On the 30th of October, Moldavians go to the ballot box to elect their new president. According to the latest polls Igor Dodon from the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova will get the most votes (almost 33 per cent). If the 41-year-old politician becomes president, he would be Moldova’s first president since 2009 who is not in favour of closer ties with Europe.
Igor Dodon is the leader of the most pro-Russian political party in the Moldovan political mainstream. Kamil Całus, senior research fellow at the Warsaw-based Centre For Eastern Studies, explained: ”He openly calls for the integration of Moldova with the Russian-lead Eurasian Economic Union and at the same time he has a very negative attitude towards European integration.”
His party is opting for termination, or at least renegotiation, of the Association Agreement that Moldova signed with the European Union in June 2014. ”Russia supports Igor Dodon’s party politically and although it is not proven-most likely also financially. Moscow also supports the party via Russian TV stations which are popular in Moldova,” researcher Całus states.
Transnistria on the ballot
When the Soviet Union started to crumble in the late 1980s Transnistria, a strip of land on the eastern border of Moldova, declared itself independent. It is a self-proclaimed republic with strong ties to Russia. Transnistria is only recognized by the three non-United Nations states of Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia, despite that the ‘country’ has its own government, currency, anthem and military.
Dutch journalist Reinier van Oorsouw has visited Transnistria four times of which the last time was in 2013. ”It is a really strange situation. For what I have been seeing Moldova was turning to the west and Europe in the last few years, with the exception of Transnistria. It seems that they want to become a part of Russia,” he explained.
The question is however if the more than 4,000 square kilometre strip of land is of added value to Russia. ”Transnistria is as corrupt as a place can be. It is an amalgamation of prostitution-, drugs- and arms trafficking. But on the other hand it is interesting for Russia to expand their influence in the region. It wouldn’t surprise me if Moldova is turning to Russia again,” journalist Van Oorsouw said.
That seems to be in the line of expectations, if Igor Dodon will be elected as the new president. ”He is regularly calling to create a federal Moldovan state, with Transnistria as a subject of a federation,” Całus said. It is a scenario that is in line with Russian interests. ”Russia’s official position is that the only way to solve the Transnistrian conflict is through the creation of a federation uniting the two entities: mainland Moldova and Transnistria. The creation of a federation would mean that the deeply pro-Russian Transnistria would have considerable influence on the central Moldovan government in the capital Chișinău, especially in the field of foreign policy.”
A possible victory by Igor Dodon in the upcoming elections would probably not cause a quick reunification of the county, but it will undoubtedly become a topic of political discussion, Całus wraps up.