Twelve Moldovan parties clinch pro-Europe pact, but not all back president

By Thomson Reuters May 26, 2024 | 1:28 PM

By Alexander Tanas

CHISINAU (Reuters) – Twelve parties in Moldova clinched a pact on Sunday committing them to act in favour of European Union membership for the ex-Soviet state as the campaign for an October referendum on European integration heats up.

But not all the parties support pro-European President Maia Sandu, who is running for re-election in a poll taking place alongside the referendum. Some of them intend to put up a joint candidate to run against her.

The Oct. 20 referendum pits Sandu and pro-European forces against a group of disparate pro-Russian parties which are already holding rallies with the slogan “No to the EU”.

Sunday’s accord was signed by Sandu’s Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), which holds a majority in parliament in one of Europe’s poorest countries, lying between Ukraine and Romania.

But the pact’s initiators, four parties jointly dubbed “Together”, accuse Sandu of “privatising” European integration by relying solely on her PAS party.

The group, which polls show could secure enough votes to win seats in parliament, call on Sandu to dismiss her government and bring other pro-European parties into the administration.

With pro-Russian parties running an organised “no” drive in the referendum campaign, analysts say the key is to muster support for EU integration in the plebiscite without devoting too much attention to Sandu’s chances of re-election.

“Voters must remember that on October 20, defeat in the referendum will mean defeat for Moldova, casting it into the past,” Vitalii Andrievschii, Director of the Institute for Effective Policy, told Reuters.

“The referendum on EU membership and the presidential election are different things. Maia Sandu should not be viewed in association with the referendum.”

Sandu says Russia and corruption are the biggest threats to Moldova and she places EU membership at the centre of her policies.

Openly opposed to a “yes” vote is the pro-Russian “Victory” bloc headed by fugitive business magnate Ilan Shor, sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison in connection with the 2014 disappearance of $1 billion from the Moldovan banking system.

The opposition Socialists and Communists, also friendly to Moscow, say they support European integration but oppose the referendum as a means to secure the president’s re-election. But they show no inclination to cooperate with the “Victory” bloc.

(Reporting by Alexander Tanas, Editing by Ron Popeski and Chizu Nomiyama)