Moldova on the edge of democracy

Daniela Gologan, Foreign Policy Association of Moldova (APE) (Moldova, Chisinau)

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In the period of July-August, the Moldovan political environment has been challenged by the changes introduced in the electoral system, as well as the controversial messages delivered by the public officials portraying a deeply polarized political elite and the society. The adoption of the mixed electoral system decreased the trust of the development partners and provoked a heated discussion with the civil society representatives.

Domestic Policy. Moving to the mixed electoral system

One of the most important development in the Moldova’s domestic policy, during the last two months, was the adoption of a law on the mixed electoral system. Despite the huge public opposition and the Venice Commission’s opinion against the initiative of switching from a proportional representation to a mixed electoral system, on 20 July the draft law was adopted by the Moldovan Parliament in the second reading with the vote of 74 MPs. The law was rapidly promulgated by the President of the Republic of Moldova in the afternoon of the same day. In the meantime, the protests were carried out in the city center of Chisinau by the opposition groups denouncing the publicly unsupported change.

The mixed electoral system may lead to a continuous series of partial election in the single-member district, it will increase the costs for organizing of the parliamentary elections and election campaigns, as well as the risk of corrupting the voters, especially in the single-member district and/or the MPs. There is a high probability of the excessive fragmentation of the electorate, and the emergence of some social and ethnic conflicts.

Even though most of the Members of the Parliament and the president embraced the change of the electoral system, the decision was criticized by the European Commission: “Thursday’s vote of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova to implement the changes to the country’s electoral system goes directly counter to the recent recommendations of the Venice Commission and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights”.

The latest changes in law introduced some severe penalties for NGOs, including the hefty fines, the exclusion from the government-run financial mechanism that facilitates and encourages voluntary donations to the NGOs by the tax payers and the potential closure

Joseph Daul, the president of the European people’s party (EPP) and Bart Somers, the president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in a joint statement  called on the EU institution, including the European External Service, as well as on the Council of Europe to immediately evaluate the decline of the rule of law and the democratic standards in the Republic of Moldova, and re-evaluate as soon as possible the EU-Moldova Association Agreement.

Another recent initiative which caused the reactions within the civil society organizations refers to the draft law on non-governmental organizations, namely the undebated provisions introduced by the Ministry of Justice referring to the restrictions on foreign funding and activities of the political nature. According to a declaration signed by 28 NGOs, the proposals represent an attack on the non-governmental organizations that are active in the public policies promoting or any other activities aimed at the participatory democracy developing. The absolute majority of the Moldovan NGOs benefit from the funds provided by the development partners. Such measures will deprive them from funding  while the foreign political organizations and foundations working in the Republic of Moldova would be forced to cease their activity”. 

The civil society representatives argue that the newly introduced provisions  in the law on non-governmental organizations are imposing an unnecessary additional reporting burden to the tax authorities, as well as obligations to publish the reports confirming the origin of the organization’s financial means and the income of the NGO leaders. On the other hand, the latest changes introduced some severe penalties for a non-compliance with these requirements, including the hefty fines, the exclusion from the government-run financial mechanism that facilitates and encourages voluntary donations to the NGOs by the tax payers and the potential closure


Economy. Development assistance at risk

On 4th of July, the European Parliament approved the EU-financial support for the Republic of Moldova, according to which Moldova would benefit in 2017-2018 of 60 million Euros as a loan and 40 million Euros as a grant, to be disbursed in three installments. The preconditions for this macro-financial assistance  consists of the respect for the effective democratic mechanisms, including a multi-party parliamentary system, the rule of law and the respect of human rights. 

The adoption of the mixed electoral system caused some concerns in the European Union. The Commissioner Johannes Hahn in a press conference mentioned that this change in the Moldova’s domestic policy could have an impact on the delivery of at least the first tranche of the development assistance. The EU officials believe that ignoring the recommendations of the Venice Commission questions the real commitment of the political elite in power in Chisinau towards a rapprochement with the EU, and decrease their credibility.

Foreign Policy. Towards common border management

In July, 2017 the inauguration of the Moldova-Ukrainian joint border checkpoint at Kuchurgan-Pervomaisk took place. At the moment, the joint border checkpoint’s activity is carried out based on the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Organization of Joint Control and the Interdepartmental Protocol. Similar control  has been carried out for several years at the Moldovan-Ukrainian border crossing points Briceni-Rososhen, Criva-Mamaliga, Larga-Kelmen and Giurgiulesti-Reni. With this occasion the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko reassured the Kyiv’s readiness to contribute  to “the full restoration of the Moldova’s territorial integrity”. The newly established border control should increase the security of both countries and reduce the risk of smuggling. Moldova will take the full control over a very important segment of the Moldova-Ukrainian border, the Transnistrian segment, uncontrolled till recently. The border cooperation will also facilitate the life of the economic agents thus fostering the economic activity. In medium and long term a better administration of the state border could be foreseen, and the joint Moldovan-Ukrainian customs control will allow a more efficient control of the flows of persons and goods.