As the government in Moldova has increasingly aligned itself with NATO and the European Union, there are signs that political turmoil in the country that formerly was part of Romania is brewing. In elections over the weekend, Evghenia Guțul of the opposition Russia-aligned Șor Party has won election as Governor of Moldova’s Gagauz Autonomous District in a run-off against another pro-Russia candidate Grigore Uzun. The Gagauz are an Orthodox Christian people related to Bulgarians.
The situation is tense because the government in Chișinău is trying to ban the Șor Party for alleged violations of Moldova's electoral law and it is likely that they will attempt to prevent Guțul of occupying the office to which she was elected. The governor, called bashkan, automatically becomes a member of the Moldovan government and could impede the pro-West agenda of Maia Sandu’s government. Moldovan authorities, in an effort to suppress opposition, raided Guțul’s party’s offices a week before the election.
If Chișinău refuses to accept the democratic results of the election and to impede Gagauz autonomy, it could provoke the district to declare independence or even to unite with Russia. The next steps by both sides could greatly impact the situation in region. The Gagauz district comprises 5% of Moldova’s territory, with a population of a little over 120,000 people. Sandu’s government would need to tacit approval of the European Union and NATO to make such a move.