Democratic Party’s poll addiction

PC: publika.md

Yesterday, the Democratic Party released its third poll in the last six months. Its name resembles a lot the one traditionally made by the Public Policy Institute.
But why is the governing party so intensely using this tool?
The experience of the Moldovan surveys until recently was related to civil society and external donors. Political parties did not have much money for polls, and, in case they had, they had the results for formulating internal strategies.
The reasons why this practice has changed can be rationalized.

1. Creating and sustaining the party's narrative

Before the DP presented it, the change of the electoral system was virtually absent in the public discourse. Moreover, if one were to ask about the significant differences between the three electoral systems in question at the moment, most citizens would not be able to distinguish in between them. But, naturally, when the society doesn’t like the way the country is ruled, it wants to change something. And, asked if they want to change the electoral system, the respondents will rather choose to change it.

2. The external legitimacy of the messages launched by the party

It is clear that an exercise as collecting signatures that are not verified by anyone is not exactly credible. But a research with a scientific methodology conducted by a specialized Institute can reach the desks of the embassies which will forward the messages to our development partners in a manner desired by the ruling party. And when a majority of polls have similar results, they "normalize" these narratives and put them on the public agenda.

3. Surveys as surrogates of referendums

Faced with a relative criticism from the Venice Commission and some MEPs, DP representatives began to talk actively about the sovereign will of the people to change the electoral system that can not be ignored. But if we are, to be frank, we do not know what this will is. We are aware that DP claims to have collected 800,000 signatures in favor of the uninominal system. But who checked them? And what legal standing do they have? In short, nobody and zero. At the moment, the mixed system is being promoted and, not even through informal mechanisms; this change hasn’t been supported. Polls are said to justify the "massive support" for changing the electoral system. But, in fact, only a legislative referendum could be a justification for drastic changes, see Brexit, for example.

4. The Russian Threat

Lately, the Democratic Party is increasingly promoting itself as a fierce warrior with Russian influence in the Republic of Moldova. We see expelled diplomats, statements about the limitation of Russian propaganda and demands to withdraw the Russian army from Transnistria. On the other hand, the polls ordered by DP show that the Socialists, the pro-Russian party with the largest support, would imminently come to power. This may justify the necessity of changing the electoral system, but also of accepting the "lesser evil" of the DP government, both for the pro-European citizens and the development partners. This narrative line will be increasingly promoted, and we can expect increasingly desperate action by the ruling party.

5. Cementing DP's popularity

The Democratic Party has in these polls a stable score - the third largest political party. This message prepares citizens for a good outcome of the party, including by "co-opting" local leaders. At the same time, the party leader is absent in the top of the politicians who enjoy the people's trust. There are also other interesting trends. Maia Sandu would be three times more popular than her party. This tactic is particularly important to dismiss the parties that are declared under the electoral threshold. The citizen would have to vote for someone “with bigger chances” to be in the Parliament, maybe not their first option.

The strategy of party-funded polls is quite useful, but its biggest defect is that those who make them start to believe in them. And the reality is usually quite different.

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