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Three Key Takeaways from Moldova’s Political Upheaval

In just seven days, Moldovans saw dramatic political change that once seemed impossible. Last Friday, all signs pointed to snap elections after three months of failed negotiations between the center-left Socialist Party, the ruling centrist Democratic Party (PDM) and the center-right opposition ACUM block that competed in February’s parliamentary elections to form a new government. Yet events took a surprising turn. In the final hours of the legally allowed negotiation period, the ACUM bloc struck a deal with the Socialists, giving it the majority of votes needed to form a government and sidelining the governing party.

 

 

This coalition was seen as improbable given a deep division about Moldova’s orientation: The Socialists want Moldova to pursue closer ties with Russia while ACUM is in favor of the country having closer ties with the European Union and the United States. However, these political opponents found common ground on an ambitious package of anti-corruption and economic reforms. Even as the coalition leaders admit that their government is not expected to last long, the government’s next actions could change the political landscape in Moldova.

The new government’s first challenge arose soon after its formation. The highest Moldovan court declared the new government illegitimate and suspended the president, paving the way for the former PDM government to declare its mandate still valid, assume the presidency and use law enforcement bodies to deny the new government access to state institutions.

After a week of the dueling governments making their case in press conferences, defections of public officials and intense international pressure, the old government resigned. Here’s what that means:

Three Takeaways

  1. A Win for the Moldovan People

The triumph of the democratically elected government is a signal to the Moldovan people that their government is accountable to them. This is especially important in a country with a history of  invalidated elections and corruption. In a young democracy such as Moldova, the crisis could have ended in violence or an indefinite takeover of power. The peaceful resolution is a testament to the country’s democratic progress.

  1. A Message of Reform for the Region

Moldova, like its neighbors, is divided between whether the country should be oriented toward Russia or the European Union and the United States. Like many of its neighbors, Moldova’s previous governments masked their inaction on citizens’ priorities of corruption and the economy by focusing on this divide. The new coalition government’s agreement to address corruption and pursue reforms in spite of their differences on other issues is a step in the right direction.

  1. U.S. Support Makes a Difference in Moldova

During the crisis, both governments appealed to the international community to assert their legitimacy. The Trump administration’s statements sent a clear message to the region that the U.S. is serious about supporting the rule of law. Now the U.S. has another opportunity for action. U.S. foreign aid supports the development and stability of Moldova’s democracy, and the new government’s reform agenda aligns with the objectives of that assistance — Moldova’s democratic resilience and economic self-reliance. IRI and likeminded organizations have worked with Moldova’s political parties for many years to support their goals of being more responsive to citizens and more effective in office. Continued U.S. support for citizen-focused governance in Moldova will be important as the country’s new government undertakes anti-corruption and other reform efforts.