The name of the future mayor of Chisinau, the capital of the ex-Soviet, majority Romanian-speaking Republic of Moldova, will be known after a second round of by-elections
As expected by political commentators, Sunday’s mayoral by-elections in the Republic of Moldova are more a kind of test. They were held in five villages and the country’s two biggest cities, the capital Chisinau and Balti, in the north.
The mayor of Chisinau, the pro-European Liberal Dorin Chirtoaca, and that of Balti, the pro-Russian populist Renato Usatîi, have resigned after becoming the subject of criminal investigations they both described as politically motivated. In Balti, which has a large Russian-speaking and pro-Russian population, the new mayor has been elected in the first round, with more than 60% of the votes. His name is Nicolai Grigorisin, the candidate of the same populist party suspected of being funded by Moscow of which Usatîi was also a member. In the capital city, which is home to a third of Moldova’s population and accounts for half of its GDP, the name of the new mayor will be known in two weeks’ time, after a second round of voting.
The finalists are the Socialist candidate Ion Ceban, who is close to Moldova’s pro-Russian president Igor Dodon and who won more than 40% of the votes, and the pro-European Andrei Nastase, the leader of the Dignity and Truth Platform Party and supported by the former presidential candidate Maia Sandu, who won around 32% of the votes. The independent candidate Silvia Radu, who served as interim mayor after Chirtoaca’s resignation and who was backed by the ruling Democratic Party, came third with 18% of the votes.
More than the percentages obtained by the candidates, what shocks is the low voter turnout of 35%. Commentators say one reason for this is that the new mayors will only serve for one year before the regular local elections are held in 2019. The civic organisations that have monitored the voting process spoke about errors in the election lists, the presence of unauthorised persons inside and in the vicinity of polling stations and cases of organised transport of voters.
The by-elections in Moldova’s two biggest cities is seen as a dress-rehearsal for the parliamentary elections at the end of the year, Radio Romania’s correspondents quote political analyst Igor Munteanu as saying. His view is shared by the expert Ion Tabarta, who deplores the fragmentation of the pro-European right during the election campaign.
The second election round in Chisinau may, however, address this situation, precisely under pressure from voters. Pro-European sentiments are in the majority in this city, which has never elected a pro-Russian mayor and where more than half of the population stands for unification with Romania according to a recent opinion poll. Commentators therefore believe the right will rally behind Andrei Nastase in the final round. (Translated by C. Mateescu)