The 2020 Moldova presidential debates between Maia Sandu and Igor Dodon, the major candidates in the presidential election, didn’t take place. Depressing autumn weather, coronavirus pandemic, country’s poverty- who needs debates in such conditions? It’s as if we haven’t all heard, dozens of times, what is each of them supposed to say? This is the vision for the last round of presidential debates this year.
There is a growing body of opinion that debates should be prescribed by law. Debates mean access to information about candidates and define their respective positions. This is one of the main reasons why debates should be legislatively mandated.
This year there was no presidential debate in Moldova. Let’s assume that the debate did take place. It would look worse and more dramatically than it was in the 2016 debate between the same two presidential candidates. First, Dodon would show off his male sexual supremacy, alluding to Sandu’s marital status and lack of children. He would then poke fun at her studies at Harvard University and make jokes about her experience in several important offices in Washington. Finally, he would attack her unscrupulously with his favorite manipulations: LGBTQ and unionism with Romania, covering himself from top to bottom in the piety of a president who walked around Mount Athos.
Igor Dodon would have allegedly attacked Maia Sandu unorthodoxly in a debate. She decided to become president, show resilience, and show society her ability to respond under pressure. Human beings love the instant reactions in unpredictable situations. Following this, not only presidential candidates but also parliamentarians, ministers, mayors should be subjected to such an attempt at spontaneity.
The debates also highlighted Maia Sandu’s ability to ask questions. Here, the list had to be large and heavy: about corruption, lack of judicial reforms, huge expenditures, lack of official reports, one-billion-dollar theft. However, Igor Dodon’s answers would have been the ones he has been shouting constantly for the last four years: “That’s all”, “I don’t remember”, “Don’t deal with fakes”. All this, mixed with sexist attacks, naughty jokes, disgusting approaches, and degrading allusions. Moreover, there is the propaganda machine: owning pro-Russian television channels, webpages, armies of trolls on social networks to have diverted the public’s attention from the non-answers regarding corruption to sexist approaches and that would be all that was left to the Moldovan society.
Why did not Maia Sandu accept the debate, though? Was her refusal proof of weakness or a skillful step to get around the mud throwers? Though, a more significant question for all of the Moldovan citizens: How did we, as a society, get to this point where poorly educated people, with limited professional experience, full of contradictions and corruption, with the resume filled with immorality, ruled almost everything in this state? Should we confront them in public talks, lower our standards to the level of their illiteracy, let them drag us through the mud instead of answering our questions? How do we land in such situations?
Should the Moldovan society give up debate? Not in any way. We need to turn the debates into a platform where issues of the most significant public interest are discussed and, where it is punishable to ridicule public affairs through insinuation, speculation, and use of the electorate fears against certain topics that we have been intoxicated with for 30 years.
The ideal debate would be one in which only investigative journalists ask questions, and the debate is broadcast live on all TV channels, including oligarchic and candidate-controlled ones, but primarily on public television.