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Nations in Transit 2009 - Moldova

Publisher Freedom House
Author Liliana Vitu
Publication Date 30 June 2009
Cite as Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2009 - Moldova, 30 June 2009, available at: [accessed 12 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

by Liliana Vitu

Capital: Chisinau
Population: 3.8 million
GNI/capita: US$2,800

The data above was provided by The World Bank, World Bank Indicators 2009.

Nations in Transit Ratings and Averaged Scores

Electoral Process3.253.253.503.754.004.003.753.753.754.00
Civil Society3.753.754.003.754.
Independent Media4.004.254.504.755.
National Democratic Governancen/an/an/an/an/a5.755.755.755.755.75
Local Democratic Governancen/an/an/an/an/a5.755.755.755.755.75
Judicial Framework and Independence4.
Democracy Score4.254.294.504.714.885.074.964.965.005.07

* Starting with the 2005 edition, Freedom House introduced separate analysis and ratings for national democratic governance and local democratic governance to provide readers with more detailed and nuanced analysis of these two important subjects.

NOTE: The ratings reflect the consensus of Freedom House, its academic advisers, and the author(s) of this report. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s). The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 7 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year.

Executive Summary

Following its declaration of independence on August 27, 1991, and a short civil war in 1992 provoked by fears of unification with Romania, Moldova embarked on a series of political and economic reforms and succeeded in holding several rounds of largely free elections. With most heavy industry based in the breakaway region of Transnistria, Moldova's gross domestic product, located primarily on agriculture, plummeted by the late 1990s. The internal political crisis saw the Party of Communists (PC) return to power in 2001. PC leadership held a distinct pro-Russian foreign policy course until the formulation of the European Union (EU) Neighborhood Policy in 2003. Subsequently, Moldova made European integration a priority and signed an Action Plan with the EU in February 2005. In 2007, the EU extended the Action Plan, stressing the need for Moldovan authorities to take further measures to tackle problems concerning media freedom, the fight against corruption, and the rule of law and independence of the judiciary. In 2008, the EU continued to raise concerns over the shortcomings in the implementation of the EU-Moldova Action Plan.

Relations with Romania remained tense in 2008 despite high-level meetings in July between Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin and Romanian foreign minister Lazar Comanescu. Protests broke out in chief districts of Moldova after the Moldovan government refused to sign the Convention on Small Traffic on the Border arguing that the basic treaty between both countries should be adopted first. The Romanian prime minister canceled a visit to Chisinau at the end of 2008 following a request from the Moldovan Foreign Ministry to refrain from public statements against the statehood and sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova. The international format of negotiations that includes the EU and the United States was largely ignored by Moldovan and Russian authorities throughout the year. Furthermore, the partial lifting of the Russian ban on Moldovan wine and confidential bilateral talks on a plan for the resolution of the Transnistrian conflict throughout 2008 continued to prove that relations between Chisinau and Moscow are on the mend.

National Democratic Governance. President Vladimir Voronin continues to exert control over virtually all state authorities. The March 2008 replacement of the country's longest-serving prime minister, Vasile Tarlev, with the first woman in Moldova's history to lead a government, Zinaida Grecianii, did not dispel concerns over the government's lack of independence or political loyalty to President Voronin. Although the new government announced a higher degree of access to public information and openness in its relations with journalists and civil society, cooperation remained mostly formal. Parliamentary oversight of the security sector failed when President Voronin overstepped his prerogatives and ordered the Intelligence Services to investigate funding of political parties and media outlets. After seven years of frozen "face-to-face" dialogue, President Voronin met with Igor Smirnov, leader of the breakaway region of Transnistria. Although the president repeatedly spoke about an emerging solution to the Transnistrian conflict, a deal was not reached during the year; on the contrary, a tendency to drift away from negotiations including the United States and the EU became more visible. Owing to the continued, highly centralized exercise of power by the executive branch, Moldova's rating for national democratic governance remains unchanged at 5.75.

Electoral Process. Moldova's election code was amended by the PC and Christian-Democratic People's Party (CDPP) members of Parliament (MPs) to increase the electoral threshold from 4 to 6 percent, to prohibit preelectoral blocks, and to introduce restrictions to persons holding multiple citizenship. Selective and delayed implementation of the new Law on Political Parties raised concerns about the possibility of opposition parties running for Parliament in the coming elections. Opposition leaders faced ongoing harassment and pressure via "fabricated" criminal cases initiated by the judiciary and security sector institutions and manipulation through media outlets loyal to the ruling party and its allies. The use of administrative resources by the ruling party for electoral purposes and against opposition candidates continued to be a top concern. Moldova's weak political party system did not see any major evolutions during the year. Increased pressure on the opposition ahead of the 2009 national elections and abuse of administrative resources by the authorities prompt a worsening of Moldova's rating for electoral process from 3.75 to 4.00.

Civil Society. The new government's efforts to heighten cooperation with civil society by establishing the National Council for Participation was one of the few positive tendencies in the sector in 2008. To ensure more receptiveness from authorities and increase their advocacy capacity, key nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) formed a number of coalitions in different fields. Despite calls to revise the Law on Public Association, Parliament did not pass the amendments needed to improve the economic activity, and thus the financial and institutional sustainability of NGOs. Hence, grants from foreign donors continue to play a crucial role in the sector. NGOs remain among the least trusted institutions in Moldova owing to a lack of transparency in management and grant administration. Despite slight improvements in bridging the gaps among government officials, community groups, researchers, and foreign experts, civil society is not yet setting the public agenda and is treated formally by public institutions. Therefore the rating for civil society remains unchanged at 3.75.

Independent Media. A number of Moldova's media laws are still not in line with the European Convention on Human Rights – namely, those regarding "defamation of the state and the nation" prohibited by the Constitution and incarceration for libel and verbal abuse. The new composition of the Broadcasting Coordinating Council (BCC) is politically biased in favor of the parties that secured the election of its members. Arbitrary license annulments and distribution of licenses according to political loyalty are some of the BCC's most alarming practices. An unprecedented attack on the independent PRO-TV station by Christian Democrat MPs was reported. The public broadcaster Teleradio-Moldova continued to serve as an organ of propaganda for the ruling party by airing biased news reports. Owing to serious abuses of independent media and increasing doubt about the authorities' political will to ensure media pluralism, Moldova's rating for independent media worsens from 5.50 to 5.75.

Local Democratic Governance. A draft law regarding the status of the Chisinau municipality was approved by the government but differed from the draft sent to the Council of Europe for review. The powers of the central and local governments are vaguely distributed in the normative framework and often overlap, while other areas remain unregulated. The central government delayed approval of the new Law on Local Public Finances, thus impeding improvements in the financial autonomy of local public administration. The capacity of local government remains severely limited by the prevalence of group interests and nepotism. The central government continues to exert political control over local public authorities, and opposition-led regions face harassment. As a result, Moldova's rating for local democratic governance remains stagnant at 5.75.

Judicial Framework and Independence. Several political parties encountered difficulties registering at the Ministry of Justice in line with the requirements of the Law on Political Parties. Torture and ill-treatment remain some of the most serious human rights violations in Moldova. Judges continue to be highly susceptible to corruption and political control and are often transformed into tools of pressure and harassment against opposition parties. The measure to distribute cases randomly in order to reduce corruption among judges was still not implemented in 2008. Judges or police were not held accountable for corruption cases or violations of human rights during the year. Owing to sporadic and incoherent efforts by authorities to set the necessary conditions for judicial independence, Moldova's rating for judicial framework and independence remains unchanged at 4.50.

Corruption. Corruption is one of the most serious problem facing Moldovan citizens, but Moldova is the only country in the Commonwealth of Independent States without persons or public servants jailed for corruption. Moldovan authorities undertook important legal reforms by adopting the Law on Conflict of Interest and a new Law on Preventing and Fighting Corruption; however, the latter was adopted with a three-year delay. The Civil Monitoring Council of the Center for Combating Corruption and Economic Crimes – Moldova's first citizen oversight of a law enforcement body – was established during the year. The council lacks a provision on financial sustainability, which makes its existence dependent on the authorities. Both the executive and legislative branches ignored several valuable initiatives from NGOs to promote transparency among public officials. The fight against corruption is one of the key shortcomings of reforms in Moldova, as pointed out by European officials. Despite the adoption of legal acts in 2008, no other sound steps were taken by the government; thus the rating for corruption remains unchanged at 6.00.

Outlook for 2009. The Moldovan political scene will be dominated by parliamentary and presidential elections in the first part of the year. At the same time, violations of democratic human rights, in particular against opposition politicians and non-affiliated media, are almost certain to increase during the election season, which will negatively impact efforts by authorities and civil society to ensure a free and fair campaign. The Party of Communists will likely remain the largest parliamentary group, yet unable to secure enough seats to elect the president on their own. Anticipated political fights and economic instability will likely slow the pace of democratic reforms, but the country will not officially give up its European foreign policy. Relations with Romania, Ukraine, and Russia will remain troublesome owing to their divergent bilateral and regional interests.

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