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Moldova's parliamentary elections: A turning point to reform or a continued political impasse?

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By Euronews with AP
The landlocked nation has experienced years of one political crisis after another
The landlocked nation has experienced years of one political crisis after another   -   Copyright  Vadim Ghirda/AP
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Moldova's snap parliamentary election this Sunday has been pitted as a choice between East and West influences - and whether to bring a years-long political impasse to an end.

The poorest country in Europe has been led by a caretaker government since former prime minister Ion Chicu resigned in December as part of a plan to force an early vote.

It followed the presidential win in November of Maia Sandu, a politician who says she is keen to reform Moldova and "cleanse the political class".

Who are the candidates?

There are around 20 parties vying for spots in the 101-seat legislature; although, only four are expected to make it happen. Two parties, in particular, will be closely watched.

The pro-reform Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), which was formerly led by Sandu, will be battling for a majority against an alliance of Communists and Socialists, led by two former presidents.

What is the difference between PAS and the Communists and Socialists?

In simple terms, a PAS-controlled government could see the former Soviet republic accepting pro-Western reforms. Such reforms along with a crackdown on corruption could also pave the way for Moldova to fulfil its 2014 deal with the EU to forge closer political and economic ties.

There is currently a €600 million pandemic recovery package earmarked by the EU for Moldova on the condition of judicial and anti-corruption reform.

On the other hand, a majority vote for the Communists and Socialists would see the country remain under pro-Russian influence.

Who are the favourites?

PAS are currently ahead according to recent opinion polls - and Sandu's presidential win last year is also notable.

However, a final tally might be left dependent on the country's more than 200,000 diaspora voters, said Radu Magdin, an analyst at Smartlink Communications.

He added that a strong turnout likely would mean strong support for the reformists. “The main question, which could turn everything around, is mobilisation."

Why now?

The last parliamentary elections were held in 2019, resulting in a number of awkward coalitions and a political impasse. However, Sandu now sees this as her chance to build on her presidential win last year.

"You decide who will be part of the next parliament and government," the 49-year-old said in a recent social media post. "It is up to you how quickly we can save the country from corruption and poverty."

In Moldova's Constitution, the president has the power to dissolve parliament should it fail to approve prime ministerial candidates on two occasions. Sandu, therefore, put forward two people that were unlikely (and ultimately weren't) approved by parliament to outmanoeuvre her opponents.

This came after Moldova's highest court also abolished a state of emergency imposed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

'I hope this is a turning point'

One of Sandu's biggest draws is her promise to "cleanse" the political class of corruption - and to fight poverty.

At present, Moldova is ranked 115th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index. Number 1 on the index is the place deemed least corrupt.

Moldovans living outside the country have expressed their hopes to see a turning point in their landlocked nation, sitting between the likes of Romania and Ukraine.

Sabin Rufa, a 20-year-old student at Warwick University in the UK, said Sunday will mark a "crucial moment" in Moldova's history.

He added: “I feel this election is perhaps the most important milestone in the last 10 years, especially for the progressive people that wish Moldova to develop in line with democratic standards and institutions.

“I hope that in another 10 years, I will look back to this election knowing that it was a turning point.”

“With all its imperfections, Moldova is where I want to build a future for myself, for my family, and for my compatriots.”

Svetlana Eremka, a 40-year-old design manager who lives in Essex, said: “Our nation has been struggling for the last 30 years or so, with little success ... it is a lot of work and requires each of us to participate and help to build a new system."