Moldova Celebrates Independence While Transnistria Braces for Change

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Despite emphasizing pragmatism and openness to negotiate, newly elected Moldovan President Maia Sandu has again called for Russia to withdraw the up to 2,000 troops stationed in the Russian-backed breakaway region of Transnistria.

A pro-Western technocrat and former World Bank analyst, Sandu had avoided discussing the conflict in the run up to her July 2021 election. But in an August 23 interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on the 30th anniversary of Moldova’s independence from the Soviet Union, President Sandu affirmed her commitment to negotiating the “frozen conflict on our territory” while avoiding “a destabilization of the situation.”

Estimates of the number of Russian troops in Transnistria – which has not been recognized by the United Nations or the international community – vary between 1,400 and more than 2,000. Whether tasked as peacekeepers or security for Soviet-era arms depots, the imposition of Russian troops has incited a domino effect of regional anxiety. When the Russian Federation annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in the spring of 2014, it also initiated military exercises between the Operational Group of Russian Troops in Transnistria (OGTR) and Russian Federation troops, as reported by Al Jazeera. A repeat of these exercises in Transnistria in April increased regional tension once again, leading Ukraine to bolster its State Border Guard along its border with Moldova. This represented the largest buildup of troops since Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

This saber rattling coincides with border conflicts throughout the region due to waves of new immigrants and refugees throughout Eastern Europe. Newly elected Peace And Solidarity Party deputy Rosian Vasiloi – whose Sandu-led party swept to power on an anti-corruption mandate – told EuroNews that stopping human trafficking and smuggling across the Transnistrian border will require nothing short of Moldovan authorities taking over the rebel state’s border management.

As Russia has been firmly entrenched since the 1990s, any new movements from the Moldovan side will likely be viewed as provocations threatening to upset the existing status quo. To avoid destabilization, the most effective confidence building measures would involve people-to-people communications in order to reestablish trust amongst the general population. However, due to the division between the respective societies, the conflict will likely remain ‘frozen’ until confidence building measures induce a gradual ‘thaw.’

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Dodon, Socialists Seek to Delay Parliamentary Elections Following Constitutional Court Ruling

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova on April 15 ruled that Moldovan President Maia Sandu can dissolve the current Parliament and call for snap elections. Such a ruling is a major win for pro-reform, pro-democracy, and pro-Western forces in a country split between pro-Russian and pro-Western forces.

The Harvard-educated President Maia Sandu campaigned on a platform promising to fight endemic corruption, promote democratic norms and policies, and align the country more closely with Europe. Her incumbent opponent, Igor Dodon, is the head of the country’s Socialist Party (PSRM) and represents the pro-Russian forces in the country. When President Sandu won the presidential election in November 2020, she was confronted with a parliament that was dominated by the PSRM and its allies – all hostile to the new president’s pro-Western, anti-corruption agenda.

The current composition of the parliament disproportionately represents the pro-Russian forces in the government, with polls showing that pro-Western parties, such as President Sandu’s Party of Action and Solidarity, poised to win nearly fifty percent of votes in an election. The PSRM has from the beginning attempted to thwart President Sandu’s agenda. After she won the election but before she was sworn in as president, the PSRM and its allies pushed through legislation (without any public consultation) to shift control of the Information and Security Service (ISS) from the President to the PSRM-controlled Parliament. The ISS functions as the main levers of control over the security of the country and the fight against corruption.  This move triggered large protests in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital.

President Sandu has responded by pushing to dissolve the current parliament, which Sandu has described as a corrupted body that does not accurately reflect the will of the Moldovan people. Ion Chicu, the former Prime Minister of Moldova and a pro-Russian ally of Mr. Dodon, resigned shortly after President Sandu’s inauguration. She appointed Aureliu Ciocoi – another Dodon ally – as Interim Prime Minister. President Sandu then proceeded to nominate two different candidates for Prime Minister – the Moldovan Constitution states the President can dissolve the parliament if it fails twice to confirm a Prime Minister within a 45-day period – both of whom failed to be confirmed by the hostile Parliament.

Upon the failure of the second candidate to be confirmed, the PSRM-controlled Parliament introduced a two-month state of emergency ostensibly to deal with the pandemic. This was a tactic to delay Parliament’s dissolution and maintain the PSRM’s power as the Moldovan Constitution states that no elections can be held during a state of emergency. The Constitutional Court ruling in favor of President Sandu to dissolve parliament may put snap elections back on the agenda.

Igor Dodon and the PSRM have resorted to a combination of Parliamentary tactics and outright fearmongering. Mr. Dodon called the Constitutional Court’s favorable ruling for President Sandu rigged, suggesting that the President bought justices on the court like the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, who is now in self-imposed exile in Turkey. He has also said that President Sandu is in the pocket of external powers – implying not so subtly Europe and the United States – and that she would drag Moldova into the Ukrainian conflict and a larger, general European war.

And on April 15, Mr. Dodon announced in a TV interview that the PSRM would use Parliament to block the allocation of funds to stage early parliamentary elections until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. The budget required, nearly $7.25 million, can only be adopted by the prime minister with the backing of a majority of the parliament. Dodon has also warned that the Parliament (or rather, the PSRM and its allies) might not recognize the Constitutional Court’s ruling granting President Sandu the right to dissolve the parliament.

While President Sandu focused her campaign on combating corruption as opposed to foreign policy and resolving the ongoing frozen conflict in Transnistria, she has called for the departure of Russian troops operating in the territory. Mr. Dodon has long voiced support for the continued Russian presence in Transnistria, claiming it alone prevents renewed fighting.

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Will Russian Influence in Moldova Decline as Country Heads for Snap Parliamentary Elections?

On March 25, the Moldovan Parliament failed to confirm Igor Grosu, Moldovan President Maia Sandu’s nominee for Prime Minister. This is the second time the Parliament rejected President Sandu’s pick; the Socialist-dominated Parliament rejected President Sandu’s first pick, Natalia Gavrilita on February 11. According to the Moldovan Constitution, should the Parliament fail twice to endorse a new government within 45 days of the President’s first request, the President may call for snap parliamentary elections. Parliament’s rejection of Mr. Grosu now sets the stage for President Sandu to call for new elections, a priority for the new President if she wants to pass legislation.

President Sandu campaigned largely on a reformist, anti-corruption, pro-democracy agenda. The Moldovan electorate, including the diaspora numbering between one and two million, came out in an unprecedented turnout to elect her to the presidency, ousting the Socialist, pro-Russian President Igor Dodon. However, the Moldovan Parliament is still dominated by the Mr. Dodon’s Socialist Party, which favors close ties to Moscow and is working to discredit President Sandu’s reform agenda. Polls have shown that if snap elections were called, President Sandu’s party, the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), would win.

This has set the lines of battle in Moldova since the presidential election. The PAS, not recognizing the legitimacy of the current Parliament (arguing the Socialists artificially control Parliament), vowed not to support any nominee for Prime Minister. The Socialists and Democrats (the political party of the exiled oligarch, Vladimir Plahotniuc) fought President Sandu.

After the Parliament rejected Ms Gavrilita, President Sandu tried to renominate her hours after the vote. The Socialists took this to the Constitutional Court which blocked the President’s attempt to nominate Ms Gavrilita a second time. The Socialists were also pushing to take President Sandu’s mandate, though the Court stopped short of such a ruling.

When the Court ruled that President Sandu’s nomination of Mr. Grosu was constitutional, the battle lines were reset. The PAS again said they would not confirm Mr. Grosu, saying new elections are still needed, and the other parties rejected Mr. Grosu. Now that a Constitutional Court-approved path to snap elections has been cleared, the PAS and pro-reform, pro-Western forces seem set to become a deciding voice in Moldovan governance. Accordingly, though the domestic political situation is in flux, President Sandu’s hand is now strengthened in resolving this this decades-old frozen conflict in regarding the break-away region of Transnistria.

While President Sandu campaigned largely on a domestic issues’ platform, focusing on problems like corruption and democratic reform, she did touch on the Transnistrian conflict. Reflecting on the largely pacific nature of this conflict, with no violence since the ceasefire, Sandu called for the withdrawal of the Russian Operative Group of Russian Troops (OGRT) based in Transnistria. She also argued for the replacement of the multinational peacekeeping force (comprised of Moldovans, Transnistrians, Russians, and Ukrainians) with a civilian monitoring mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Ukraine has voiced its support of this proposal.

While President Sandu did not issue a deadline for such steps, the statements predictably drew a swift rebuke from the Kremlin. Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov,         called the request an ‘irresponsible demand,’ while the outgoing Moldovan president, Igor Dodon, asserted the OGRT force has kept the peace since the 1994 ceasefire. Russia currently stations between 1,500-2,000 troops in Transnistria. Transnistria’s military arm numbers as many as 15,000 soldiers supported by tanks and combat aircraft, and annually holds more than 100 joint exercises with the stationed Russian forces. By contrast, Moldova’s army numbers around 6,000 troops with a negligible number of armored vehicles and combat aircraft.

This recent internal development thus illustrates the proclivities of Moldova’s political parties regarding to either resolve the on-going conflict or prolong the status quo. Igor Dodon has long been attentive to Moscow’s needs. Igor Dodon until 2019 publicly argued for a federal solution to the conflict, giving Transnistria. Russia, who in addition to being Transnistria’s economic and security guarantor, has issued over 200,000 Russian passports to the territory, would thus have a say in Moldova’s domestic and foreign policy. However, the Socialist Party (headed by Mr. Dodon) still argues on its website that federalization is the best solution.

But now with snap parliamentary elections likely on the horizon, the internal forces benefiting from the prolonging of the conflict in are likely to recede. While Russia maintains influence through Igor Dodon (who after his electoral defeat went on a Russian-funded trip to Moscow), a PAS-controlled government is likely to come to power. Beyond strengthening Moldova’s domestic institutions and removing corruption, such a government is likely to pursue a less conciliatory approach to Moscow. For the Moldovan Europhile, there is reason to be hopeful.

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Romanian Unionist Party to Open in Moldova

The Romanian populist party, the Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR), will be opening its first Moldovan branch on March 27. The little-known AUR which was founded in 2019 and whose primary message is for the reunification of Moldova with Romania, scored a political upset in the Romanian 2020 elections, winning nine percent of the vote. This gained the party 47 seats in Romania’s 465 seat parliament. In addition to its nationalist message of union, the party is conservative and nationalist, with a pro-religion, anti-LGBTQ platform.

The Party’s leader, George Simion, is a long-time Romanian unionist. He has been declared persona non grata in Moldova three times and banned from entering the country for five years in 2018. The ban took place during a pro-union march he organized from the Romanian city Alba Iulia to the Moldovan capital, Chisinau. On March 14, he was again turned back from the Moldovan border. Mr. Simion argued that this was “inadmissible” due to his current status as a Romanian parliamentarian. Moldovan President Maia Sandu’s office replied that he would have to follow legal recourses to be permitted entry. Mr. Simion’s last attempt to overturn the ban, lodged on February 17, was rejected by Moldovan courts. The next hearing will be on April 7.

This drama reflects the unresolved issues that led to the current frozen conflict in the Russian-majority Transnistrian region. Moldova, a Romanian-majority country, was historically part of Romanian Bessarabia. Annexed to Russia in 1812 from the Ottoman Empire, Romania unified with Moldova in 1918. The Soviet Union held on to contemporary Transnistria, which became the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic with its capital in Tiraspol. Stalin annexed the rest of contemporary Moldova from Romania in 1940. The Soviet Union pursued russification policies in Moldova until 1990, when a Romanian nationalist party replaced the Communists.

The Russian minority, fearful of losing their rights under the Romanian-nationalist government in Chisinau, formed their own republic in the wealthy and industrialized Transnistria, with their capital in Tiraspol. With Russian military support, Moldovan government forces were beaten back from Transnistria in 1992.

Following the government’s failure to retake Transnistria, the Gagauz in Moldova’s south agitated for greater rights. The Gagauz, a Turkic-speaking Orthodox Christian community, secured autonomous status within the newly formed Moldovan republic in 1994. The autonomous territory today is composed of four noncontiguous districts, numbers about 161,000 inhabitants, is primarily Russian speaking, agricultural, and is the poorest area in Moldova – already Europe’s poorest country. Most citizens in the territory do not speak Romanian, with a majority of people in Gagauzia (and Moldova in general) getting news from Russian sources. Gagauzia is highly skeptical of European integration and a fierce opponent of union with Romania over fears of losing their culture.

This fear is not without reason. The Turkic Gagauz language is dying out as the region’s young, who primarily speak Russian and not Gagauz, are leaving to find jobs either in Moldova or abroad. And Romania has been pressing for greater ties with Moldova, often saying that Romania and Moldova are the same. In 2013, the Moldovan Constitutional Court ruled that the Moldovan and Romanian languages are the same. In 2017, the same court ruled Romanian as the official language of Moldova. Meanwhile, unification is popular in Romania, with the Romanian parliament symbolically backing reunification with Moldova in a 2018 vote.

All of these actions give credence to Russian propaganda in Transnistria and Gagauzia that portrays any reformist, pro-Western government as anti-minority. And it is not hard to paint unification with Romania as a nightmare for the non-Romanian communities. Parties like the AUR are openly hostile to the minorities, whether they are Hungarian or Russian-speaking, and have often said granting Gagauzia autonomy was a mistake. Such arguments assist Kremlin propaganda trying to convince Russian-speaking Moldovans that it is in their interest to side with Russia versus the West.

However, while Russian propaganda is strong in Moldova, it has not yet managed to savage Eurointegrationists like Moldova’s President Maia Sandu. Reformists like President Sandu understand that Moldovans, for now, largely prefer independence. In April of 2018, a poll recorded that 44 percent of Moldovans wanted unification, up from 27 percent in January. Such sentiment may well increase when the AUR begins operating in Moldova.

AUR activism may well serve Russian propaganda to Moldova’s anti-union Eurosceptics. The nationalist language used by the AUR and other pro-Union parties will only further alienate the non-Romanian communities in Moldova and impede a negotiated settlement to the Moldovan conflict.  

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Moldova’s Political Standoff Jeopardizes Pro-Western Progress

In the, November 2020 Moldovan presidential election, the pro-Western/EU and anti-corruption candidate Maia Sandu widely defeated the incumbent pro-Russian Socialist candidate President Igor Dodon. This political upset was hailed by European and American news as a victory for Western forces in Moldova, Europe’s poorest country, and the host of the continent’s oldest frozen conflict. 

Shortly before her inauguration on December 24, Moldova’s Prime Minister Ion Chicu and his cabinet resigned. The decision was made after a discussion between Mr. Chicu and President Dodon on December 23. At the time, a vote of no-confidence in the government, which would have triggered snap parliamentary elections, was scheduled for December 23. By resigning, Mr. Chicu delayed the vote, strengthening the Parliament where President Dodon’s Socialist Party (PSRM) held a one-seat majority in the 101-seat Parliament in an unofficial alliance with the Shor Party. The snap elections are widely predicted to President Sandu’s Party for Action and Solidarity (PAS) the greatest number of seats (though ten short of a majority), followed by the PSRM.

With Prime Minister Ion Chicu’s resignation, President Sandu was required to nominate an interim prime minister from the former cabinet until a new prime minister could be chosen. She could then provide her own nominee for prime minister. If the parliament then failed twice to select a new prime minister, snap elections would have to be held. President Sandu nominated on January 27 the deputy head of the PAS, Natalia Gavrilita, for prime minister. The PAS announced it would not vote for President Sandu’s (or any) nominee so that snap elections could be held. On February 11, the parliament rejected Ms Gavrilita, who did not receive a single vote. They then voted for former Ambassador Marianna Durlesteanu, who received 54 of the 101 votes.

President Sandu renominated Ms Gavrilita hours after rejecting Ambassador Durlesteanu. While President Sandu’s decision was made in order to force another rejection of her candidate and thus trigger snap parliamentary elections to clear the path for her anti-corruption agenda, it may backfire. The PSRM, under Igor Dodon’s leadership, is now appealing her rejection of Ms Durlesteanu as prime minister to the Constitutional Court. This could lead the way for a parliamentary vote to suspend President Sandu from office and initiate a referendum regarding to revoke her mandate.

The PSRM has worked to create controversy for President Sandu, obstructing her efforts to govern. Prior to her inauguration, they with President Dodon, passed a package of eleventh-hour bills to transfer control of the Information and Security Service from the president to the parliament. The organization is responsible for state security, but also is the main government organ dedicated to fighting corruption, a key promise of President Sandu. The PSRM also blocked aid from the International Monetary Fund. 

Additionally, the PSRM voted for a bill to make Russian a state language. The official status of Russian is fraught with history in the majority-Romanian country. Only 14 percent of the population (excluding separatist Transnistria) speak Russian as their primary language, primarily in Gagauzia and Comrat, respectively home to the Turkish-speaking Christian Gagauz and Bulgarians. This Constitutional Court overturned the bill. 

All of the PSRM’s meddling comes amid Mr. Dodon’s recent family trip to Moscow, paid for by the Russian Embassy in Chisinau. While Mr. Dodon has said that he needed an official invitation to Moscow under current Covid-related restrictions (which was untrue), he failed to explain why the embassy paid for the trip. 

This trip seemed to confirm for analysts that the pro-Russian Dodon is in the pocket of Kremlin benefactors. Anatol Taranu, Moldova’s ambassador to Russia from 1993-1994, said that he “find[s] this gesture of the Russian Embassy in Chisinau as indicating that Moscow financially insures Dodon. It is not normal for a foreign state to buy plane tickets for a ruling party leader.” The timing of Mr. Dodon’s visit to Moscow, coinciding with the PSRM’s political offensive against President Sandu, seems to indicate Russia is behind efforts to overturn the 2020 Moldovan election.

The situation in Moldova is precarious, it’s recent pro-Western steps at risk of being erased by pro-Russian forces. The PSRM is calculating it can return to power and restore anti-Western, pro-Russian policies by blaming President Sandu for the problems they themselves created. The West cannot tolerate such anti-democratic behavior on its frontier. The Western countries should thus expand Russian and Romanian language broadcasting in Moldova to demonstrate the PSRM’s culpability in the current political crisis. Should the Kremlin succeed in ousting President Sandu, it is doubtful we will see another pro-Western government again in Moldova. 

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Election Update: What to Expect from Newly Elected Moldovan President?

Pro-EU candidate Maia Sandu won the Moldovan presidential run-off elections on November 15th with goals to end corruption, scandals, and favoritism towards the Kremlin.  

Rebranding the Pro-Western Parties 

Sandu secured 57.7 percent of the vote by positioning herself against both pro-Russian groups and unpopular pro-Western parties. Her anti-Russia stance revolves around Russian peacekeeping in Transnistria, which prevents Moldova from unifying with Romania or joining the EU. However, her disassociation from other pro-Western groups stems from 2016 when the U.S. government sponsored political parties connected to a corrupt banking tycoon, Vlad Plahotniuc. The U.S. formally ended their support for Plahotniuc in 2019 by refusing to grant him refuge after his inditement on corruption charges. In 2016 presidential and 2019 parliamentary elections, pro-Russian parties discouraged the Moldovan voter base from supporting the EU-platforms by publishing images of Plahotniuc’s meeting with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria J. Nuland, linking Western-backing to further corruption in Moldova. Sandu’s anti-corruption campaign and her subsequent land-slide victory signify a new image for the pro-Western movement.  

Potential New Parliamentary Elections 

President-elect Sandu proposed snap parliamentary elections stating, “Parliament has proven that it doesn’t work for people.” Previous Moldovan officials such as 2018 appointed President Pavel Filip dissolved the parliament and called for snap elections after the Constitutional Court suspended pro-Russian President Igor Dodon from his presidency. Moldovan parliament is often torn between association with the West and Russia. 

Day of the Election and After 

On November 15th, Moldovan veterans blocked the Transnistrian border to prevent voter fraud stemming from Transnistria. In the 2016 and 2019 elections, 70,000 Transnistrian voters were bribed and bussed to Moldova, giving a lead to pro-Russian incumbent President Igor Dodon and his party. Veterans enforced Moldova’s ban on vehicles carrying more than eight people entering from the breakaway state by monitoring how many people cross the border and registering cars. Approximately 14,000 Moldovan citizens from Transnistria voted and police recorded 173 voter violations in the first round of the elections on November 1st. Although Transnistrians can vote in the Moldovan elections, they do not have access to non-Russian mass media. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said the run-off elections were well-managed but were full of unfair campaigning involving personal attacks and lack of impartiality in available information. 

After losing with 42.2% of the votes, Dodon congratulated Sandu on winning the election. However, Dodon alleged that there were several electoral violations involving Western participation. A record-breaking 1.2 million members of the Moldovan diaspora voted in consulates across Russia and EU countries. The incumbent discouraged any street riots and protests regarding his loss. Dodon also criticized Sandu’s statement regarding withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping mission from Transnistria. In an interview with a Russian broadcaster NTV Moldova, he said the Transnistrian conflict has not been resolved and thus needs peacekeeping to protect the interests of an alleged 35 to 50 percent Russian population. In conversations with Ukrainian publications, Sandu announced a departure from the Russian alliance, focusing on improving relations with neighboring Ukraine. The President-elect said she believes Moldova and Ukraine both aim to achieve rapprochement with the EU and share a “bilateral agenda” due to Russian influence. Presidents of Ukraine, Russia and Romania congratulated Sandu on her landslide victory, stating their hopes for cooperation with the new administration. 

Sources: New York Times, 112 InternationalTASSEuronewsOSCEFrance 24 

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Why Moldovan 2020 Presidential Elections Are Important

The first round of Moldovan elections took place on November 1st, with the pro-Russian incumbent, Igor Dodon winning 32.6% of the vote versus European Union-backed former Prime Minister Maia Sandu’s 36.1%. The runoff election on November 15th will determine whether Moldova pivots towards Russia or the West.  

A Narrow Election  

Dodon and Sandu were unable to secure a majority vote in an election with a historically low voter turnout of 42.7%. Although exit polls predicted an easy win for Dodon, who secured 52.11% of votes in 2016, Sandu gained 11% of votes from the diaspora, which put her ahead. The incumbent Dodon, the former economy minister under the 2006 and 2009 Communist governments, campaigned with promises of improved infrastructure and social care, balanced foreign policy, traditional Christian values, and mandatory Russian-language instruction in schools. Throughout his term, Dodon favored relationships with Russia rather than ties with Romania, Ukraine, and the EU, making over 35 visits to Russia. A former World Bank economist and prime minister in 2019, Sandu promised to secure funding from Brussels. 

Transnistria Can Swing the Election Towards Russia 

Opposition leaders in Chisinau fear a repetition of the rampant Transnistrian voter fraud that occurred during the 2016 presidential and 2019 parliamentary elections. Transnistria is an unrecognized state that broke away from Moldova in 1992 with significant assistance from Russia. The authorities in Tiraspol, the region’s self-proclaimed capital, heavily align themselves with the Kremlin. They receive free gas for over 15 years and get high pension and salary payments from Russian, and even mandate the teaching of Russian language and the Cyrillic alphabet in schools. For the past two elections, tens of thousands of Transnistrians were transported to bordering Moldovan regions where they cast their votes for pro-Russian candidate Igor Dodon. In particular, Dodon received an extra 16,788 votes in 2016 and the Party of Socialists (PSRM) got 37,177 Transnistrian ballots.  

President Dodon argues that Transnistrian votes are equivalent to Moldovan votes cast abroad. However, local NGOs and humanitarian watch groups say allowing unrecognized states to vote in elections is a form of coercion against Moldovan sovereignty. First, the lack of government supervision allows for involuntary voting, where Transnistrians are paid to cross the Dniester river and vote in favor of a set candidate. Secondly, while living as a separate state, Transnistrians will skew Moldovan votes to elect a president or parliament that will be beneficial for Tiraspol. Following the election of President Dodon, he recognized Transnistria’s self-declared leader Vadim Krasnoselsky as the president during their meeting in Chisinau and delayed the assessment of taxes on cigarettes and alcohol exported by Transnistria.  

Moldova’s Central Electoral Commission has banned bussing practices to election polls, but the opposition worries about the ruling’s implementation. Transnistria lifted all COVID-19 movement restrictions to Moldova effective November 1st, the day of the election. Unlike Moldova, Ukrainian non-government-controlled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk were not allowed to vote in recent local elections on October 25th. Similarly, the breakaway states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia did not participate in the Georgian parliamentary elections on October 31st.  

Russian Presence in the Media and Its Implications 

Under the leadership of President Dodon and the PSRM, the Russian media underwent a revival. The pro-Russian government reestablished major Russian state-sponsored networks such as “Perviy Kanal”, or “Channel One,” previously banned by the pro-Western Democratic Party. Two-thirds of network owners are politicians with ties to Moscow. For example, Igor Chaica the owner of “Primul în Moldova” (“Channel One in Moldova”) is a son of a former Prosecutor General in Russia, Yuri Chaica, who is tightly connected to President Dodon’s brother. Moldovans also read Russian-language newspapers and internet publications. The Russian media has heavily opposed western integration and pro-Romanian sentiments. “Primul în Moldova ” often criticizes friendly relations with the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), LGBTQ+ rights, and western rise of atheism. Media is crucial in the reelection of the incumbent president, as much of his party owns Russian-speaking channels and approximately 31% of Moldovans choose Russian over Moldovan programming. 

No Violations Recorded So Far 

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) supervised the first round of Moldovan elections. OSCE and ODIHR concluded that both candidates received equitable treatment despite minor problems of the overall organization of the election, media environment, and allegations of buying and transporting voters. The EU expressed satisfaction with the overall electoral process and will continue to observe the execution of the second round.  

Sources: Euronews, European Union External Action, Aljazeera, Voice of America, Politico 

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