Maia Sandu

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Maia Sandu
Sergio Mattarella e Maia Sandu al Quirinale 2021 (8) (cropped).jpg
Sandu in June 2021
6th President of Moldova
Assumed office
24 December 2020
Prime MinisterIon Chicu
Aureliu Ciocoi (acting)
Natalia Gavrilița
Preceded byIgor Dodon
13th Prime Minister of Moldova
In office
8 June 2019 – 14 November 2019
PresidentIgor Dodon
Preceded byPavel Filip
Succeeded byIon Chicu
Member of the Moldovan Parliament
In office
24 February 2019 – 8 July 2019
Succeeded byGalina Sajin
In office
30 November 2014 – 18 February 2015
Succeeded byPetru Știrbate
Leader of the Party of Action and Solidarity
In office
15 May 2016 – 9 December 2020
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byIgor Grosu (acting)
Minister of Education
In office
24 July 2012 – 30 July 2015
Prime MinisterVladimir Filat
Iurie Leancă
Chiril Gaburici
Natalia Gherman (acting)
Preceded byMihail Șleahtițchi
Succeeded byCorina Fusu
Personal details
Born (1972-05-24) 24 May 1972 (age 49)
Risipeni, Moldavian SSR, Soviet Union (now Moldova)
Citizenship Moldova
 Romania[1]
Political partyIndependent (2020–present)[2]
Other political
affiliations
Liberal Democratic Party (2014–2015)
Party of Action and Solidarity (2016–2020)
ResidencePresidential Palace
EducationAcademy of Economic Studies of Moldova
Academy of Public Administration
Harvard University

Maia Sandu (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈmaja ˈsandu], born 24 May 1972) is a Moldovan politician and the current President of Moldova since 24 December 2020. She is the former leader of the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) and former Prime Minister of Moldova from 8 June 2019 until 14 November 2019.[3] On 12 November 2019, Sandu's government collapsed after a vote of no-confidence, with 63 (deputies from PSRM and PDM) of the 101 MPs having voted on the motion submitted by the PSRM.[4][5]

Sandu was Minister of Education from 2012 to 2015 and member of the Parliament of Moldova from 2014 to 2015, and again in 2019.[6][7][8] She was selected as the joint candidate of the pro-European PPDA and PAS parties for President of Moldova in the 2016 election. However, she was defeated in the subsequent runoff by the pro-Russian PSRM candidate, Igor Dodon, losing the popular vote by a margin of 48% to 52%.

In a rematch between Dodon and Sandu in the 2020 election, she won the subsequent runoff, 58% to 42%, defeating Dodon. She is the first female president of Moldova.[9]

Early life and professional career[edit]

Sandu was born on 24 May 1972 in the commune of Risipeni, located in the Fălești District in the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, USSR. She was born to Grigorie, a veterinarian and Emilia Sandu,[10] a teacher.[11][12] From 1989 to 1994, she majored in management at the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova (ASEM). From 1995 to 1998, she majored in international relations at the Academy of Public Administration [ro] (AAP) in Chișinău. In 2010, she graduated from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. From 2010 to 2012, Sandu worked as Adviser to the executive director at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. Sandu speaks Russian, Spanish and English in addition to her native Romanian.

Political career[edit]

From 2012 to 2015 she served as Minister of Education of Moldova. She was considered on 23 July 2015 by the Liberal Democratic Party as a nominee to be the next Prime Minister of Moldova, succeeding Natalia Gherman and Chiril Gaburici.[13]

Sandu at a meeting with Ovidiu Raețchi of the National Liberal Party (PNL) in Romania in January 2016

A day after being proposed by a renewed pro-European coalition, Sandu set the departure of the Head of the National Bank of Moldova, Dorin Drăguțanu and the State Prosecutor Corneliu Gurin as conditions for her acceptance of the office.[14] Ultimately, Valeriu Streleț was nominated over Sandu by the President of Moldova.

On 23 December 2015. she launched a platform „În /pas/ cu Maia Sandu” ("In step with Maia Sandu"[citation needed]) that later became a political party called "Partidul Acțiune și Solidaritate" ("Party of Action and Solidarity").[15][16]

In 2016, Sandu was the pro-European candidate in the Moldovan presidential election. Running on a pro-EU action platform, she was one of the two candidates that reached the runoff of the election.[14]

According to some polls from 2019, Sandu ranks among the three most trusted politicians in Moldova.[17][18][19] The most recent available poll, conducted by Public Opinion Fund, shows that Sandu is the second most trusted political personality, polling at 24%, closely following Igor Dodon, who polls at 26%.[20] Other older polls, however, place her lower, in 6th place.[21]

As Prime Minister[edit]

Sandu meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence at the White House, September 2019.

In the 2019 parliamentary election, Sandu's PAS, together with its ally, PPDA, led by Andrei Năstase, formed the ACUM Electoral Bloc and secured 26 of the 101 seats in the Parliament of Moldova.[22] On 8 June 2019, Maia Sandu was elected Prime Minister of Moldova in a coalition government with PSRM.[23] On the same day, the Constitutional Court of Moldova declared unconstitutional her designation for this position as well as the appointment of the Government of the Republic of Moldova, which sparked the 2019 constitutional crisis.[24] However, on 15 June 2019, the Constitutional Court revised and repealed its previous decisions, declaring the Sandu Cabinet to have been constitutionally created.[25]

The next day, she called for the restoration of public order, discouraging citizens from attending local rallies.[26] In June 2019, she lifted a March 2017 ban by former Prime Minister Filip of official visits by government officials to Russia.[27] In one of her first interviews to foreign media, she announced her intention to request that the United States Treasury add Vlad Plahotniuc to the Magnitsky List.[28] In August, Sandu asked the State Chancellery to prepare a draft decree declaring 23 August to be the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism instead of the regular Liberation Day. The decree was opposed by her coalition partner, the PSRM, with Moldova's president and ex-PSRM leader Igor Dodon announcing that he will celebrate the date in the old style, rejecting Sandu's proposal.[29]

Under Maia Sandu, Moldova began taking steps towards the European Union as Sandu herself is pro-E.U. Maia Sandu was ousted as prime minister on 12 November 2019, following a vote of no confidence. She remained as a caretaker of the office until the formation of a new government.[30] However, on 24 December 2020 Maia Sandu took office as state president,[31][32] after winning a landslide election against the Pro-Russian Igor Dodon, and again on a pro-E.U. and anti-corruption platform. Under Sandu's leadership, Moldova is once more in a position to resume moving forward towards European integration.

2020 presidential campaign[edit]

Logo of Sandu's campaign

Sandu announced her candidacy for the 2020 presidential election on 18 July,[33] declaring that a joint pro-European candidate would not be needed as there was no risk of there being no pro-European candidates in the second round.[34] Sandu officially launched her campaign on 2 October 2020, holding 2 speeches in Romanian and Russian both promising to fight corruption and poverty, and to reform the criminal justice system,[35] while accusing president Dodon of deliberately hindering the latter.[36][37][38][39] Because no candidate received a majority of votes in the first round, a run-off between Sandu and Dodon was held on 15 November, in which Sandu won with 57.75% of the popular vote.[31][32]

She was congratulated on her win by senior leaders of the European Union, as well as President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine,[40] President Qasym-Jomart Toqaev of Kazakhstan,[41] Azeri President Ilham Aliyev[42] and President Klaus Iohannis of Romania.[43] Sandu was also congratulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had initially endorsed Dodon.[44] In her press conference, she declared that Moldova under her leadership "will secure real balance in the foreign policy, being guided by Moldova's national interests, we will have a pragmatic dialogue with all the countries, including Romania, Ukraine, European nations, Russia and the US".[45]

Presidency (2020–present)[edit]

Sandu at her inauguration, receiving the Presidential Banner.

Sandu was sworn in on 24 December 2020 in the Palace of the Republic. During the ceremony, she appealed for national unity, speaking in Russian, Ukrainian, Gagauz and Bulgarian towards the end of her remarks.[46] Thousands of her supporters greeted her outside the palace chanting slogans like "Maia Sandu and the people!" and "The people love you!"[47] After the ceremony, she met Dodon at the Presidential Palace, for a ceremony in which Dodon officially transferred power to her.[47] That day, she met with the caretaker Prime Minister Ion Chicu.

Domestic policy[edit]

Parliament[edit]

On 28 December, she met the parliamentary factions for consultations.[48] On 31 December Sandu named Foreign Minister Aureliu Ciocoi acting prime minister after Chicu refused to stay on in an acting capacity.[49][50][51] The ex-president of the country, leader of the Party of Communists Vladimir Voronin and the Leader of Our Party Renato Usatii[52] proposed their candidacies for the post of prime minister. At a briefing following her visit to Ukraine, Sandu also touched upon the appointment of the prime minister, stating that "Neither Voronin nor Usatii are suitable for the role of prime minister. We need a serious government, created following early elections."[53][54] On 27 January 2021, she nominated Natalia Gavrilița as a candidate for the position of Prime Minister, saying that she has the "task of creating the government team and preparing a government program focused on economic development and cleaning up the institutions of the state of corruption".[55] The very next day, Sandu asked MPs to reject her proposed Prime Minister in order to speed up the process of its dissolution and early elections.[56]

She renominated her on 11 February.[57] The Constitutional Court of Moldova declared the decree unconstitutional, reasoning that Sandu should have accepted a proposal from 54 MPs (primarily from PSRM) to instead nominate Mariana Durleșteanu, a former Moldovan ambassador to the UK. But Sandu stood her ground saying, “I have said repeatedly that the only way for Moldova to move forward is to organise new parliamentary elections.”[58][59]

Moreover, before the voting of the First Gavrilița Government, some socialist deputies have presented a list signed by PSRM, Pentru Moldova (including Shor Party) and another 3 unaffiliated MPs for supporting the candidature of Mariana Durleșteanu.[60] Sandu declared afterwards that she is not going to have another consultations and also she would not nominate another PM candidate, giving two options: snap elections or referendum for impeachment.[61] On March 16, she met again the parliamentary factions for consultations. The PSRM delegation was led by Igor Dodon, the president of the party, but not deputy in the Parliament. In the same time, without Dodon knowing, Durleșteanu announced that she was retiring her candidature.[62] After the consultations were over, Maia Sandu announced that there was no parliamentary majority, and in order to end the political crisis, she named Igor Grosu as Prime Minister.[63]

More political figures, such as Pavel Filip and Andrian Candu said that Maia Sandu has reached an agreement with Igor Dodon in order to hold early parliamentary elections. Some political analysts are of the opinion that the withdrawal of Durleșteanu was planned in order to get closer and closer to the snap elections.[64][65]

On 25 March, the Parliament of Moldova did not vote for Grosu as the majority of the deputies in the Parliament left the sitting, which means the government rejected the voting.[66] Maia Sandu had consultations with all the parliamentary forces on 26 March and 29 March.[67][68] After the Constitutional Court of Moldova declared the state of emergency unconstitutional, Maia Sandu dissolved the Parliament and called for early elections on 11 July.[69]

COVID-19[edit]

During the visit of President Iohannis, he promised Romania would donate 200,000 doses of the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Moldova.[70] On 16 January, Sandu said that the authorities would allow residents of Transnistria to be vaccinated with the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.[71]

The first 21,600 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine promised by Romania arrived in Moldova on February 28, with the first administrations on March 2.[72]

Also, Moldova became the first country in Europe that received vaccines from the COVAX platform. The first shipment delivered in early March arrived with more than 14,000 doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca.[73]

Sandu got vaccinated on 7 May with the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after hearing Romania's intention to donate thousands of vaccines to Moldova after having said she would only do this when it was sure Moldova would have many vaccines to help its population.[74]

Supreme Security Council[edit]

In mid-January 2021, Sandu announced that the Supreme Security Council would be reorganized. On 21 January 2021, human rights activist Ana Revenko was appointed Secretary of the Supreme Security Council and concurrently adviser to Sandu in the field of defense and national security. Revenko's predecessor in these posts, Defense Minister Victor Gaiciuc, remained a member of the Security Council. On 25 January 2021, Sandu signed a decree on the composition of the updated Supreme Security Council, which included:

The renewed Security Council did not include the Minister of Justice Fadei Nagacevschi, the Governor of Gagauzia Irina Vlah, or the director of the National Center for Combating Corruption Ruslan Flocha. Nagacevschi, commenting on this situation, said: "I am glad that I was inconvenient".[75][76] Former President Dodon declared the Supreme Security Council to be a threat to national security.[77] His political opponent, former Prime Minister and leader of the Democratic Party Pavel Filip, was in solidarity with the ex-president, saying that "we are seeing double standards".[78]

Foreign policy[edit]

European Union and the West[edit]

Salome Zourabichvili, Maia Sandu, Volodymyr Zelensky and Charles Michel at the 2021 Batumi International Conference.

She is a supporter of Moldova's European integration, the country's entry into the EU, as well as the resumption of cooperation with the International Monetary Fund. When she received the President of Romania, she declared that "the Republic will integrate into the European space with the help of Romania".[79] Maia Sandu met EU and Belgian political figures in Brussels in January 2021.[80]

She signed on 19 April 2021 in Strasbourg, France, the Council of Europe Action Plan for the Republic of Moldova 2021–2024, an action plan of the Council of Europe with the aim of reforming Moldova's legislation and state institutions and introducing improvements on the country's democracy, human rights and rule of law.[81]

Romania[edit]

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis became the first foreign leader to visit Sandu in Moldova, arriving on 29 December.[82] As part of the Moldovan–Romanian collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic, Iohannis promised that Romania would aid Moldova with medicines, medical and sanitary protection equipment and 200,000 vaccine units.[83][84][85] Also, when going to Paris, in a stopover in Bucharest, she met with the Prime Minister of Romania, Florin Cîțu.[86]

Furthermore, when asked about how she would vote in case there was a referendum on the unification of Romania and Moldova, Sandu replied that she would personally vote "yes".[87]

Ukraine[edit]

Sandu reviewing an honor guard at the Mariinskyi Palace, Ukraine in January 2021

In a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, she confirmed that a visit to Kyiv in January 2021 will become the first foreign trip she will take as president.[88] During her visit on 12 January, she met with President Volodymyr Zelensky, where they agreed to create a Presidential Council to address issues of bilateral relations.[89] She also met with Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal[90] and parliament speaker Dmytro Razumkov.[91] She paid tribute to fallen Ukrainians at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National Museum of the Holodomor-Genocide.[92]

Russia[edit]

In an interview to the TV-8 channel, she declared that she is "ready to go to Russia" to discuss issues "concerning trade, exports, settlement of the Transnistria conflict" and others. She also noted that she intends to visit Kyiv and Brussels before going to Moscow, highlighting her more pro-EU stance.[93] On 11 August 2021,[94] Sandu, alongside other officials, met with Dmitry Kozak, the Deputy Kremlin Chief of Staff, where they agreed to lift all economic barriers between the two nations and look into the removal of ammunition depot's from Transnistria.[95][96]

Transnistria[edit]

She declared that Operational Group of Russian Forces (OGRF) should withdraw from the breakaway region of Transnistria, saying to the RBK that although they guard ammunition depots, "there are no bilateral agreements on the OGRF and on the weapons depots". She also stated that its her position that the "mission should be transformed into an OSCE civilian observer mission".[97]

In September 2021, during an interview at a local television station, Sandu was asked to describe the events that took place in 1992 and lead to the Transnistria war, to which she replied:

During the process through which we were trying to gain our independence, to become independent state, obviously foreign forces opposing our wish came to stop us, trying to create this danger. Things, obviously, have been planned from before, because if we look back in history that is how things have been arranged and organized so that we would always be dependent on the former USSR.[98]

She further explained that the Transnistria conflict was an artificial problem created in order to stop Moldova from gaining its independence and that other former USSR countries experienced the same thing. Sandu also stated that Moldova is looking exclusively for a peaceful and diplomatic solution in the Transnistria conflict.[98]

Asked what her position is on opinions which suggest that Moldova should give up on Transnistria since it is an obstacle in the EU integration, Sandu replied that she totally disagrees with such opinions.[98]

Electoral results[edit]

Parliamentary[edit]

Election Party Votes Percentage Position
2019 (50th Constituency) ACUM Electoral Bloc (DA and PAS) 380,181
26.84%
 2nd 

Presidential[edit]

Election Party First round Second round
Votes Percentage Position Votes Percentage Position
2016 Party of Action and Solidarity 549,152
38.71%
 2nd  766,593
47.89%
 2nd 
2020 Party of Action and Solidarity 439,866
36.16%
 1st  943,006
57.72%
 1st 

Controversies[edit]

Politics[edit]

In September 2016, Sandu instituted proceedings against the State Chancellery, requesting to be presented the shorthand from the Cabinet meeting where the state guarantees for the three bankrupted banks (the Bank of Economics (Romanian: Banca de Economii), Unibank and the Banca Socială) had been approved.[99] Prime Minister Pavel Filip published on his Facebook page, the shorthand of the last Cabinet meeting, when the decision on granting the emergency credit for the Bank of Economics was adopted. The shorthand included the speeches of former NBM governor Dorin Drăguțanu, former Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici, and Sandu's own speeches from the time as minister of education. It is mentioned that at the end the decision was voted unanimously. The shorthand was not signed.[100]

On 21 February 2019, Sandu and the candidates of the ACUM electoral bloc, both of the national and uninominal constituency, signed a public commitment according to which after the Parliamentary elections of 24 February 2019 they would not make any coalition with the Party of Socialists, Democratic Party and Shor Party, and if this commitment is violated they will resign as MPs.[101][102][103][104] She violated this self-imposed commitment after agreeing to form a coalition government along with the Party of Socialists in early June 2019.[105]

Historical[edit]

Regarding former leader of Romania Ion Antonescu, Sandu said in 2018 that he was "a historical figure about whom we may say both good and bad things". Her statements were sharply criticized by the Jewish Community of Moldova (CERM), who issued an open letter stating: "The lack of sanctions for [...] Holocaust denial and glorification of fascism in Moldovan legislation allows some opinion leaders and political leaders to not be held accountable for such acts, and lets them create their public image by distorting and revising historical facts and fueling inter-ethnic and inter-religious discrimination and hate."[106][107] Sandu replied to this accusation in later interviews by stating: "I regret that my words about the dictator Ion Antonescu were made an object of interpretation. [...] My attitude towards any criminal regime of the 20th century, whether Nazi or communist, which have millions of lives on their consciences, is well known and unequivocally negative. Ion Antonescu was a war criminal, rightly condemned by the international community for war crimes against Jewish and Roma people."[108][109]

Distinctions[edit]

Honors[edit]

Awards[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Moldova
2019
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Moldova
2020–present
Incumbent