Cristina Gherasimov

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Maia Sandu in Germany in July. Photo: Getty Images.

The lack of political will to carry out rule of law reforms is frequently the reason why reforms are not fully implemented. The case of Moldova proves that in societies where strong vested interests still persist, political savviness is equally as important as political will.

Old and new political power brokers in Moldova struck a fragile pact in June to oust Vladimir Plahotniuc. Plahotniuc had built a network of corruption and patronage with the help of the Democratic Party, which he treated as a personal vehicle and which allowed him and a small economic elite circle to enrich themselves off of government institutions and state-owned enterprises, to the detriment of Moldovan citizens and the health of their political process.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man walks to the polls on election day, 24 February, in Chisinau. Photo: Getty Images.

The outcome of Sunday’s election portends badly for Moldova’s prospects to resuscitate its democracy. The results likely herald a continuation of the current elite tandem that captured state institutions, stifled the independent media, encroached on civil society’s efforts to keep them accountable, and diverted international attention from the real problems that the country faces.

As they are consumed by ongoing domestic issues of their own, European governments and the EU may not have the necessary attention span for Moldova’s travails. But endorsement of, silence at or hesitance in the face of these election results would signal a tacit approval for more democratic backsliding.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police block the Moldovan parliament building during anti-government protests in 2016. Photo: Getty Images.

Moldova has long struggled with corruption in its politics, but a series of events over the course of the summer indicate that democracy and the rule of law are coming under increased threat. Western partners should take these red flags seriously and re-evaluate how they engage with the Moldovan government.

Warning signs

Firstly, after the second round of local elections in the capital Chisinau, on 3 June, opposition candidate Andrei Nastase appeared to have won the office of mayor. But, following a series of lower-court rulings, the country’s Supreme Court of Justice rendered election results invalid on 25 June after late-evening deliberations behind closed doors.…  Seguir leyendo »

Agmashenebeli Avenue in Tbilisi is turned into 'European Street' in March to celebrate visa-free travel in the Schengen area for Georgians. Photo: Getty Images.

As the EU’s Eastern Partnership Summit begins, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are likely to demand more serious commitments and a clear path to EU membership. The challenge for the EU will be to resist these calls while sustaining painful but necessary reforms in those countries.

The increased security challenges that a resurgent Russia pose to Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine provide ruling elites in those countries with stronger political leverage to demand more serious commitments from the EU, and boosts their image at home. Focusing on Russia also deflects attention away from domestic problems, and offers excuses for not implementing reforms that have already been adopted under EU Association Agreements.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Moldova parliament building in Chisinau. Photo: Getty Images.

If free and fair elections were held in Moldova today, the current ruling Democratic Party would win about 4 per cent of the vote. Under the country’s current proportional representation system, this would not secure them any seats in parliament.

But if they cannot secure a parliamentary presence through popularity, the party seems intent on securing it through technicality. They are proposing an electoral change to a ‘mixed system’ that would secure up to 40 seats out of 101.

The party claims the new system, introducing elements of first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting,  will ‘bring policy-makers closer to their constituents’. But the experience of other struggling democracies in Moldova’s neighbourhood, where clientelism and corruption also thrive, shows that such a system in fact inhibits political pluralism and cements corrupt networks of power.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Moldovan flag in Chisinau. Photo: Getty Images.

As far back as 2000, the World Bank had already categorized Moldova as ‘a captured state’. Parliamentary vote-buying, the sale of judicial decisions, mishandling of public funds and non-transparent party financing were frequent practices that highlighted the vulnerabilities of the democratic transition process in Moldova. Despite several nominally pro-European governments since 2009, the reality is that Moldova remains a state where vested interests have subdued state institutions and paralyzed independent decision-making. The absence of checks on the abuse of power and the widespread corruption in state institutions has led to the Association Agreement, signed with the EU in 2014, being the only remaining viable political accountability mechanism that can provide the necessary oversight for reforms to be implemented by the self-declared ‘pro-EU’ coalition government.…  Seguir leyendo »