The political class split into two opposing camps over the necessity of having snap parliamentary elections, each camp supporting its position with firmness: categorically in favor of snap elections and categorically against snap elections, at least not before the investing of a new government with full powers. But it is not known when this will happen. Where does this firmness come from? What do the two camps know and the citizens probably don’t know about the necessity and eventual results of the snap elections? To test this “reasonable suspicion”, we should study opinion polls whose goal is to measure “the political temperature of society”, in particular, and the state of the Moldovan voters in general, as regards the capacity to support snap elections as a condition for fundamentally transforming social life in the Republic of Moldova. The subject was discussed in IPN’s public debate “Polls and snap elections, electorate and change”.
According to Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, the sociological survey is a polling method that consists in the collection and obtaining of empirical, primary information about particular opinions, knowledge and social facts that represent the research subject. The surveys are usually conducted by verbal or written interaction between researchers, interviewers and a particular sample of respondents. Polls do not influence political culture, but rather emphasize it so as to be able to ponder over it. “For example, a poll that referred directly to the political culture is the one that was carried out 15 years ago as part of the Public Opinion Barometer. When the citizens of the Republic of Moldova were asked what holidays they observe in the family, it turned out that almost 90% of the Moldovans celebrate the Christians holidays, up to 50% - the Soviet holidays, while 15% - the national holidays that became important after the declaring of independence. This shows what kind of society we are,” he stated.
According to the expert, the electorate is the body of voters. “In the Republic of Moldova, according to official data, there are 3.2 million citizens eligible to vote, 2 million of whom are on the territory controlled by the constitutional authorities, about 250,000 are citizens who live in the Transnistrian region, while 200,000 do not have a domicile and it can be thus deduced that about 1 million citizens with the right to vote are abroad. This is important as, when an opinion poll is carried out, the fact that many of the 3.2 million citizens with the right to vote are not in the country should be taken into account,” stated Igor Boțan.
He noted that the change mentioned by the political class refers to two official documents that were adopted by Parliament on June 8, 2019: “The Parliament’s Declaration on state capture and re-capture and the Parliament’s Declaration of June 11, 2020 by which party switching and political corruption are condemned. The change expected by the people also derives from the consultative referendum of February 24, 2019, where over 70% of the citizens pleaded for the individual dismissal of MPs who have an inappropriate behavior, namely turncoats, persons involved in reprovable acts. These documents should be obeyed,” stated the expert.
Arcadie Barbăroșie, director of the Institute for Public Policy (IPP), which has conducted the Public Opinion Barometer for 21 years, said the IPP’s role is specific. “The IPP is responsible for the poll. It looks at the economic, political situation in the country and then, together with members of the jury, decides what questions remain and what questions do not remain in the questionnaire. There are questions that appear periodically, while some are constant. When the composition of questions is seen, a competition is traditionally held and the sociological company that is the most representative one according to the jury is chosen. The IPP is trying not to invite companies that discredited themselves by fake polls, which cooperate with political parties or cannot say where money for carrying out the polls was taken from,” stated Arcadie Barbăroșie.
“The results of each poll are applicable to society, but only in the period during which the poll was conducted. For example, the last poll was carried out during January 28 – February 14. Thus, the citizens answered the questions put in that period and the poll results apply only to that period. The content of a poll can be somehow extended to cover a particular period of time. For instance, if the citizens in this period said that they will vote for particular parties, it can be said that if the elections are held close to this period, the poll results will be more or less close to the anticipated outcome. Public opinion changes swiftly and depends on the statements of politicians, on what is happening in the country and on what the people in general do and how public opinion reacts,” he stated.
Arcadie Barbăroșie gave as example the response to a question concerning the voting option in the next elections, where about 40% of the citizens didn’t mention a particular party, being undecided. According to him, the given citizens are then decided, but in a period things can change.
He noted that according to the last poll, the citizens want snap elections as the percentage of those who do not know what party to choose is high. Many said they would not vote for anyone or would not cast their ballot. These people could yet change their opinion and would pick a party when they are asked.
Victor Juc, director of the Institute of Legal, Political and Sociological Research, believes the role and impact of polls in the Republic of Moldova should not be absolutized or underestimated as political life is developing and the situation, unlike in the countries with sustainable democracy, changes considerably. “At the same time, public opinion, political decision makers, political parties, the media use only the poll data that they consider relevant for promoting their viewpoint or for blaming mainly polling companies. I think it’s not the case to blame the sociologists, but the impact of polls should not be politicized and underestimated either. Polls can have a decisive impact during election campaigns or before them,” he stated.
Victor Juc also said that in the current transitory conditions, the people quickly forget the data presented by a polling company. “These data are used more by the media and political decision makers. In the Republic of Moldova, the opportunity of snap elections became incontestable. The faster are the snap parliamentary elections held, the better will it be for society, for the political system, for the functioning capacity of institutions in the state, while the positions of some of the political players change depending on what some of the polls show. Some of the political parties are sure they will ether Parliament and will strengthen their positions, by the Ukrainian or French model, according to which the President’s party obtains a substantial score as the people consider they should offer the President parliamentary instruments too. Other parties changed their options as they realized they will not enter Parliament, like the Pro Moldova Party,” stated Victor Juc.
Victor Juc noted that if the political parties, in particular the parliamentary ones, decide that snap elections will be held in July, 50% of the people will go to vote. If the electrons are held in autumn or in winter, the voters will accept this option too. “The faster are the snap elections held, the better it will be for the country as the MPs will start work and will not focus on discussions about snap elections.”
The public debate “Polls and snap elections, electorate and change” is the 175th installment of the project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” that is implemented by IPN News Agency. The project is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.