Moldova: Mixed electoral saga continues

Danu Marin, Foreign Policy Association of Moldova (Moldova, Chisinau)

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The Moldovan authorities still continue to promote the change of the electoral system before the 2018 parliamentary elections, despite the negative conclusions provided by the Venice Commission and the concerns expressed by the main development partners. At the same time, in the economic field, experts forecast a 6% growth of the Moldovan GDP in 2017. The foreign policy still evolves in the traditional East-or-West discourse

Domestic Policy. Venice Commission verdict

The most important development on the domestic level is the reform of the Republic of Moldova’s electoral system. The project of the switch to the mixed electoral formula, where some MPs will be elected from the parties’ lists and some in the single-seat majority constituencies, has caused serious opposition in the civil society. On 19 June the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission issued a joint conclusion disapproving the planned reform, quoting that the reform comes at an inopportune moment, lacks large political consensus and has not undergone the public consultation.

The joint conclusion expressed some major concerns related to: the increased possibility to influence the independent majoritarian candidates by the business and other interests groups; the increased risk of the political influence over the Central Electoral Commission; the unclear criteria of the constituencies establishing in the Transnistrian region and abroad; a low probability of the reform enhancing the women participation in the Parliament (now 22 out of 101 MPs are females) and the failure to address the financial transparency problem.

Following the Venice Commission conclusion, both the European Union and the United States publicly urged  the Moldovan authorities to reconsider the adopting of the law in its current form. Despite the Venice Commission conclusion and the notice from the major development partners, the Moldovan authorities seem determined to push the reform  before the 2018 parliamentary elections. In this case, it is likely to expect some public backlash and new street protests following the June, 11 protests  organized by the civil society and the opposition parties.

Economy. Moldovan GDP 6% growth forecast

According to the economic forecast presented by the independent think tank “Expert-Group”, the Moldovan economy is expected to grow by 6% of the GDP, due to the expansion in lending, foreign remittances and the resumption of the funding for the public investment. A strong factor of growth is the recovery of the agricultural sector after the 2015 draught, as well as the increase in trade and services by 6.4%, and the employment rates rising to 40.8%. The total exports of goods and services are projected to grow by 12%, and the imports by 9%.

The government still fails to convince the EU leaders to cancel out the pre-condition for the macro-financial assistance granting

The unfreezing of the external aid is also contributing to the economic stabilization. The Republic of Moldova has been receiving the financial aid from the International Monetary Fund after signing the Memorandum in 2016 ($130 mln) and is set to receive the EU €100 mln macro-financial assistance (€60 mln in loans and €40 mln in grants) aimed to support the economic stabilization and the structural reform agenda. The Council of Europe endorsed this agreement on June, 15. But in the joint statement with the EU institutions it was highlighted that granting the assistance is directly linked to the respect for the democratic mechanisms, namely the considerations of the recommendations of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR by the Republic of Moldova authorities.

Foreign Policy. Government goes west, president goes east

On 20-21  June the Prime Minister Pavel Filip visited Brussels and met the EU leaders. The discussions focused on the EU-Moldova Association Agreement implementation progress, the EU macro-financial assistance and the draft law on the electoral system amending. While the government is officially claiming some progress with the reform agenda, it still fails to convince the EU leaders to cancel out the pre-condition for the macro-financial assistance granting.

Meanwhile, Andrei Galbur, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, and Bridget Brink, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, announced the relaunch of the Strategic Dialogue between Moldova and the United States . The partnership puts emphasis on four strategic areas: democracy and good governance, including anticorruption; energy independence; economic and financial development; security cooperation.

The President Igor Dodon yet again paid a visit to Russia to participate in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2017. He delivered a traditional “Moldova is a friend of Russia speech emphasizing the failing policy of the European integration and the relaunch of the strategic partnership with Moscow. Furthermore, the President Dodon borrowed some of the Vladimir Putin’s thesis  from his Munich Security Conference speech in 2007, speaking about the shared values and principles, reiterating the failure of globalization and unipolar world under the Western leadership. However, the main objective of Mr. Dodon’s visit was to smooth the recent diplomatic crisis between Moldova and Russia with the expulsion of five Russian diplomats on the espionage allegation , and convince Kremlin to limit the retaliation measures towards Moldova.