Monday, April 29, 2019

Russia in Review: Moldova's Elections

Russia in Review is a weekly intelligence summary (INTSUM) produced by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). This ISW INTSUM series sheds light on key trends and developments related to the Russian government’s objectives and its efforts to secure them. Receive future Russia in Review INTSUM products via-email by signing up for the ISW mailing list.

Special Topic Update: Moldova's Elections

Author: Darina Regio

Key TakeawayMoldova will likely require a new parliamentary election to resolve its current political deadlock, leaving it without a functioning legislature for most of 2019. The Kremlin benefits from the continued impasse and fracturing of the political landscape in Moldova. Moldova could lose some of its long-term ability to effectively balance between Russia and the West, granting a stronger foothold for the Kremlin to increase its pressure in the region, specifically on Romania, Poland, and Ukraine.

Moldova still lacks a government eight weeks after the 2019 Moldovan Parliamentary Election. The Moldovan Parliament has been in recess since its first session on March 21, as the elected parties are still unable to form a 51-seat majority coalition.[1] The parliament will remain on hiatus until a government is formed or new elections are called. The Moldovan Parliament is deadlocked among the Kremlin-leaning Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) led by Moldovan President Igor Dodon; the pro-Western Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) of oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc; and the pro-EU ACUM Alliance. None holds a clear path to a majority.

Moldova will likely require a new election to resolve its political impasse. The ongoing negotiations are unlikely to succeed. Only the PSRM and ACUM are currently negotiating a possible coalition.[2] Their demands are too divergent, however, to lead to a deal.[3] ACUM has demanded the right to nominate the next Prime Minister and Parliament Speaker of Moldova under a de facto informal coalition with the PSRM. It has also called for the abolition of the mixed electoral system as well as a series of anti-oligarchic reforms, previously adopted by the PDM, with which it hopes to restore micro-financial assistance from the EU. The PSRM has rejected these proposals and stressed its own right to name the Prime Minister and Parliament Speaker under a formal coalition with ACUM.[4] Both ACUM and the PSRM have refused to negotiate with Plahotniuc’s PDM - ACUM due to PDM’s oligarchic support and the PSRM due to its perceived opposition to the Kremlin.[5] The fourth-place Sor Party has opted to stay out of the negotiations entirely and instead stated “the negotiations need to happen between the U.S. and Russia to resolve the deadlock in Moldova…since interested parties will be able to speak directly without intermediaries”.[6]

Dodon will likely call for new elections to the Moldovan Parliament in late 2019. Dodon holds the constitutional right to dissolve parliament and call new elections if a recess persists after June 21. He has repeatedly promised to exercise this right, most recently on April 24.[7] However, the results of any new election would likely remain deadlocked and require further coalition talks, leaving Moldova without a functional legislature through most of 2019. ISW previously assessed that Moldova would be forced to hold new elections after the 2019 Moldovan Parliamentary Elections.

The Kremlin will likely benefit from both the governance gap and potential new elections in Moldova. Russia intends to keep Moldova in its sphere of influence and halt its integration with the West. The Kremlin likely understands that it cannot immediately secure its preferred political outcomes in Moldova. It is therefore focusing on improving its overall position in the political landscape of Moldova, which is already quite favorable to the Kremlin’s policies.

The Kremlin has effectively foreclosed its least preferred outcome in Moldova - namely, an expansion of political power for Vlad Plahotniuc. Plahotniuc is a major competitor of Dodon and an obstacle to the Kremlin’s interests in Moldova. His coalition previously demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria and later sponsored a resolution on the issue in the UN General Assembly (UNGA).[8] He has also actively pushed for Moldova’s further integration and association with the EU. Plahotniuc has thus far been sidelined from talks over the next Government of Moldova.

The Kremlin also benefits from fractured pro-Western political space in Moldova as it would likely slow Moldova’s integration with the West. The pro-Western elements in the Moldovan government have served as an effective check on Dodon and his attempts to push Moldova towards closer ties with Russia.[9] Pro-Western elements have also taken steps to counter subversion efforts by Russia. The Kremlin thus likely views the current impasse as a means to reduce competition with its strategic interests, preserve the status quo, and slow Moldova’s integration with the West.

Moldova thus faces a key risk to its long-term ability to balance against the Kremlin. Russia could use expanded influence in Moldova to exert additional pressure on Ukraine, Romania, Poland, and the EU. The West should support pro-Western political forces Moldova that have proven critical in countering the subversive campaigns of the Kremlin. The West should also expand its economic assistance to Moldova in order to diversify its export partners and reduce its economic dependence on Russia.

[1] [“Parliament Selected: What Next? Seven Questions About the Political Situation in the Country,”] ESP, March 26, 2019, https://esp(.)md/podrobnosti/2019/03/26/parlament-vybrali-chto-dalshe-sem-voprosov-o-politicheskoy-situacii-v-strane.
[2] [“Coalition: Parties Are Ready for Negotiations, but Do Not Know with Whom,”] Sputnik, April 10, 2019, https://ru.sputnik(.)md/politics/20190410/25443741/koalitsiya-partii-peregovory.html.
[3] [“Igor Dodon: Whether There Will Be Government Depends on the PSRM Position,”] MK, April 17, 2019,
[4] “Right-Wing ACUM Bloc at Moldovan Parliament Declines Socialists’ Proposal on Negotiating Coalition,” Interfax, April 10, 2019, http://www.interfax(.)com/newsinf.asp?pg=3&id=896972; [“We Should Not Think That Plahotniuc Is White and Fluffy: He Is Capable of Killing,”] Kommersant, April 4, 2019, https://www.kommersant(.)ru/doc/3930341; [“Socialist Party of Moldova Thinks ACUM Bloc Is Not Ready for Coalition Negotiations,”] RIA, April 23, 2019, https://ria(.)ru/20190423/1552965736.html.
[5] [“Coalition with ACUM or Early Elections: Republican Council of PSRM Decided to Continue Negotiations with the Right-Wing Opposition,”] News Maker, April 12, 2019, http://newsmaker(.)md/rus/novosti/koalitsiya-s-acum-ili-dosrochnye-vybory-respublikanskiy-sovet-psrm-reshil-prodolzh-42923.
[6] [“Sor Party Found a Solution to Unlocking the Political Crisis,”] Alfa News, April 23, 2019, http://alfanews(.)md/index.php?newsid=9788.
[7] [“For a Balanced Foreign Policy,”] MK, April 24, 2019,
[8] Diana Preasca, [“The Chisinau Parliament Calls for the Withdrawal of Russian Troops from the Territory of the Republic of Moldova,”] Moldova, July 21, 2017, https://www.moldova(.)org/parlamentul-de-la-chisinau-cere-retragerea-trupelor-ruse-de-pe-teritoriul-republicii-moldova/; “Moldova’s President Criticizes UN Resolution on Russian Troops’ Pullout from Transnistria,” TASS, July 15, 2018, http://tass(.)com/world/1013208.
[9] [“Moscow “Will Have To Respect Our Decision”: Dodon Spoke Like Plahoutniuc,”] Regnum, April 6, 2019, https://regnum((.))ru/news/2606425.html