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6 Nov, 2023 20:47

Pro-West ruling party big loser in Moldovan election

Voters in cities have turned against the EU-backed president
Pro-West ruling party big loser in Moldovan election

President Maia Sandu’s party underperformed in the local elections across Moldova, according to preliminary results published on Monday, even after banning a major rival. The local election is widely seen as a harbinger for the 2024 presidential vote.

Sunday’s local elections saw a 41.41% turnout from an electorate of about 2.7 million, according to the Central Electoral Commission.

The ruling Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) won 240 out of the 898 races for mayors or county administrators in the first round, mainly in rural areas. In every major city – including the capital, Chisinau – opposition candidates appear to have prevailed, however.

The incumbent mayor of Chisinau, Ion Ceban, declared victory after winning 50.6% of the votes in the first round, according to the Moldovan outlet Newsmaker. In Balti, Comrat, and Orhei, opposition candidates won outright as well. PAS was able to secure enough votes to force a runoff in Edinet, but the opposition candidate is in the lead. 

PAS vice-chair Andrei Spinu insisted that the main takeaway of the election was that the “pro-European choice has won confidently across the whole country.”

Meanwhile, former President Igor Dodon argued that the “dictatorial regime of Maia Sandu suffered a defeat” despite “seizing all the institutions of government” and “blocking the media.”

In June, Sandu’s government banned the Sor Party, accusing it of being a front for organized crime and aiming to “discredit the idea of democracy” by serving “oligarchs.” It was the first ban on a political party since Moldova’s independence in 1991. 

Sor, founded by Israeli-Moldovan businessman Ilan Shor, has advocated good relations with Russia while opposing Moldova’s annexation to Romania, joining the European Union, or a forcible seizure of the unrecognized republic of Transnistria, where Russian peacekeepers have been stationed since 1992. Prior to the ban, Sandu had asked the EU to sanction both Shor and his party.

Sandu has accused Russia of meddling in the election by “buying” votes with money allegedly laundered through Sor. Her government has sought to annul the local elections in Gagauzia, an autonomous region inhabited mainly by a Turkic minority, because a Sor candidate won.