Much like its neighbour Ukraine, Moldova finds itself in the middle of a geopolitical tug-of-war between Russia and the West. While the main flashpoint is the breakaway republic of Transdniestr, Moscow and Brussels exert strong influence over just about any political debate in Moldova – be it about language, defence or economic alliances.
Lately the winds have been shifting Russia's way. Rocked by corruption scandals while they were in power in the mid-2010s, pro-EU parties are now a political minority. The Socialist Party, which favours closer ties with Russia, looked set to claim parliament in 2019 and put Moldova's EU ambitions on the backburner.
Moscow, which has slapped punitive tariffs and/or outright bans on Moldovan exports over the years to keep the country in line, would gladly welcome Moldova back into its sphere of influence. But will it happen? The lure of EU financial assistance is strong and many Moldovans (albeit a minority, according to polls) remain pro-European and wary of Russia.
The new ruling party will have to perform a tricky balancing act to remain popular. They will also have to stay out of corruption scandals and get the economy humming faster. Despite growth averaging 4–5%, Moldova remains the poorest country in Europe.