During the first half of 2018, the Republic of Moldova consistently lowered its democracy level by undermining fundamental human rights and violating the rule of law. Celebrating four years after signing the Association Agreement turned out to be deplorable due to the lack of consistent reform implementation and repeated concerns expressed by the development partners. The invalidation of the mayoral elections in Chisinau confirmed by the Moldovan Supreme Court of Justice on the evening of June, 25 not only manifested the lack of transparency and the independent judiciary but also reinforced the state capture status of the Republic of Moldova.
Domestic policy: On the edge of democracy
The domestic developments have focused around the Mayer of Chisinau elections that took place in May – June, and required two rounds of elections due to low voter turnout at the polling stations. The two major candidates were: the representative of the Party of Socialists, Ion Ceban and the leader of the Dignity and Truth Platform Party, Andrei Nastase. The second round of elections registered a 39.10% turnout, and the position of the Mayor of Chisinau was won by Andrei Nastase with 52.57% of votes compared to 47.43% of votes in favor of Ceban.
Nevertheless, Nastase is unable to perform his duties as a result of Moldovan Supreme Court of Justice final decision to invalidate the mandate and declare the result of the elections null. The Supreme Court of Justice upheld the Appeal Court decision of June, 19 based on the fact that social media communications with voters on the election day might have illegally affected the outcome of the race. According to the Moldovan electoral code, no campaigning is allowed during the election day. However, Nastase’s social media video could be regarded as the one, encouraging civic activism rather than campaigning.
The invalidation of the mayoral elections in Chisinau has attracted the attention of the international community whose representatives expressed disagreement with the violation of the key principles of the rule of law. In a joint statement by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn the two European officials urged the “Moldovan authorities to take appropriate measures to ensure that the results of the Chisinau mayoral elections, as recognized also by national and international observers and reflecting the will of the voters, are respected”.
The invalidation of the mayoral elections in Chisinau has attracted the attention of the international community
The major European political families have come up with statements of concern as well. Among others Petras Auštrevičius (Liberal Movement of Lithuania), European Parliament’s rapporteur on Moldova referred to the difficulties that the ruling coalition is facing in performing properly its duties assumed as an Associated Partner of the European Union. He also reminded of the joint statement of July 4, 2017 by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, which clearly stated “a pre-condition for granting macro-financial assistance is that the beneficiary country respects effective democratic mechanisms, including a multi-party parliamentary system and the rule of law, and guarantees respect for human rights”. Economy: “More for more” and “less for less”
After several diplomatic “warnings” the EU kept its promises and froze the delivery of the first tranche from the 100 million Euros macro-financial assistance to Moldova. Following the EU-Republic of Moldova Association Council in Brussels on May, 3, the Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, referred to several key areas of reforms where the results are needed in particular. Commissioner emphasized the anti-corruption sector, the banking fraud, and the electoral code, which also can be found among political preconditions for the disbursement of the financial assistance. Asked recently if Moldova will be granted the assistance in autumn when the parliamentary elections are due to take place, Commissioner Hahn reaffirmed Brussels on the developments in Chisinau resulting in the invalidation of the mayoral elections.
Foreign policy: Twice failed success story
On June 27, 2018 Moldova was to have celebrated four years of signing the Association Agreement including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). After four years of DCFTA implementation and two years of Association Agreement in place, the Republic of Moldova confirmed the status of a failed success story of the Eastern Partnership in political terms. Although progress has been made in adjusting the legal framework to the acqui communautaire, further efforts are needed in order to address high-level corruption, recover the misappropriated funds from the one-billion-dollar banking fraud as well as carry out a thorough reform of the judicial system. These are the conclusions of the joint report, released on April, 5 by the European External Action Service and the European Commission.
On May, 14 the Russian President, Vladimir Putin announced the decision of the Eurasian Union leaders to grant the Republic of Moldova the observer status. Moldova is the first country to be given this status, but it seems not the last one as the Russian leader encouraged other member states from the Commonwealth of Independent States to join in. The decision comes as a result of a cooperation Memorandum signed by the President of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Dondon in April, 2018. The present document and status were not well received by the Moldovan Government which stated its contradictory value to the main foreign and domestic policy vector: European Association.
With 64 votes in favor and 15 against the UN General Assembly has passed the resolution on complete and unconditional withdrawal of foreign military forces from the territory of the Republic of Moldova. On one hand, the decision is regarded to be a sign of support on the part of the international community which after 27 years confirms the illegal stationing of the Russian military in the Transnistrian region. On the other hand, experts draw attention to the fact that the UN General Assembly resolution neither stipulates the concrete steps of Russian military withdrawal nor contains a request to change the current peacekeeping format into a civilian mission under the international mandate. Moreover, 83 states abstained from voting, including the countries which have an important voice such as China and India. The unbinding nature of the resolution raises serious questions regarding the further actions of the Moldovan Government and the response of the Russian Federation to this purely symbolic decision.