Implications of the Moldova’s New Pro-Western Leadership

Implications of the Moldova’s New Pro-Western Leadership

Moldova, an Eastern European post-soviet state stagnated by an internal frozen conflict, has had its aspirations towards greater cooperation with Europe and the West often challenged by its own old pro-Russian political elite. However, Maya Sandu’s election as President in late in 2020 marks a major shift in the state, just a year after she was ousted as Prime Minister by the PSRM (Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova) party over the appointment of a General Prosecutor. The resignation of the current Prime Minister Ion Chicu in response to her acquiring the presidency further provides a significant opportunity for Moldova to europeanise, but what has she done so far? 

Maya Sandu’s return to politics in Moldova will have both localised and regional implications. The election itself revealed a more eager and committed electorate especially in terms of the diaspora. This will be an important factor in any upcoming snap parliamentary elections, given the resignation of the PM, as the Presidential position alone is largely focused on appointments and such, while the legislative remains in the hands of parliament. Going forward, electing a new government will be the most decisive factor in Maya Sandu’s ability to execute her pro-European agenda. Nonetheless, Sandu’s first initiatives have been positive and well-executed in line with her electoral promises. Prioritising better relations with neighbouring states and decreasing Russian influence have been two major points of focus as expected.

The Meaning of the Election Results

Sandu’s win in November was indisputable, managing to secure 58 percent of the vote in comparison to previous incumbent Igor Dodon’s 42 percent. These results are significant for two reasons: first and foremost, the decisive role of the diaspora, with 93 percent of which voted for Sandu undoubtedly tipped the scales in her favour. This is contradictory to established theories of the role of immigration on domestic political life especially in Eastern Europe. In this region it has been considered that a large exodus of peoples creates a brain-drainwithin the state which stagnates the diversification of politics. With Moldova’s election results acting as a precedent of the opposite, a reimagining of the role of immigrants for their domestic societies could be plausible.  

Secondly, these elections further highlight that political plurality in the region is possible, albeit at a slow pace and not without obstacles along the way. Sandu has proven that the grip on power by aging elites – survivors of the downfall of communism – can be broken. This is a significant point in considering the possible outcome of the necessary parliamentary vote that is to take place soon. Some early opinion polls suggest that the ACUM block, affiliated with Sandu, stands to win between 35 and 40 percent of the vote, which will provide her with executive support. These numbers may be increased given Sandu’s insistence on limiting voter fraud, previously a key gatekeeper to politics in Moldova. She showcased her commitment to a cleaner procedure in the presidential elections vis-a-vis her implementation of a ban on vehicles that could host more than 8 passengers crossing the de-facto border between Moldova and the breakaway region of Transnistria. In both 2016 and 2019 a large number of votes for the PSRM party had specifically been cast in such a way, given that the seperatist region is pro-Russian.  

Sandu’s First Initiatives  

With new leadership comes a new political direction. Sandu’s focus in foreign policy is to secure new foreign allies and decrease Russian influence. She has stressed commitment to bettering Moldova’s relationship with its neighbours, which had been deteriorating under Dodon. The foundations for this have already been laid: she will undertake a state visit to Ukraine in 2021 with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy eager to continue a mutually beneficial and positive relationship, which the two officials already laid the foundation of in 2019, when Sandu visited during her brief time as Prime Minister. Romanian President Klaus Iohannismet with Sandu in December, his first visit to the neighbouring state in six years, clearly indicating  an initiative for more cooperation and a joint EU agenda ahead. Evidence of closer ties was presented by the Romanian Head of State donating 200,000 Pfizer vaccine doses in light of  Moldova’s previous leadership’s failure to adequately respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Analogously, Sandu has shown her pledge for a closer relationship between the two states by changing the official language of the presidential website to Romanian from Moldovan. While this may appear a small gesture, language has been a key point of domestic dispute for a long time and is part of an internal split of national identity for many Moldovan people. Dodon had throughout his tenure maintained that the official language of the state is  Moldovan and that it is distinct from Romanian. Given that a new government is going to be elected soon and it might be more akin to Sandu’s perspective, it will be of significance to follow whether she would take further steps in reinstating Romanian as the official language of Moldova, which would involve amending the constitution. Such a policy by Sandu could have implications for other similar disputes such as the one currently between Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia, which is negating Northern Macedonia’s EU aspirations. 

The new President has also shown she would like to negate Russian influence in Moldova, which previously had been the norm under the pro-Russian Dodon. Her first initiative in this respect has been to call for the total withdrawal of the 1500 Russian troops stationed in Transnistria and their replacement with civilian monitors from the OSCE (The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe). While NATO is similarly inclined, the Kremlin has refused to withdraw the troops and given that it is a breakaway region, it is unlikely that such a manoeuvre will take place in the near future. For Russia, holding onto tangible aspects of influence such as troops is of great importance now given that it has been decreasingly able to maintain its sway over the post-Soviet sphere through soft power alone. 


Moldova’s new pro-Western leadership is yet to undergo its first important challenge which will consist of electing a new parliament. If the new government is of similar perspective to that of President Sandu, it is likely significant changes will occur domestically. Given the enthusiasm of the electorate in the November elections, which elected Sandu with a significant margin, 2021 might prove a breakthrough in Moldovan politics. Nonetheless, the new President’s first initiatives have also been promising in establishing closer ties to pro-European states such as Ukraine and Romania and alleviating Russia’s traditional grip on the state. Overall, the new leadership is a positive development internally as well as regionally.

Categories: Europe, Politics

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