In the runoff on 13 November, Socialist Party leader Igor Dodon won by a relatively small margin – a swing of fewer than 70,000 votes would have delivered victory to Maia Sandu, the pro-EU candidate.  

Hoping to achieve new elections by proving the process had been flawed, Sandu’s party brought nine cases, citing a slew of alleged irregularities: violation of foreign-based voters’ right to vote, involvement of the Orthodox Church in the election campaign, illegal voting, and defamatory statements about Sandu in the media. Finally, the lawsuits accused her opponents of organizing transport to bring Transdniestrians into Moldova proper to vote.

None of those cases managed to convince the Supreme Court, and on 13 December, the Constitutional Court declared Dodon’s election official. 

While still waiting for the Constitutional Court ruling, Ziarul de Garda – a Romanian- and Russian-language news organization known for its investigations – spoke to several prominent figures of civil society about the implications of this fall’s political events.  

Tudor Botnaru, former minister of security

In a truly democratic state, such obvious falsifications would not even be discussed: some action would be taken. Unfortunately, we are not a democracy, like Austria, where one envelope with a wrongly assigned vote led the government to re-run the local elections. Serious violations remain unaddressed [in Moldova]. The CEC [Central Electoral Commission] informed the public that those violations were “within the law.” Let’s see what the local courts and the Constitutional Court decide regarding the complaints that were filed. If they have at least some respect for law, they will not recognize the election’s results.

Ludmila Bolboceanu, university professor

It’s difficult to predict anything. There’s huge confusion right now. Everyone, including the CEC, knows that Dodon won through vote-rigging, and yet everyone pretends they don’t know anything. I was extremely shocked by the international observers who – at least most of them – despite acknowledging serious violations, recognized the election’s results. This looks like a conspiracy to me, a conspiracy against Maia Sandu and against her political agenda. Congratulations to the diaspora – and shame on you, the rulers who disregarded Sandu. Shame on you, the so-called pro-European parties that decided “not to take sides” in the second round and in this way [indirectly] supported Dodon. Let’s see what the Court decides.

Andrei Strambeanu, writer

What has just happened is a real tragedy for us. It was not Dodon who won the election. [Controversial politician-businessman Vlad] Plahotniuc won them, so the future will be exactly the way PDM [the Democratic Party of Moldova], Plahotniuc, and Dodon’s voters want it to be. I know that I risk being unpopular, but Maia Sandu made a great mistake by not accepting the support of Plahotniuc and [Marian] Lupu [the leader of the PDM]. The “poisoned apple” theme was not the best choice. Maia Sandu should have done everything in her power to get PDM voters. She was too direct, she was too sincere. There is no place for sincerity in politics.

Anatol Caraman, Tiras-Tighina movement (veterans from the war over Transdniester)

The CEC has performed its function. Despite thousands of complaints, it handed the report on the election results to the Constitutional Court. Now everything is in its hands. Personally, I don’t think that the court will not recognize the election. I don’t think there will be any loud dismissals, or that the election results will be annulled, despite the fact that the voting was rigged in favor of Dodon. So what’s next? We will continue our struggle. I don’t think people will accept a president who took power on the basis of lies and falsifications. Dodon cannot be our president. He’s a surrogate president.

Alexandra Cann, APIUS (Light Industries’ Union)

Even if he is not allowed to do everything he wants, Dodon as a president will be one more problem on top of all the other problems that we already have. Maia Sandu is not the president of my dreams, but voting for her meant voting against the political system. Dodon will preserve the current political system. He has a past full of sins, so he can be easily blackmailed, and therefore, the government prefers him over Sandu. It would have been fair if, after a campaign with so many violations, including violations of voting rights, the CEC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials had handed in their resignations, paving the way for a third round of elections. The Constitutional Court can decide to re-run elections, but this is unlikely to happen.

This article was originally published in Russian on Ziarul de Garda, a news and analysis site based in Moldova. TOL has done some editing to fit our style. Reprinted with permission. 

Homepage image via OSCE Parliamentary Assembly/Flickr.