In Europe - East

New Cold, Nov 13, 2016

Two reports are enclosed on the outcomes of the presidential elections in Moldova and Bulgaria on Nov 13, 2016. In both cases, candidates favouring closer ties with Eurasian countries, including Russia, won strong victories.

A major factor in the outcome of each election was the corruption of outgoing administrations that tried and failed to establish closer ties to the European Union and hostile stances towards Russia.

Socialist Party candidate wins big victory in Moldova presidential election, voters reject corruption and closer ties to European Union

By Alexander Tanas and Alessandra Prentice, Reuters, Nov 13, 2016

Ballots counted in presidential election in Moldova on Nov 13, 2016 (Gleb Garanich, Reuters)

Ballots counted in presidential election in Moldova on Nov 13, 2016 (Gleb Garanich, Reuters)

CHISINAU, Moldova–A pro-Russian [sic] candidate for president of Moldova has won the race, preliminary results showed on Sunday, following a campaign in which he vowed to slam the brakes on seven years of closer integration with the European Union.

With 98 per cent of votes counted, online results showed Socialist Party candidate Igor Dodon had won 54 per cent while his pro-European Union challenger, Maia Sandu, had just under 45 per cent.

Dodon’s win is in part a reflection of a loss of trust in pro-European leaders in the ex-Soviet state of 3.5 million, which was plunged into political and economic crisis after a corruption scandal came to light in late 2014.

Winning Socialist Party presidential candidate in Nov 13, 2016 election in Moldova (Gleb Garanich, Reuters)

Winning Socialist Party presidential candidate in Nov 13, 2016 election in Moldova (Gleb Garanich, Reuters)

“I am president for the whole country, for those who voted for me and those who voted against,” Dodon said in a short briefing to journalists.

In another potential blow to the European Union brand, Bulgaria – which also held a presidential vote on Sunday – elected a pro-Russian [sic] candidate by a large margin, according to exit polls.

The president in Moldova is more than just a figurehead: he or she can return laws to parliament and dissolve the assembly in certain situations.

Dodon’s promise to pursue closer ties with Russia rather than the European Union is in direct conflict with the pro-European stance of the current government.

Prime Minister Pavel Filip said the two sides would need to work together in Moldova’s best interest. “This includes key reforms needed for the country’s modernization and continued EU path, which cannot be reversed,” he said in emailed comments after polls closed.

map-of-eastern-europeSqueezed geographically between Ukraine and EU member Romania, Moldova signed a political and trade agreement with the European bloc in 2014 that damaged its ties with Russia, which imposed trade restrictions on Moldovan farming exports. Dodon’s Socialist party wants to scrap that agreement in favor of joining a Eurasian economic union dominated by Russia – a policy backed by many Moldovans who have suffered financially from the goods embargo and broader economic downturn.

“He’s got experience and knows that now is not the time to be turning a back to Russia, while she (Sandu) only looks to Europe,” said pensioner Tatiana, declining to give her last name.

The banking scandal in Moldova involved the looting of $1 billion – the equivalent of an eighth of its economic output, highlighting the scale of corruption in Europe’s poorest nation. Moldovans believe members of the pro-EU elite were complicit.

“Local partisans of the West or EU have not only performed weakly but have performed perversely,” said William Hill, a former head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Moldova. “And this has gone a long way to discrediting popular faith in the ideals of the West and the prescriptions of the EU or the U.S. as effective medicine for what ails their societies and their economies.”

In a sign of the waning enthusiasm for the EU, just 30.9 per cent of Moldovans would currently support joining as a full member, compared to 44 per cent favoring the Eurasian Customs Union, a survey by Moldova’s Institute for Public Policy showed in October.

Russia-friendly political novice wins by large margin in Bulgaria presidential election

From Reuters, Nov 13, 2016

Winning candidate calls for end to European Union sanctions against Russia

Rumen Radev, winning candidate of the Socialist Party in Nov 13, 2016 presidential election in Bulgaria, and his wife Desislava (Stoyan Nenov, Reuters)

Rumen Radev, winning candidate of the Socialist Party in Nov 13, 2016 presidential election in Bulgaria, and his wife Desislava (Stoyan Nenov, Reuters)

Rumen Radev, an ally of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Russia-friendly newcomer to politics, won Sunday’s presidential election by a wide margin, exit polls showed, prompting centre-right Prime Minister Boiko Borisov to pledge to resign.

Radev, 53, entered Bulgarian politics on a wave of discontent with the ruling centre-right’s progress in combating corruption, disappointment with the European Union and concerns among voters over alienating an increasingly assertive [sic] Russia.

A former air force commander, Radev has argued Bulgaria needs to be pragmatic in balancing the requirements of its European Union and NATO memberships while seeking ways to benefit from a relationship with Moscow.

Exit polls showed Radev, who is backed by the opposition Socialist Party, winning 58.1-58.5 per cent of the vote, compared with 35.3-35.7 percent for Tsetska Tsacheva, the 58-year-old candidate of the ruling GERB party.

“The loss of GERB is definite and clear,” Prime Minister Borisov told reporters after exit polls were published. “In this election, the people showed us that something is not as it should be. That our priorities may be good, but obviously there are better ones. So the most democratic thing, the right thing to do is to (resign),” he said.

Borisov’s resignation would likely lead to an early parliamentary election as soon as March and could be followed by months by difficult coalition talks among several political groupings.

“There isn’t an alternative to take over government,” said political analyst Ognian Minchev. “The Socialists and the ethnic Turkish MRF party have lost much of their public trust only two years ago…Early elections are inevitable,” he said.

Finding a balance

Coupled with political instability, Bulgaria’s tilt toward Russia is a blow to the country’s western European allies and underscores Moscow’s growing influence in southeastern Europe.

In Moldova, another ex-communist state near the Black Sea, voters were expected to install a pro-Russian [sic] candidate as president and slam the breaks on seven years of closer EU integration in an election also held on Sunday.

While most of the key decisions in Bulgaria are taken by the government, the president, who leads the armed forces, can sway public opinion and has the power to send legislation back to parliament.

Radev is not advocating NATO member Bulgaria abandon its Western alliances, mindful of the financial impact of EU aid and the country’s long history of divided loyalties. But he has called for an end to EU sanctions against Russia and said Sofia should be pragmatic in its approach to any international law violations by Moscow when it annexed Crimea.

“We listened (to the voters’) concerns. We said that we will work for Bulgarian national interests, that’s what gave us broad support,” a jubilant Radev told reporters.

Many in the Balkan country are keen to see restored trade with their former Soviet overlord, hurt by economic problems and sanctions, and to protect vital tourism revenues.

Speaking on Sunday evening, Radev said he hoped for good dialogue both with the United States and Russia and expressed hopes that with a new president in Washington, there will be a drop in confrontation between the West and Moscow. “In his election campaign (Donald Trump), already elected, said clearly that he will work for a better dialogue with Russia. That gives us hope, a big hope, for a peaceful solution to the conflicts both in Syria and in Ukraine and for a decrease of the confrontation,” Radev said.

Although Bulgaria’s economy is expected to grow at a relatively healthy rate of about 3.1-3.3 per cent this year, having shaken off recession, it remains the EU’s poorest member, with average wages about 470 euros per month.

Rampant graft in public administration is seen as a key factor slowing the small Black Sea state’s progress in catching up with its wealthier EU peers.

Note by New Cold
The international affairs correspondent of the Globe and Mail, the go-to writer on all things Russia and eastern Europe in the Canadian daily, is Mark MacKinnon. His raging Russophobia is on full display in a front-page article on November 14 reporting on November 13 presidential elections in Moldova and Bulgaria. In both countries, candidates opposing full integration into the corrupt, austerity-driven European Union won the vote.  By sizable margins, to boot. This is very troubling news for pro-NATO ideologues.

Continuing MacKinnon’s and the Globe and Mail‘s lying claims that the Russian government favoured the election of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton and “may have” [sic] actually manipulated the vote, MacKinnon writes in his Nov 14 dispatch: “Less than a week after Donald Trump’s stunning triumph in the United States – a victory the president-elect’s opponents claim was half-made in Moscow – two European countries looked set on Sunday to vote in their own pro-Kremlin presidents…”

He describes the vote in Moldova as the country “throwing its hands up”, ie surrendering, “after nearly a quarter century of conflict with its former masters in Moscow.”


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