CHISINAU -- Voters in Moldova went to the polls on February 24 for legislative elections that were far from conclusive. Following a campaign that was, according to the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring team, George Tsereteli, "active, hard-fought, and polarized," the country can expect a deeply divided parliament without a clear majority that could have trouble agreeing on a new government. Protests, instability, or another round of legislative voting are real prospects in the short term.
RFE/RL's Moldova Service correspondent Valentina Ursu spoke with political analyst Angela Gramada, president of the Experts for Security and Global Affairs think tank in Bucharest, about the campaign and the outlook for Moldova's future.
RFE/RL: How would you evaluate the campaign and the election that we have just seen?
Angela Gramada: It was one of the most primitive election campaigns, and I use the word "primitive" to signify how little progress has been made. Or rather how much our political consciousness and our political culture have been degraded and how low is our level of political culture. I'd just mention a few concrete facts to illustrate my point.
First, there was unprecedented pressure on civil society. The clearest example was [influential independent election monitor] Promo-LEX, but that isn't the only case. There was very strong pressure on Promo-LEX and that alerted international organizations and our international partners to pay more attention to how the election campaign was going.
I won't [even] go into the fact that candidates with the same last name as real candidates were registered and that the campaign was characterized by unheard-of populism. The candidates of several political parties turned the campaign into a real circus, insulting the intelligence of the voters. And there was the scandal with the expired passports -- earlier the Central Election Commission allowed people with expired passports to vote, but this time -- surprise! -- it was forbidden.
And I was particularly surprised by the attitude of the [Democratic Party-led] government, which accused citizens living abroad of not being ready for the elections. This was a fundamentally incorrect approach that did nothing to build confidence in the political discourse of the current authorities.
Furthermore, almost no one looked at the candidate lists -- I mean, among the voters. But there was a lot of interesting stuff there. I looked over the lists for several precincts and I found candidates who did not list their residences or whose spouses also did not list their place of residence, which naturally begs the question: Do they have the right to run in that particular precinct?
If you study the party lists and analyze the party platforms and compare the candidates and their behavior during the campaign, you will conclude that this was one of the weakest campaigns that I have ever participated in as a voter in the Republic of Moldova.
RFE/RL: All of Moldova's [international] partners were calling for the elections to be fair and free. Were these demands heeded? Is there a danger that the elections could be invalidated or not accepted?
Gramada: First, the Central Election Commission was more active and open, although the quality of its work was not always ideal. The commission was active on social media, but this does not mean that other participants in the process always acted in the best interests of the voters.
Another equally important factor was that the authorities were not able to persuade our foreign partners of the honesty of their intentions. You can tell this was the case by the many statements and press releases they issued during the campaign. I saw many statements from our European partners, as well as from the Russians, that drew attention to particular issues. Of course they were pursuing various goals, but the fact that they insisted on honest and free elections or Moldova risked being deprived of political and financial support should force us all to think hard about what the next steps should be now that the elections are over.
It is important to note that some in the Moldovan government and some of our foreign partners have warned of the possibility the situation could destabilize in the days following the voting.
If you analyze the situation from the point of view of our foreign partners, these concerns are completely understandable, considering their high-profile financial and technical investments in Moldova aimed at enabling us to carry out necessary reforms. But instability sows panic among the voters and disorients them even more -- not only in terms of their political choices for the future but even in terms of their personal safety after the elections.
In this light, consider the statement by [former Socialist Party leader and current President] Igor Dodon, who warned his supporters about the existence of such destabilization risks and the necessity of being ready to come out into the streets. That could lead to disorder and destabilization.
RFE/RL: The main question now is who will run Moldova following these elections and what kind of government will be formed?
Gramada: It is really difficult now to make predictions. I think that after the elections it will take several more months before we have some clarity on what might happen in the country. Some forces are pushing for dissolving parliament and holding snap elections, and I think that alone is a weighty argument against making any rash predictions, particularly ones that could complicate the situation further.
RFE/RL: During the last elections, people were saying that the geopolitical factor was decisive. Was that true this time?
Gramada: The question of "whither goes Moldova" is always present any time we make political decisions. Even if there are not active public discussions on this topic or even if the candidates don't give too much attention to the topic of Moscow/Brussels or United States/Brussels, it is still clear that the essence of the reforms and projects that are offered to us are pointing in one or another clear direction: either a democratic Moldova or a Moldova that is stagnating in the same situation with a very complicated future.
The choice is either a pro-European Moldova or a Moldova that remains more or less in a state of obedience, that does not develop, that does not stray far from the [Moscow-dominated Soviet] sphere that it left in 1991, and that does not reject certain interests that come to it from the east. But it is important to understand that the strategies proposed by the political parties of Moldova really do aim at moving at least somewhat away from the old geopolitical discourse.
A lot was said about reforms and a lot of attention was paid to legal-reform projects. I had the impression that the main innovation of the election campaign and its main discovery was the discussion of the legal system and corruption, although the conceptions that were presented to us were rather weakly argued and oversimplified.
No one proposed a national project that I would personally support wholeheartedly and that would have convinced me to vote for a particular candidate. I made my choice based on the existing proposals, but that doesn't mean I agree with that vision or that my final decision was the optimal one for the future of Moldova.