By Marius Marsejnii
On the 11th of July 2021, the people in the Republic of Moldova voted in a snap election. The election was triggered by the resignation of Ion Chicu. After failing to vote in a new government, the President of Moldova – Maia Sandu - dissolved the parliament on the 28th of April after the Constitutional Court declared there to be a constitutional basis for the dissolution of the Parliament. As a result of this election, the pro-European centre-right party, the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) received 52.8% of the votes giving them an overwhelming majority in the Government (63 seats in the 101-seat parliament). PAS was followed by the left-wing electoral bloc of the Socialists and Communists with 27.17% (32 seats in the 101-seat parliament) and the party of the Oligarch Ilan Sor – the Sor Party with 5.74% (6 seats out of the 101-seat parliament). This election can be regarded as a major stepping stone in Eastern Europe’s gradual departure from its Communist past; breaking ties with Putin’s Russia and seeking to integrate into the EU.
Prospect of Reforms
Since its independence in 1991, The Republic of Moldova has been tormented by institutional corruption. This corruption has created powerful oligarchs who maintain some form of control over the economy. The arrival of the Party of Action and Solidarity has seen issues such as anti-corruption and gradual integration into the European Union being promoted. However, they have not shown much progress regarding these issues as they did not possess substantial institutional power. Even if they were not able to bring changes that would promote European values and stabilize the economy through free and fair enterprise, their voters have seen a glimpse of hope during the brief period when the then leader of the party – Maia Sandu - was Prime Minister (from the 8th of June 2019 to the 14th of November 2019). She has reignited trust between Moldova and the European Union and the US. Sandu, together with the then President Igor Dodon, has driven away the biggest oligarch from the country, Vlad Plahotniuc, who is now a fugitive and is on the Interpol and FBI’s wanted list.
Sandu has together with the then President Igor Dodon driven away the biggest oligarch from the country; Vlad Plahotniuc, who is now a fugitive and is on the Interpol and FBI’s wanted list.
Now that Maia Sandu is President, and therefore has power over the legislative and the executive branches of the government, she can finally deliver her promises whilst continuing to strengthen the EU-Moldova relationship, with the ultimate aim of joining the European Union and the Eurozone. Even if complete EU integration seems like a distant goal, we can expect to see significant changes in foreign relations, similar to what transpired after Sandu became the head of state. These changes are now being accelerated because of snap elections.
The President has recently been congratulated by Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, during a telephone conversation where they agreed to work on issues ranging from the recognition of drivers licenses and Moldovan college degrees in Ireland to improving bilateral relationships. In addition, Ukrainian authorities have also approved a plan to construct a highway from Kyiv, Ukraine, to Chisinau, Moldova, in an attempt to strengthen relations between the countries.
Although the future looks bright for Moldova’s relationship with other member states, the new government needs to find substantial solutions to certain issues that could pose a threat to Moldova’s progress, prosperity and future reforms.
Now that Maia Sandu is President, and therefore has power over the legislative and the executive branches of the government, she can finally deliver her promises whilst continuing to strengthen the EU-Moldova relationship, with the ultimate aim of joining the European Union and the Eurozone in mind.
Issues of Concern
The main area of concern is to do with internal policies that need to be tackled by the incoming government. The fundamental one is corruption. Moldova is ranked 115th in the Corruption Perception Index, one of the worst rankings in the world. Corruption has been the root cause of political instability in Moldova and the Party of Action and Solidarity should undertake sweeping Judicial reforms; like changing certain existing laws that are vague and have allowed oligarchs to get away with fraud.
Moldova is ranked 115th in the Corruption Perception Index, one of the worst rankings in the world.
During the election campaign, the party promised to change a clause in the constitution that allows for the confiscation of assets that have been purchased with money from fraudulent activities. Such a reform could bring about substantial change and put an end to the oligarchy in Moldova. Unfortunately, for this new clause to be passed, a party needs to have a constitutional majority in the Government (67 out of the 101-seat parliament) and PAS is four seats short. They can still manage to get the four votes from the opposition but this is unlikely to happen.
Another pressing issue that could cost Moldova EU accession is the question of Transnistria. Transnistria is a separatist zone, east of the river Dnister, that is heavily populated by a Russian-speaking population. When it declared independence from Moldova in 1990, it resulted in a two-year conflict; Moldova tried to regain control of the region. Transnistria has its own government, however, it is not recognized by Moldova and the European Union as being legitimate. While the Transnistrian War came to a ceasefire in 1992, the conflict is yet to be resolved and the ruling party has no solutions to this problem. This is of great concern because Transnistria is a Russian ally. Moldo-Russian relations are becoming increasingly tense, posing a threat to political stability in the Republic. A possible solution to this issue would be electoral reform. This reform would introduce a mixed voting system like Germany or ranked-choice voting like Ireland. This would give Transnistria representation in the Moldovan Parliament on the condition of reintegration into the country as a semi-autonomous region.
A Potential Example for Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe has long been a region devastated by internal conflicts after the fall of the Soviet Union. Corruption scandals have led to financial crashes and hyperinflation, and the region is currently threatened by pressures linked to the increasing number of migrants. However, Moldova can serve as an example of what Eastern Europe could be. With the help of the diaspora, people have elected a government that wants to bring change and prosperity. This shows that all is not lost for countries facing the same challenges as Moldova. Great trust has been placed on the incoming government and the people expect them to finally be the party that will keep its promises. In conclusion, I would like to end with a quote from Maia Sandu: “where there is political will, there is change”; she and her party have a responsibility to make the lives of the citizens better.