Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Unemployment is high and the country is heavily dependent on remittances from thousands of Moldovans working abroad. A large part of the Moldovan population is Romanian-speaking, although there are also Russian and Ukrainian minorities. The communists were the ruling party in the former Soviet state from 1998 until 2009. Since 2009, Moldova became a more pro-Western state. Moldova currently aspires to join the European Union; the country has implemented the first three-year Action Plan within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and has signed a far-reaching Association Agreement with the EU in 2014 that came into force on July 1st 2016.
The election of pro-Western politician Maia Sandu as President on November 1, 2020, paved the way for more cooperation with the West. However, her Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) still lacks enough seats to govern effectively. Parliament is still largely controlled by more pro-Russian forces, with the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) of Former President Igor Doon being the largest fraction. Early elections are scheduled for July 11, 2021, which the PAS is expected to win. The elections could bring an end to the country's ongoing political crisis, which erupted after the 2019 parliamentary elections.
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- 4,035,736 million (United Nations 2020 est.)
- Governmental Type:
- Ruling Coalition:
- Socialist-Liberal Coalition: Socialist Party and Now Platform (ACUM)
- Last Elections:
- 1 November 2020 (Presidential elections)
- Next Elections:
- 11 July 2021 (Early parliamentary elections)
- Sister Parties:
- Democratic Party of Moldova
Moldova has experienced some political crises over the past few years, which have caused instability and mistrust of the population in the authorities. The recent parliamentary elections caused the country to tumble in a political crisis. In the parliamentary elections held on 24 February 2019, four parties came out on top: the Socialists, followed by the Democratic Party (PDM), then the ACUM electoral bloc made up of the Dignity and Truth Platform Party (DA) and the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), and finally the Șor (the party of a convicted oligarch). None had a majority so what ensued was months of negotiations, with no one sitting down to the negotiating table until several high-profile officials from the EU, US and Russian Federation visited the Socialist and ACUM leaders. Moreover, this election was the first one that was held under a parallel voting system instead of the closed-list proportional system that was used in previous elections.
Unlikely alliance froms short-lived government
The ACUM and Socialists formed a coalition to block the PDM and its powerful tycoon reclaiming power. The PDM reacted ferociously, using its power to stop the alliance from taking office. The PDM used the constitutional court to temporarily strip former President Dodon from his power, appointing PDM's Pavel Filip as President. Filip issued a decree which dissolved parliament and called for early elections on September the 6th. Lawmakers in parliament declared that Moldova's state and legal institutions had been seized by oligarchs, demanding the resignation of several top officials. After a long stalemate, the PDM resigned from power on 14 June. Vice president of PDM, Vladimir Cebotari, stated that the PDM stepped down to avoid escalation. Dodon called the resignation an important victory, urging the constitutional court to accept the decision, warning that he would ask parliament to replace the court's judges if it failed to do so.
The USA, EU and Russia all expressed their support for the new government, which was formed by an unlikely alliance. On June 15, Sandu, prime minister at the time, said that the new government aimed to improve ties with the EU. Nonetheless, she also stressed that the country would be open to boosting economic and trade cooperation with Russia. The coalition was an unstable one with lots of conflicting interests, but also a historic one since it was able to successfully challenge the iron grip of the oligarch backed PDM party. However, the Sandu government was short lived. On 12 November 2019 the government fell in a vote of no confidence over a draft law dispute concerned with deletating more power to the prime minister.
New pro-Russian government steps down after presidential elections
A Ion Chicu-led, more pro-Russian, PSRM government took over power. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Moldova, in March 2020, Chicu reshuffled his cabinet. Five, out of nine, ministers seats were filled with PDM members, including Oleg Tulea as the new Minister of foreign affairs. This despite the PDM only having 11, out of 101, seats in parliament. During the presedential elections in November 2020 the PDM left the coalition again, allowing for the new president to form a government. A minority government, with independents appointed as ministers, under the PSRM remained in power untill Chicu resinged in expectation of a vote of no confidence a month after the presedential elections. Since then there has been a caretaker government.
On 1 November 2020, presidential elections were held. After some candidates failed registration or withdrew from the race, there were eight participants left, backed by different political parties. Former prime minister Sandu, being pro-European and member of the Party of Actions and Solidarity (PAS), ended on the first place with around 36% of the votes. Incumbent president Igor Dodon, backed by Russia and running as independent with support of the PSRM, ended second with just under 33%. However, since the president has to be chosen with an absolute majority, Sandu and Dodon had to run in a second round, which took place on 15 November. This time, Sandu was the clear winner by obtaining around 58% of the votes, against 42% for Dodon, thereby becoming the first female president of Moldova.
After the Chicu government resigned in November 2020, Sandu has put forward Natalia Gavrilita as prime minister to form a government. This government formation was unsuccesful, after which Gavrilita was asked again to form a government. If in 90 days a government is not formed in Moldova, snap elections are triggered. This is exaclty what Sandu hoped for, as her party is expected to win the elections. Her rival Dodon of the PSRM has done everything in his power to preven the elections from taking place, as he is expected to lose. Currently Sandu's PAS party, only holds 15 out of 101 seats. The PSRM mantain the largest faction with 37 seats. The rest of the parliament remains fractured, including 11 independent MPs. The PDM (11), Dignity and Truth Platform Party (11), Sor Party (9) and Pro Moldova Party (7) hold the remaining seats.
Gender representation and women's rights
In the parliamentary elections of 2019, 26 women were elected to parliament, which totals to 25.7 per cent of the parliament. Although women are still underrepresented in Moldovan politics, this marks a slight increase of representation from the general elections of 2014, when only 21 (20.8 per cent) women were elected to parliament. During the 2019 parliamentary elections, all parties had more than 40 per cent women on their candidate list. This is due to a law that came into effect in 2016, which stipulates a 40 per cent gender quota for candidates of both genders. Important to note is that the distribution of women on the lists was not homogeneous, of the top 5 candidates of each party, only 28 per cent were women. In 2020, the Moldovans elected their first female president, which signs to a continuous improvement in gender equality in the country's political landscape.
Across Moldova, women are underrepresented as voters and in leading positions in the government, politics, business and civil society – despite their proven abilities as leaders and agents of change, and their right to participate equally in democratic governance. Women's representation in Moldovan politics and decision-making is below international benchmarks. Women belonging to certain minority groups appear to face discriminatory practices that affect their free access to public space. Human trafficking remains a serious problem as well. The country is a major source for women and girls trafficked abroad for forced prostitution, mainly to Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union, Turkey, Romania, Southeast Europe, the Middle East, and the European Union.
Homosexuality has been legal in Moldova since 1995 and state instutions have become increasingly more tolerant towards the LGBTI community. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is baned in the workplace too. However, LGBTI people continue to face legal and social challenges, as well as discriminaiton. The state does not allow marriages between same-sex couples and there are countless other ways how same-sex copules do not qualify for the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex couples. They are not allowed to adopt children, for instance. In 2018, Moldova was ranked 43 out of 49 European countries, when it came to LGBTI legislation. Six years earlier, Moldova still ranked last, so there has been some improvement.
Public opinion of Moldovans towards the LGBTI community remains very negative. A study by the Institute of Public Policies in 2014 showed that 83% of Moldovans do not accept LGBTI people. Another survey done in 2017, by the Pew Research Center, showed that 92% feel that homosexuality should not be accepted by society. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Moldova has become more influenced by the Orthodox Christian Church, which is much opposed towards LGBTI rights. Given the country's negative public opinion on homosexualtiy, violence against LGBTI people is common. GenderDoc-M is an organisation that seeks to protect the rights of the LGBTI community and has been succesful in helping to organise Moldova's Pride.
Moldova is a parliamentary representative democratic republic. According to its constitution, the parliament is the supreme representative organ and the single legislative authority of the state. The parliament is a unicameral assembly with 101 seats whose members are elected by proportional representation every four years. To enter the Moldovan parliament, independent candidates must obtain 3 per cent of the total number of votes. The political parties must pass a 6 per cent threshold and the electoral blocs that consist of two parties at least 9 per cent. The electoral blocs consisting of more than two political parties must receive at least 12 per cent of the votes. The “lost votes” of the parties that did not pass the threshold are subsequently distributed proportionally among those who did.
The Moldovan president is elected by the people for a duration of four years. Election outcomes are only valid when a minimum of one third of the registered voters cast their ballots. There are three ways in which a candidate can be nominated: through a political party, an electoral coalition or as an independent. To become president, the participant has to obtain an absolute majority of the votes. This means that at least half of the voters have to cast their ballots for one person. If this requirement is not met, a second round with the winner and runner up is held, two weeks after the initial vote. The candidate with the most votes in this round wins the elections. Presidential candidates have to be at least 40 years of age and be able to speak Romanian, which is the country’s state language. In addition, he or she has to have lived in Moldova for a minimum of 10 years.
On 24 February 2019 parliamentary elections were held in Moldova. The results were confirmed on 9 March. Voter turnout was low with only 49 per cent of the people turning up to vote. The elections resulted in a victory for the Socialist Party which gained 35 seats of the 101 in total. The Democratic Party came second with 30 seats, followed by the ACUM coalition with 26 seats. The Șor Party entered the parliament for the first time, gaining 7 seats in total. The elections resulted in a historical loss for the Liberal and Communist party; both didn't reach the 6 per cent threshold thus failing to enter parliament.
|Party||% of the votes||National Seats||Constituency Seats||Total Seats||Seats compared to the last election|
|Party of Socialists||31.15%||18||17||35||+10|
|Democratic Party of Moldova||23.62%||13||17||30||+11|
|Party of Communists||3.75%||0||0||0||-21|
|Anti-Maffia Popular Movement Party||0.61%||0||-||0||0|
|Democracy at Home||0.32%||0||0||0||0|
|Party of Regions||0.26%||0||-||0||New|
|National Liberal Party||0.24%||0||0||0||0|
|Ecologist Green Party||0.23%||0||0||0||0|
|Hope Professionals' Movement Party||0.20%||0||0||0||New|
|People's Will Party||0.19%||0||-||0||New|
The election results caused a political crisis, with both the ACUM and Socialist party not willing to work together with the Democratic party. None had a majority so what ensued was months of negotiations, with no one sitting down at the negotiating table. The ACUM and Socialist party differ on many grounds, but after consultation with EU and Russian officials, they were able to form a coalition. This coalition was determined to stop the Democratic party, which they allege is backed by oligarchs, from getting into the office once again.
The PDM reacted ferociously, using its power to stop the coalition from taking office. The PDM used the constitutional court to temporarily strip President Dodon from his power, appointing PDM's Pavel Filip as President. Filip issued a decree which dissolved parliament and called for early elections on September the 6th. After a long stalemate, the PDM resigned from power on 14 June. On June 15, prime minister Sandu (PAS) said that the new government aimed to improve ties with the EU but that the country was also open to boosting economic and trade cooperation with Russia.
The fall of the Sandu government
Maia Sandu and her cabinet were inaugurated in the middle of the constitutional crisis on June 8th 2019, after months of negotiations. After the election, no party obtained an outright majority, thus making it necessary to form a coalition of two of the three biggest parties in order to gain a majority and elect a prime minister. This, however, proved very difficult. According to the Moldovan constitution, a new government needs to be formed no longer than 90 days after the results of the election are validated (in this case this happened on the 9th of March). When on June 7th a government had yet to be formed, the Constitutional Court decided that new elections should be held because still no government was formed 90 days after the election (24th of February). This triggered the formation of a coalition. ACUM platform and the Socialist party came to an agreement in which Sandu was to become prime minister and form the government. The leader of the Socialist party, Zinaida Greceanii, would become the speaker, leaving the Democratic Party, who felt betrayed, out.
The Constitutional Court ruled this new government as unconstitutional and urged President Igor Dodon to dissolve it. President Dodon refused to dissolve the government because according to the constitution, the 90-day deadline was met. In response, the deputy of the Democratic Party, Sergiu Sirbu, filed a request to the Constitutional Court to dismiss President Dodon for his inability to dissolve the government. Since the Constitutional Court is considered to be under the influence of the Democratic Party (led by oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc), the request was granted on the 9th of June. President Dodon was removed from his position and replaced by prime minister Pavel Filip. Filip then dissolved the government and announced that early elections would be held on September 6th.
The coalition called the decision of Filip illegal and refused to step down. This effectively meant that Moldova had two governments that worked parallel to each other. On June 14th, just 5 days after his appointment, Filip decided to step down from the government to create political stability, but he still demanded new elections and refused to acknowledge the Sandu government. The day after on the 15th of June, the Constitutional Court decided to repeal their decisions that triggered the crisis. Vladimir Plahotniuc, the leader of the Democratic Party, reportedly fled the country a day earlier. President Dodon was reinstated as President of Moldova, with Sandu as prime minister. On the 20th of June the president of the Constitutional Court, Mihai Poalelungi, resigned from office followed by an entire group of constitutional court judges on the 16th of June. Dodon and Sandu stated that they would restore the integrity of the Constitutional Court by electing independent judges.
This government was also ousted on the 12th of November of the same year after a vote of no confidence. The reason Sandu's government collapsed was to do with the draft law assumed by the government. This, to delegate a part of its plenary powers to the prime minister, proposing a shortlist with candidates for the Prosecutor General's position. President Dodon stated that by doing this the ACUM bloc violated the agreement made with the PSRM which clearly stipulated that the applicants for the position of Prosecutor General are selected by an expert committee.
Ion Chicu, replacing Maia Sandu, was named prime minister on 14 November 2019 with the support of 60% of the Members of Parliament. The members of PSRM and PDM voted in favour, while members of the ACUM bloc voted against. Chicu’s minority cabinet was a technocratic in theory. However, half the members including and the prime minister himself have served as former President Dodon’s advisors. In addition, some of them were ministers in the PDM-led government. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic Chicu reshuffled his cabinet, replacing five ministers with PDM members, despite the party only having 11 seats in parliament. During the presidential elections of 2020, the PDM decided to leave the coalition to allow for a new government formation under the new president. Initially the Chicu government remained in office, with independents replacing the PDM ministers. A month after the presedential elections Chicu stepped down in expectation of a vote of no confidence, allowing the formation of a new government under the new president. A caretaker government has been in charge since then.
On 15 November 2020, in the second round of the presidential elections, Maia Sandu was elected new Head of State. Pro-European Sandu, former prime minister, obtained around 58% of the votes against 42% for incumbent president Igor Dodon, who was openly supported by Russia. Due to Sandu being pro-European and Dodon being pro-Russia, these elections were often branded as a competition between West and East, reflecting the division in views of Moldovans as to which direction the country should lean to improve its impoverished conditions. Sandu is a former World Bank economist and made clear she wants to counter corruption and encourage national businesses. In addition, she promised to ensure more financial assistance from the European Union, a big contrast to Dodon’s strategy securing loans from the Kremlin. Even though Sandu’s win can be seen as a defeat for Moscow, Russian president Putin still congratulated her. Also, a Kremlin spokesman stated Russia hopes to establish a working relationship with the new Moldovan Head of state.
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- Balkan Insight 1
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- BBC Country Profile
- BBC News
- Carnegie Moscow Center
- Central Europe Review
- CIA World Factbook
- Deutsche Welle
- Freedom House - Moldova 2003
- EU External Relations
- European Council
- European Stability Initiative
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- International Affairs
- International Crisis Group
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- Parliament of Moldova
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- Wikipedia: 2019 Moldovan Parliamentary Election
- Wikipedia: Democratic Party of Moldova
- Wikipedia: Igor Dodon
- Wikipedia: Maia Sandu
- Wikipedia: Pavel Filip
- Wikipedia: Sandu Cabinet