28 November 2021

Gheorghe Russu

Vice-director, The Center for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption

Parties-Phantoms, Parties - State Institutions, Parties - State Enterprises


20 parties have registered in the current election campaign. Many people say it is a too big number for such a small country as Moldova. At the same time, much more parties could take part in the election campaign.

Last week illustrated

Activists launch Moldova’s first ‘Space Camp’ © Susan Coughtrie

Moldovan electorate is more intelligent than it seems

The latest opinion polls show that over 50% of the population considers that things in Moldova go in the wrong direction.
Info-Prim Neo, 27 February 2009, 18:31

2009-02-27/13:54/ Chisinau (IPN) More than 70% of the population says that they do not have a decent living. At the same time, a large part of the voters seems ready to support in the coming elections the party that has governed the country during eight years. This contradiction made many people speak about the lack of political education in Moldovan voters. But analysts deny this paradoxical theory and say in unison: the Moldovan electorate is more intelligent than it seems. It is intelligent even without the information that the political class should provide so that they could prepare for elections.

Electorate - the mirror of impracticality in state institutions and of the political system's shortcomings

"The electorate in Moldova is the mirror of impracticality in state institutions and of the political system's shortcomings. Several factors can be mentioned here: a certain inertia inherited from the Soviet regime, when a single party ruled and did justice as its leaders wanted, and the shortcomings typical of an incipient democracy," said Igor Munteanu, the executive director of the Institute for Development and Social Initiative (IDIS) "Viitorul".

"Though many people say that the electorate is ignorant and foolish, I would say: fools, but many. And not so foolish. They decide once in four years and are those that penalize the governments that do not satisfy their demands," said Arcadie Barbarosie, the executive director of the Public Policy Institute (IPP).

For sure, the voters in Moldova are greatly affected by the very limited access to information. ‘The fact that there are no political debates in Moldova influences how the ordinary people analyze the political events and the political scene in general," considers Igor Muteanu. The voter is not adequately informed because television is the major source of information for the population, says Arcadie Barbarosie. "But the televisions that have great coverage are controlled by the ruling party and the people do not have alternative sources of information. However, this does not mean that the electorate does not make conscious decisions," the IPP director said.

Demand - yes, supply - no

A healthy competition in a political system works according to the rules of a market based on supply and demand. The analysts are certain: there is a great demand for change and improvement of the existent system in Moldova, but the supply of the political class does not satisfy the population's demand.

During the run-up to elections, the electorate in Moldova faces traditional problems that have not been solved by the previous governments. Poverty, high prices, concern for the children's future - these are the major problems that appear in the opinion polls as seen by the electorate. The electorate has not changed much in this respect since the 2005 elections. "The politicians should respond to these fears of the electorate and the response should be very precise. But nothing of the kind is done. The promises found in the electoral programs are not exact enough to attract the electorate to a party or another," says Arcadie Barbarosie.

Igor Munteanu also thinks that the electoral programs of the largest part of the political parties are very general and carry a message that is oriented to everyone and no one. "Most of the parties do not have niches, fiefs - areas of reference that would represent the parties. They do not have them and do not know their electorate. Consequently, when they address messages, they address them to the entire nation rather than to a particular audience. For this reason, their offers are not attractive enough for the public because they try to cover everything. The electoral platforms are more like shopping lists than lists of clear objectives and people that can publicly express their professional competence," said the director of IDIS. At the same time, the parties do not have the courage to formulate extremely serious problems and propose solutions such as Moldova's energy dependence or the low competitiveness of the national economy. There are also social problems that are obstinately avoided like the rising number of alcoholics in the country as a result of the economic frustrations and the lack of prospects.

Ion Jigau, the director of the Centre for Sociological Investigations and Market Studies CBS-AXA, considers that the electorate is confused and cannot orientate itself among the multitude of parties. "The surveys show that the voters recognize only 2-3 parties already institutionalized in Moldova - parties that withstood the test of time, maintained their elites, did not disband or merge. That's why the electorate judges by the main figures - the leaders of the party," said Ion Jigau. The sociologist considers that the ordinary man can no more differentiate between the Democratic parties or between the Liberal parties because they promote similar messages. This is also due to the fact that the parties in Moldova avoid clear doctrines.

Undecided or disappointed?

The analysts regard with skepticism the fact that the opinion polls put the ruling party at the top of voters' preferences. "The fact that the electorate stubbornly wants to vote for the same party is not so certain because there is a large group of voters that will vote protesting and will protest voting. This group includes the undecided voters," said Igor Munteanu.

Ion Jigau warns about sociological phenomena that influence the results of the polls. The band-wagon phenomenon (wagon of the winner) makes that the governing party always accumulates more percentage points in survey, 10-15% as a rule. The spiral of silence makes that the parties that can be classed as extremist accumulate in surveys by several percentage points fewer than in elections. The director of CBS-AXA also recommends paying attention to the large number of undecided respondents. According to him, most of these persons will decide what party to vote for during the last 2-3 days.

Arcadie Barbarosie says that the large percentage of undecided respondents (40%) is due to the fact that the electorate is pessimistic and disappointed, while Igor Munteanu considers that the undecided persons do not include those that do not want to vote. "They have not yet made up their minds, but will vote to protest against the current policy. The number of those that support the present government would have been higher if they had been satisfied with the present state of affairs," the director of IDIS said.

Changing attitudes

The public interest manifests itself through permanent commotion and search for solutions. The electorate is conservative to a certain extent and accepts changes not so easily, but always has sufficient intelligence to find solutions for the development of the society. "The attitude of the electorate changes. Slowly, but surely," Igor Munteanu assures. "The fact that no political party in Moldova can afford to exclude the European Union as reference term for all the policies means that the population changes the attitude, not that the politicians ‘woke up' overnight. The population realized where the prosperity comes from. A large part of the people voted ‘with the legs' when they emigrated. The electorate already expects the qualitative change of the political class. Even if the ruling party invests considerable resources in the election campaign, the voter wants to be informed and remains careful of the PCRM's determination to remain in power," Munteanu says.

Arcadie Barbarosie reminds that the electorate's attitudes change from elections to elections. Every time, the electorate punishes the parties that do not satisfy its demands. In 1998 for instance, the electorate punished rather severely the Agrarian Democratic Party that was in power. It did not pass the election threshold, garnering only 4%. Earlier, it held the majority in the Parliament. In 2001, the voters sanctioned the Democratic parties because they were disappointed - the pension and salary arrears were huge. Even if the then government made fundamentally important decisions for strengthening the economy, the effects of the reforms had not been felt until the elections. In 2005, the PCRM polled fewer votes than in 2001, while in the 2007 local elections it lost a large part of the electorate, compared with 2003 and 2005. Though the electorate changes slower than some of the Opposition parries would like, the changes take place quicker than the ruling party would want.

The elections in Chisinau in 2007 were also a sign of change, says Igor Munteanu. According to him, the suspended Mayor General of Chisinau Dorin Chirtoaca symbolized a generation change. "This wave was created by the population's attitudes as regards the expectations that the political class will be changed. He is the net beneficiary of this wave of protests, which provokes other waves in turn. As a rule, the results of the elections in Chisinau are similar to the results of the next general elections," says Munteanu. However, Ion Jigau is not sure that the situation will repeat in 2009. By the fixed term, the district heads' offices of Chisinau registered only 3,500 of the about 100,000 persons with residence permits in other settlements of the country that will vote in the capital city. "The pensioners are those that change the governments by democratic vote in the whole world," said Ion Jigau, who is also a pensioner.

Igor Munteanu is also aware that there are many obstacles that can make this successive wave after 2007 weaker or stronger. "The ruling party's irritation to this vote of protest of 2007, which was expressed through direct threats against the electorate, speaks about the fact that these successive waves remain in the mind of the electorate that deliberates. This shows that the electorate is much more intelligent than we could imagine," Munteanu said.

The voters residing abroad

It seems that not much is known in Moldova about the overseas voters. It is hard to estimate their number and votes. "In the October Public Opinion Barometer, we tried to predict how the persons that have been abroad at least once would vote. No significant changes have been identified, compared with the voters from the country. Those that have been in the East would vote for left-wing parties, while those that have been in the West - for right-wing parties, which are very relative in Moldova," Arcadie Barbarosie said.

Igor Munteanu is yet convinced that the vote of the Moldovans living abroad would be a protest vote. "A part of the people that have sent home money to their families saw the Western civilization and understood how important it is to have Internet or toilet facilities at home - elementary services on which the civilization is based. On the one hand, the voters in Spain and Italy have great expectations of their motherland. On the other hand, they do not trust the authorities that did not create conditions at home," said the executive director of IDIS "Viitorul".

Expecting new polls

On March 24, the IPP will present the last edition of the Public Opinion Barometer before elections. On the election day on April 5, CBS-AXA in concert with IMAS will make public the results of the exit polls, at 21.15. Until then, the electorate has time to show intelligence.

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