Enabling Environments for Civic Movements and the Dynamics of Democratic Transition - Moldova

Period of democratic transition: 1989–1991
Pro-democracy civic movement: not present

During World War II, the USSR forced boundary changes, creating the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic by merging parts of Dniester and parts of Bessarabia. Despite territory disputes with Romania, after the war Moldova effectively came under Soviet control. Repression of Moldovan nationalism festered into resentment toward Soviet authorities.

A general easing of Soviet repression under Mikhail Gorbachev facilitated the emergence in 1989 of the Moldovan Popular Front (MPF), which initially was a coalition of cultural, civic, and political organizations. The MPF pressed demands for sovereignty and autonomy, with special emphasis on the rights of the Romanian-speaking majority. Amid increasing ethnic tensions, the MPF won a majority during the first democratic elections to the Supreme Soviet. Mircae Snegur, a Communist, was elected chairman of the Supreme Soviet and in September became president of the republic. Endorsing independence from the USSR, Snegur also actively pursued Western support. The following May, the country's name was changed to the Republic of Moldova, and the Supreme Soviet was renamed the Moldovan Parliament. During the failed Moscow coup against USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet military leaders attempted to declare a state of emergency against Moldova, but the government declared its support for Russian president Boris Yeltsin. A few days later, in August 1991, Moldova proclaimed its independence. Over the following year, violence and conflict broke out over the breakaway, predominantly Slavic enclave of Transnistria and resulted in close cooperation between Snegur and Yeltsin. Post-Soviet-era legislative elections did not take place until February 1994. A new post-Communist constitution was adopted in July 1994.

After elections in 1998, Moldova undertook much needed economic reforms and drafted a new constitution. In 2000, constitutional changes made Moldova a parliamentary republic, with the president chosen by Parliament. Elections have continued, although government manipulation and lower voter turnout plague them.

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