In a surprising move, initiating a pro-European constitutional referendum in a country with a struggling economy, strong Soviet-era nostalgia, and challenges in integrating national minorities has sparked concerns among political commentators. Anatol Țăranu suggests that such a move, especially without proper allies in the pro-European segment, could be perceived as a strategic promotion of the ruling party’s electoral interests, potentially jeopardizing the positive outcome of the referendum for the European idea.
The Context of Moldova’s Political Landscape
With a population divided between those favoring European integration and those longing for a return to the Soviet era, Moldova faces a complex socio-political scenario. The pro-Russian parties in Moldova, capitalizing on the nostalgia for the Soviet past, are known to exploit the frustrations and fears of Moldovan voters, cultivating anti-Western sentiments. Supported materially, politically, and informatively by Moscow, these Moldovan politicians are likely to use the upcoming referendum as an opportunity to advance their political agenda, potentially undermining Moldova’s European development path.
Challenges for the Pro-European Forces
The ruling party, the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), spearheaded the initiative for a pro-European referendum coupled with the presidential elections. Despite a slight majority favoring European integration in Moldovan society, PAS is experiencing a decline in electoral support. It faces challenges sustaining a pro-European government without seeking coalition partners in future elections. The proposal for the referendum inadvertently raises concerns about its potential exploitation for partisan electoral gains.
Risk of Geopolitical Focus and Opposition Opportunities
Combining the referendum with the presidential elections could shift the electoral discourse towards geopolitical issues, providing an advantage to pro-Russian forces. Opposition leader Igor Dodon, a strong contender, could capitalize on this shift, creating an opportunity for Moscow to intensify its information warfare in support of anti-European forces in Moldova.
Members of Moldova’s First Parliament, gathered in the “Parliament of Independence” organization, caution against holding a referendum before completing accession negotiations, citing risks of manipulation by Russia and potential unfavorable results. They suggest avoiding experiments that could jeopardize negotiations and European integration, especially amid geopolitical uncertainties and hybrid warfare.
The Need for Inclusive Dialogue
In response to the risks associated with the current referendum initiative, Anatol Țăranu proposes the establishment of a permanent roundtable initiated by the Presidency. This roundtable would involve political and civic representatives from the pro-European segment, aiming to facilitate public debate and recommendations for the European integration agenda. Emphasizing the importance of avoiding a perception of partisan interests dominating the pro-European agenda, Țăranu stresses the need for a collective and inclusive approach to secure a positive outcome for the European idea in Moldova.