The Moldovan political process is likely to enter a period of instability following the government plans to change the electoral system and the opposition protests against this. The latest census results confirm worrying demographic trends in the country. At the same time, a new energy deal with Ukraine provides hope for the reducing dependence on Russia. Foreign policy remains an East – West dichotomy, with major implications for policy stability in the near future
Domestic Policy: Contested Electoral Reforms and Referendum Extinguish Public Agenda
The most significant development in Moldova’s domestic policy was the announcement made by the chairman of the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) Vlad Plahotniuc on March 6. He proposed to replace the proportional electoral system for parliamentary elections with a majoritarian (first-past-the-post) voting system. Despite being presented by the government as an improvement, the reform is being opposed by all major opposition parties, they view the proposal as an attempt of the ruling PDM to stay in power, even if its rating fell below the 6% electoral threshold.
Meanwhile, the Moldovan President Igor Dodon met the Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on March 17, for their second within two months official meeting. Dodon thanked the Russian President for the concessions for the Moldova’s wine exports to Russia and for the relief of the entry conditions for Moldovan labor migrants who committed administrative violations.
Opposition views the changes in electoral system as an attempt by the ruling PDM to stay in power, even if its rating fell below the 6% electoral threshold.
On March 28, Dodon reported on his first hundred days of the presidency. He listed his achievements, such as boosting relations with Russia, launch of the initiative for a consultative referendum on four topics: cancelling the Law of the Billion; offering additional rights to the president to dissolve the Parliament; reducing the number of MPs from 101 to 71; studying “the history of Moldova ” in schools.
Economy: Census Data Shows Alarming Population Decline
The National Bureau of Statistics (BNS) published the final data regarding the Moldova’s Gross Domestic Product in 2016. The data reveals the total GDP in 2016 was about $6.79 billion, 4% increase compared to 2015. On March 31, BNS finally published the results of the national census conducted in May, 2014. After almost three years, the Bureau announced that the estimated population as 2,998,235 people, compared to 3,383,332 in 2004.
On the same day, the state owned Energocom Company signed a contract with the Ukrainian DTEK Trading for the supply of electricity to Moldova from April 1, 2017 till March, 2018. Thus, Ukraine replaced the Russian owned Cuciurgan Power Station in Trasnsitria as the energy supplier. But questions remain if DTEK has enough capacity to cover Moldova’s energy needs in full. Experts believe that Cuciurgan could soon regain its contract, should DTEK face any difficulty in energy supply as needed and proper priced.
Foreign Policy: East – West Divide Dominates Policy Considerations
On March 1, the Government of Moldova recalled the Moldovan Ambassador to Russia Dumitru Braghiș. The decision was not motivated but the next day the President Dodon suggested his foreign policy adviser and ex-Ambassador to Moscow, Andrei Neguță, for the vacant position. The move appeared to be a part of a larger deal to reallocate the diplomatic portfolios between the government and the president.
The Speaker Andrian Candu and the Prime Minister Pavel Filip handed a protest note to the Russian Ambassador Farit Muhametshin on March 9. The note reports a series of abuses committed by the Russian border authorities against Moldovan officials traveling to Russia on business trips. Despite the diplomatic row, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin paid a visit to Moldova on March 13. He met with the Moldovan officials, as well as with Transnistrian leaders in Tiraspol.
On March 29, the Prime-Minister Pavel Filip paid a three day visit to Brussels. He met with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and others. On March 31, Filip attended the third meeting of the Association Council Moldova – European Union. The Moldovan Government provided a the report on the implementation of the Association Agenda in 2014-2016, after EU’s report was published on March 13.