinau believe that Sandu is preparing for a possible escalation of the situation around Transnistria. Recently, military equipment from the USA and France has been arriving in Chisinau. Sandu is strengthening the army, and militaristic rhetoric is beginning (under the pretext that Moldova borders on a warring state). A state of emergency continues in the country, which is intensified by the external surroundings (the airport, constantly cordoned off by armed soldiers, the incessant howl of sirens from ambulances and police cars on the streets). Most likely, if PAS and Maia Sandu understand that they are not leading the situation and ratings continue to fall, it can be assumed that she will seek to introduce martial law in the country under the pretext of the need for a final solution to the Transnistrian issue.

Moldovian local elections, the first round of which took place on November 5, 2023, revealed several interesting trends.

Firstly, the government (the ruling PAS party and the team of President Maia Sandu) is rapidly losing influence: PAS failed to gain a majority in any locality in the country, although 19 localities (mainly in villages) received their mayors. At the same time, this party is popular among a significant part of the population, especially young people (sociological studies show that 45% of the population have an optimistic or predominantly positive assessment of the activities of PAS, 35% have a negative evaluation, and 43% of respondents have a positive attitude towards the actions of President Maia Sandu).

Secondly, there is a small demand for protest sentiments in society, which have not yet resulted in support for a certain political party or an exact leader (the level of support for the opposition is 26% since the people do not see a genuine leader). But the example of Ion Ceban, the mayor general of the Chisinau municipality, indicated that citizens are ready to make their choice, breaking through the vicious circle. 44% of respondents believe that Moldova is going the right way, and 36% – the wrong one. But at the same time, 38% of respondents consider themselves pessimists (versus 26% of optimists and 31% of “neutrals”). 47% of respondents say they are ready to participate in protests, and 60% are ready to declare complaints against the authorities openly.

58% of Moldovan citizens consider the main problem to be high prices for essential goods and food (as a percentage of prices concerning the income of the population in Moldova, they are indeed higher than in Ukraine). 49% talk about the problem of poverty. 40% indicate high unemployment. 44% emphasise the issue of corruption. 39% talk about a demographic crisis (the outflow of citizens abroad, mainly young people). In 2023, Moldova lost twice as many citizens as a percentage of warring Ukraine. At the same time, only 44% of respondents would like their children to stay in Moldova, and 41% believe they should live where it is more comfortable (potentially ready to emigrate). Only 68% of respondents consider themselves patriots, a meagre figure and evidence of the depressiveness of the country and society.

Thirdly, regarding geopolitical orientations, Moldova remains oriented primarily towards the West. 57% of citizens prefer the European Union, and 17% – the CIS. Interestingly, only 8% of respondents positively perceive the NATO bloc. 38% of Moldovans have a positive attitude towards the President of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky and 35% have a negative attitude (even though only 10% of Moldovans want rapprochement with Ukraine). Only 21% of Moldovan respondents assess Vladimir Putin positively (56% negatively), but 36% of Moldovans prefer rapprochement with Russia. 51% of respondents would want rapprochement with Romania, but only 34% of respondents have a positive assessment of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

Fourthly, a harsh police regime has been created in Moldova (perhaps the challenging system of control over political and public life in Europe) with a gross violation of the political rights of citizens and political parties. 43% of Moldovan citizens avoid discussing politics because they consider it unsafe. 30% think it is dangerous to show their civic position and protest against the authorities’ actions. Every fourth person believes that going to the polls is useless.

The official election results showed that Moldovan society harbours quite a serious protest potential, which the authorities ignore, using exclusively relatively positive figures from sociological surveys showing high support for the authorities. Sociology has shown a vast number of “sociological partisans”: more than 45% of respondents refuse to answer interviewers’ questions, and many respondents try to “please” the interviewers and answer not what they think but in a way that they consider less dangerous for themselves (the same questions, given in different configurations, sometimes give opposite answers).

Today, the following political configuration has developed in the republic.

– The pro-Western camp, represented mainly by the PAS party (“Partidul Acțiune și Solidaritate”, “Party of Action and Solidarity”) and the entourage of President Maia Sandu. In this case, the Embassy of the United States of America plays the leading role in the country. US Ambassador to Moldova Kent Logsdon is a career diplomat and intelligence officer; his work was primarily related to studying the operational situation in Russia. His background includes the following positions: Director of the Operations Center, Director of the Office of Russian Affairs and Deputy Head of Mission in Tbilisi (Georgia), and Political Advisor in Kyiv (Ukraine). At one time, Logsdon studied at the Kennedy School in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and spoke Russian and Ukrainian. Interestingly, he arrived in Moldova immediately before the start of the Russian aggression against Ukraine (beginning of February 2022).

According to information received by Ascolta from representatives of local political circles, the US Embassy takes all political decisions in the country and then makes recommendations regarding the behaviour of the Moldovan authorities, security and law enforcement agencies. The young head of the Information and Security Service of the Republic of Moldova, Alexandru Musteata, plays a vital role in this system. He is 35 years old; before his appointment, he headed the representative office of the Soros Foundation in Moldova and was an expert at the NATO Information and Documentation Center. Moldovan experts say that Mustiata has political ambitions. At some stage, the issue of replacing Maia Sandu with Alexandru Mustiata as a candidate for the leadership of Moldova may arise at the US Embassy.

  • Several political forces represent the opposition
  1. Party of Socialists of Moldova (“Partidul Socialiştilor din Republica Moldova”), led by ex-President of Moldova Igor Dodon.
  2. Projects of businessman Ilan Shor, former mayor of Orhei and leader of the SHOR party, now living in Israel. The SHOR party, which held mass rallies in Chisinau and other cities of Moldova in the winter of 2022–2023, was banned by the court in April 2023. Party members registered the party “CHANCE” (“ȘANSĂ”), led by TV journalist Alexei Lungu. One of the iconic figures in this movement was the member of the Parliament of Moldova Marina Tauber. In the spring of 2023, the party managed to lead its nominee, Evgenia Hutsul, to victory in the elections for the Bashkan of Gagauzia. Three days before the elections, on November 2, 2023, the CHANCE party and its candidates were expelled from the elections by the central authorities of Moldova.

Ilan Shor, being prepared for such an outcome of the situation, called for voting for the nominees from the Revival party (“Renaştere”), led by Natalya Paraska. In the summer of 2023, the party accepted into its ranks a group of politicians who broke away from Igor Dodon’s Socialist Party (parliamentary deputy Vasile Bolea led this group). Bolea nominated himself for the mayor of Chisinau with a rating of about 0.8%. Throughout the campaign, there was a serious struggle between the party leadership and the Boli group. On November 3, Ilan Shor made a TV address in which he named five candidates for whom he called to vote in the elections (including Vasile Bolu). Hopes that his appeal would have an effect were dashed: Shor’s ratings fluctuate between 13 and 15%.

  1. Former Prime Minister and former presidential candidate Ion Chicu and the Party for Development and Consolidation of Moldova (“Partidul Dezvoltării și Consolidării Moldovei”). After the elections, he turned to politicians from the opposition camp with a proposal to create a unified political platform. However, his proposal was not heard.
  1. “Our Party” (“Partidul Nostru”), led by businessman and former mayor of Balti Renato Usatii, holds a pro-Russian and Eurosceptic position. However, due to the conflict with Shor and Dodon and the reluctance to unite with the socialists, Russia introduced personal sanctions against Usatii (formally, he was accused of involvement in criminal financial schemes). Now, Usatii, despite the opposition rhetoric, is working quite closely with the current government, playing the role of “Priest Gapon” in the opposition camp.

The general mayor (primar) of Chisinau, Ion Chaban, stands separately. A former socialist, he distanced himself from Dodon in 2019 and won the election for mayor of the capital. Being very popular because of his demonstrative apolitically and thriftiness, Chaban, shortly before the 2023 elections, initiated the creation of the Movement for a National Alternative party (“Mișcarea Alternativa Națională”). At the same time, Chaban was subjected to active criticism from both Sandu’s supporters and the opposition. Although popular in Chisinau, Ceban has virtually no support outside the capital.

In most processes, experts also try to see the interests of the fugitive oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, who now lives in London and sometimes tries to negotiate either with the authorities or the opposition. The Plahotniuc factor is not discounted, but in reality, the stories about his influence are too exaggerated.

Interestingly, uniting the MAN party of Ion Ceban with the European Social Democrats of Iurie Cecan, who is close to Plahotniuc, is being actively discussed in Moldova. This possibility is regarded as a “bad dream” of Maia Sandu since the European Social Democratic Party of Moldova enjoys the support of the largest party in Romania and personally of Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu. Thus, the Romanians may have their alternative field of play on the territory of Moldova, and Sand will lose its monopoly on “Europeanness”.

For now, this option is entirely hypothetical. Regardless, after the elections, Romanian political scientist Hans Hartmann, considered the “voice of President Iohannis,” said on Metropola TV: “Three serious incidents against Moldova have occurred since the beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine. And this lady (Maia Sandu), instead of analysing them and figuring out who from the East is interested in destabilising Moldova’s statehood, because not only Russia has such an interest. But she not only did not carry out this analysis in the interests of her country and the interests of Romania and the EU but continued to further destabilise Moldova with her accusations, which caused Russophobia.” In Chisinau, this was regarded as a direct negative signal to Sandu.

The elections in Chisinau, for which the authorities nominated their unpopular candidate, member of parliament Lilian Carp, had three intrigues:

  1. Whether Ceban would win in the first round.
  2. What will be the gap between the representative of the party in power and the leader?
  3. How many votes will the nominee from Ilan Shor get?

At the end of the elections, another intrigue was added: what will be the format of the majority in the municipal council?

According to the election results, Cheban won in the first round with a result of about 51%. During the vote count, attempts at falsification were revealed (for example, at one polling station, about 100 ballots for Cheban ended up in a stack of ballots for Karp). But this did not help either: the authorities could not achieve a second round. It is important that those around Maia Sandu immediately believed that Cheban could become her competitor in the presidential elections in November 2024, so the official media declared Cheban “pro-Russian” and a “Russian protégé” (in fact, Cheban never made any statements that could be positioned as a supporter or opponent of rapprochement with the Russian Federation). Interestingly, Ceban is the godfather of Shor’s nominee, Vasile Boli, but Moldovan experts claim that there are no connections between Shor and Ceban.

An intriguing situation has evolved in the Chisinau Municipal Council. Cheban and the government have 20 deputies each. Another nine belong to the socialists. Representatives of the pro-European platform “YES!” and the Shorov’s party “Revival” received one mandate each. For Dodon, this is an apparent defeat. But the question arises: with whom should Cheban form a coalition? He will be accused of betraying his party and voters if he is in power. If with the socialists, the authorities will receive “evidence” of Cheban’s work for Russia. Experts are inclined to believe that Cheban will still rely on the socialists since government officials will demand the most influential posts and will neutralise Cheban’s victory.

Severe intrigue has spread around the elections in the “second capital” – in Balti in the north of Moldova, where the electorate with clear sympathies for Russia predominates.

In the 2023 elections, the winner was undecided in the first round. The largest number of votes was received by Alexander Petkov (“Our Party”), the nominee of Renato Usatii (22.69%). Second place (21.52%) belonged to self-nominated Arina Korshikova, supported by Ilan Shor, the day before the elections. However, the Central Election Commission withdrew Korshikova from the election following a complaint from the incumbent mayor, Nikolai Grigorishin, who ended fourth with about 8%. The reason is her connections with Ilan Shor (although she was officially charged with violating election laws on election day). In 2021, Marina Tauber, who received 49% of the votes in the first round, was likewise withdrawn from the competition in Balti. In the second round, Petkov and socialist Maxim Moroshan will meet. Grigorishin, who wrote the complaint, is also considered Renato Usatii’s man. Thus, Usatii will propose to the “party in power” because Balti, a strategically important city from the point of view of governing the country, will continue to be under his control.

In the Gagauz Autonomy, opposition sentiments prevailed in the elections. Shor’s protege, Evgenia Gutsul, became Gagauzia’s bashkan (head) a few months ago. However, in the elections for the mayor of Comrat (the capital of Gagauzia), the current mayor, Sergei Anastasov, a representative of the Socialist Party, received the largest number of votes (45.43%). Second place (30.03%) went to “self-nominated” (actually Sandu’s nominee) Nikolai Dudoglo. Sergei Kulafly, for whom Shor campaigned on the eve of the elections, received 19.01%.

Vyacheslav Lupov, supported by the SHOR party, became the mayor of Taraclia (the area borders Gagauzia, where almost 90% of the city’s residents voted for him). In the city council of Taraclia, 83% were received by representatives of the Revival party, also oriented towards Ilan Shor.

Experts predict that official Chisinau faces a severe problem in the form of the Gagauz-Bulgarian alliance (or “southern alliance”), as Taraclia is one of the centres of the Bulgarian cultural and ethnic community of Moldova.

In the current situation, we can only expect a worsening of relations between Chisinau and regional elites, who will continue strengthening their opposition – especially a year before the presidential elections. Rumours that parliamentary elections in Moldova may also be postponed from 2025 to 2024 will contribute to deepening contradictions. Maia Sandu’s statements that municipalities that voted for opposition representatives in the elections will not receive subsidies from the centre will only strengthen this confrontation – many of its supporters, especially in the age category 35+, may turn away from the PAS party and Sandu.

It is worth assuming that popular self-awareness can only be awakened by actualising the expectation of social catastrophes. For example, the opposition could launch a “restitution campaign” under the slogan “the Romanians will return and take away their property and their lands.” Or the opposition may start a myth that a large number of Palestinian refugees will be resettled in Moldova. These rumours can have a catalyst effect, and Ilan Shor is quite creative. However, he does not feel the real situation in the republic due to his isolation (by the way, due to accusations of corruption, the attitude towards Shor himself is also specific: speaking about the perception of the majority of citizens, this is rather a version of Pavlo Lazarenko or Mikhail Khodorkovsky).

Political opposition circles in Chisinau believe that Sandu is preparing for a possible escalation of the situation around Transnistria. Recently, military equipment from the USA and France has been arriving in Chisinau. Sandu is strengthening the army, and militaristic rhetoric is beginning (under the pretext that Moldova borders on a warring state). A state of emergency continues in the country, which is intensified by the external surroundings (the airport, constantly cordoned off by armed soldiers, the incessant howl of sirens from ambulances and police cars on the streets). Most likely, if PAS and Maia Sandu understand that they are not leading the situation and ratings continue to fall, it can be assumed that she will seek to introduce martial law in the country under the pretext of the need for a final solution to the Transnistrian issue.

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