Moldova: Election may keep Moldova in ‘grey zone’ between West and Russia | Reuters

An election in Moldova this month looks likely to produce a hung parliament, entrenching a split between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces at a time when concerns over corruption and democracy have soured its relations with the European Union. The EU forged a deal on closer trade and political ties with the tiny ex-Soviet republic in 2014 and showered it with aid but it has become increasingly critical of Chisinau’s track record on reforms. Sandwiched between EU member Romania and Ukraine, Moldova has been dogged by scandals and its pro-Western government has failed to lift low living standards, driving many voters towards the Socialists, who favour closer ties with Russia. Socialist leader Igor Dodon took the presidency in 2016. The presidency is not being contested in the February 24 election.

Moldova: If election is not decisive, I’ll call another, Moldova’s president says | Reuters

Moldovan President Igor Dodon said on Wednesday he was prepared to call another election within three or four months for the sake of stability if February’s poll produces a hung parliament. Surveys suggest that the Socialists, who favor friendlier ties with Russia, will emerge with most seats on Feb. 24 vote, but may not secure a majority or be able to form a coalition. The current pro-Western governing coalition may not be resurrected as its leader, the Democratic Party, is tainted by corruption scandals. “In the event that the parties fail to agree on the establishment of a ruling coalition and the formation of a new government, I, as president will … call for early elections to be held as soon as possible,” Dodon told Reuters in an interview.

Moldova: Ahead Of Election, U.S. Calls On Moldova To Ensure Free, Fair Process | VoA News

The United States has urged Moldovan officials to ensure a free and fair election process for the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections. The U.S. State Department said in a statement on January 16 that authorities in Moldova should “take all necessary measures” in the run-up to the February 24 elections and guarantee transparent results that reflect “the will of Moldovan voters.” “Local and national authorities should ensure that candidates are able to register to participate in the elections and carry out their campaigns without fear of harassment or physical harm,” it added.

Moldova: Election campaign starts, some fear Russia influence | Associated Press

Moldova’s parliamentary election campaign began Monday amid concerns that Russia is seeking to influence the results in the former Soviet republic. Citizens will vote on Feb. 24 ballot for the 101-seat legislature that is currently controlled by a broadly pro-European coalition. Concerns arose after Russia’s interior ministry on Dec. 3 said that Moldovans who have overstayed their residence permits in Russia can return to Moldova from Jan. 1 to Feb. 25 and re-enter Russia without being penalized. The ministry said Moldova’s pro-Russian President Igor Dodon had requested the measure. Dodon enjoys close relations with the Kremlin and regularly travels to Moscow.

Moldova: Moldova’s election to test EU credentials | EU Observer

The Republic of Moldova has close ties with the EU, but abuse of rule of law and democratic principles puts that relationship in danger. The country is part of the EU’s Eastern Partnership policy. It is implementing an association agreement with the EU, aiming at political association and economic integration. The EU has become its main trading partner and development aid donor and, since April 2014, Moldovan citizens can also travel to the EU without a visa. However, Moldova faces a number of key challenges, including a lack of respect for the rule of law, the absence of an independent and effective functioning judiciary, corruption, and controlled state institutions by the ruling Democratic Party.

Moldova: Moldovans Protest Nullification Of Chisinau’s Mayoral Election Results | RFE/RL

Thousands of people demonstrated in Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, on June 24 to protest the nullification of mayoral election results that had shown a victory for a pro-Western candidate. Protesters carried Moldovan and European Union flags while marching through the streets of Chisinau, chanting: “Thieves!” and “They stole my vote!” The demonstration was organized after a Moldovan appeals court on June 21 upheld a lower court ruling issued two days earlier that invalidated the results of Chisinau’s mayoral election, citing violations by both candidates of the country’s campaign laws.

Moldova: Court Annuls Capital’s Election Result | Balkan Insight

Rival politicians in Moldova have expressed anger and confusion after a court on Tuesday ruled that the result of the June 3 elections for the mayor of the capital Chisinau was invalid. The court had not published the reason for the ruling by the time of publication. Electoral law in Moldova says election results may only be declared invalid if there is proof that they were tampered with by one or more candidates. Andrei Nastase, candidate for the Pro-European Dignity and Truth Platform, PPDA, won the second run-off election for the mayoralty on June 3, beating the candidate of the pro-Russian Socialist Party, Ion Ceban.

Moldova: Lawmakers pass divisive election law amid street protests | Reuters

Lawmakers voted to overhaul Moldova’s electoral system on Thursday, as thousands of opposition activists massed outside saying the changes favored the two largest parties. A smaller group of activists rallied nearby backing the measures, which they say will bring voters closer to the people who represent them. Prime Minister Pavel Filip pushed to replace the proportional electoral system with a mixed scheme which will let voters cast their ballot for constituency candidates as well as party lists.

Moldova: Thousands protest over proposed voting changes | Reuters

Several thousand people took part in demonstrations across Moldova on Sunday, protesting both in favor of and against proposed changes to the electoral system that European rights experts see as “inappropriate”. The pro-European ruling coalition has been seeking to change the voting system in time for a parliamentary election next year, when its parties will be in a tough fight with pro-Moscow rivals who reject closer integration with Europe. Chanting “We will not surrender!”, some 4,000 protesters gathered in central Chisinau, appealing to the Venice Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the United States to prevent the changes coming into force.

Moldova: Plan to change vote rules ‘inappropriate’ – rights body experts | Reuters

A plan by Moldova to change the way it conducts elections is “inappropriate”, European rights experts commissioned to study the proposal have concluded, dealing a blow to the ex-Soviet state’s pro-European ruling coalition. The speaker of the Moldovan parliament, an ally of Prime Minister Pavel Filip, said the ruling coalition would take on board some of the technical findings, but took issue with others, saying the experts had overstepped their remit. The prime minister and his allies had been seeking to change the voting system in time for a parliamentary election next year, when his party will be in a tough fight with pro-Moscow rivals, led by President Igor Dodon, who reject closer integration with Europe.

Moldova: Pro-Russian president-elect wants snap parliamentary election | Reuters

The pro-Russian winner of Moldova’s presidential election said on Monday he would push for early parliamentary elections next year to force out a government that favors closer ties with the European Union. New elections would mean yet more instability for Moldova, where a $1 billion graft scandal in 2014 badly damaged trust in pro-EU leaders and resulted in the prime minister being jailed. The impoverished country has had four premiers since then. Igor Dodon won Sunday’s election after campaigning for the scrapping of a trade deal the former Soviet state signed with Brussels in 2014. He told Russian state television voters had “united and voted for friendship with Russia, for neutrality”. “A very serious combat is ahead but we are ready for this combat,” he said, referring to an election he wants to bring forward to next year, from 2018.

Moldova: Pro-Russian Candidate Claims Presidency in Runoff Poll | VoA News

Moldova’s pro-Russian presidential candidate Igor Dodon has declared victory in Sunday’s presidential runoff vote, holding a commanding lead in the former Soviet republic with nearly all votes counted. With 97 percent of all ballots tallied late Sunday, Dodon, who campaigned on promises to restore closer ties with Russia, held a commanding 55.3 to 44.7 percent lead over pro-Europe rival Maia Sandu. “We have won, everyone knows it,” Dodon said at a late night news conference. Final results are expected early Monday in the impoverished country of 3.5 million. Dodon, who came close to winning the presidency outright in the first round of voting two weeks ago, also has pledged to foster good relations with Moldova’s neighbors, Romania and Ukraine. However, such appeasement gestures may face stiff resistance in Kyiv by many who object to Dodon’s support for Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

Moldova: Voters Torn Between Past And Future Ahead Of Presidential Run-Offs | Eurasia Review

On October 30, 2016, for the first time in 20 years, Moldovans went to the polls to elect their president directly. Before the March 2016 Constitutional Court ruling, which reintroduced direct elections, it was the national legislature that elected the head of state, provided that a 61 vote majority could be reached in a Parliament of 101 members. Unsurprisingly, the three fifths majority was hard to achieve in an increasingly divided and partisan political climate. This situation was, in turn, a result of a proportional electoral system typical to a nascent post-Soviet electoral democracy plagued by paternalism, corruption, and parochial political culture. In light of hasty constitutional change, viewed by many as an attempt by the government to defuse the opposition protest movement sparked by the infamous billion dollar scandal, the campaign season was very short. Of the 24 candidates who ventured into the race, only twelve were able to collect enough signatures of support in order to be registered by the Central Election Commission. Of those twelve, only nine made it to election day. Two candidates withdrew, and the third one was excluded by a court ruling on charges of breaking campaign finance laws.

Moldova: Presidential election goes to runoff | Associated Press

Moldova’s presidential election will go to a runoff between the pro-Russian front-runner and a pro-European candidate who both tapped into widespread anger about corruption. With almost all ballots counted Monday, Igor Dodon had 48.3 percent, falling short of the majority of votes needed for outright victory in the first round. In the Nov. 13 runoff, he will face Maia Sandu who scored 38.4 percent. Dodon’s strong result in Sunday’s voting reflected widespread dissatisfaction with the pro-European government which has been in office since 2009. Moldovans are angry about the more than $1 billion that went missing from the banking system in 2014 and accuse authorities of covering up the loss. Moldova’s president shapes the country’s foreign policy and appoints judges but major decisions need approval from Parliament, where pro-European politicians have a majority. However, this is the first time Moldovans have elected a president by popular vote in 20 years, giving the post more authority and influence.

Moldova: Pro-Russian candidate to face second round in Moldova presidential vote | Reuters

Moldova’s presidential election will go to a second round, preliminary results showed early on Monday, after a pro-Russian socialist candidate fell short of winning sufficient support to achieve all-out victory. With 99.5 percent of votes counted, preliminary results showed candidate Igor Dodon, who wants to reverse Moldova’s course toward European integration, had won 48.5 percent, and his main pro-European challenger, Maia Sandu, had 38.2 percent. Dodon needed to win 51 percent of votes to avoid a run-off on Nov. 13. “I hope that the results of today’s vote and of the Nov. 13 run-off will bring about both change and stability: change by the election by popular vote of a pro-European president; stability in the functioning of a reform-driven triangle – president, government, Parliament,” Prime Minister Pavel Filip said in a statement. The Central Election Commission will announce the final results of the first round within the next five days.

Moldova: Voters to Choose Their President for First Time in 20 Years | Bloomberg

Voters in Moldova will choose their president for the first time in 20 years in elections seen as a tug-of-war between Russia and the European Union for influence. Nine candidates are contesting Sunday’s elections in the former Soviet republic, with polls showing the most likely outcome will be a run-off between the pro-Russian Socialist Party’s Igor Dodon and the pro-European Action and Solidarity’s Maia Sandu. “What’s at stake in this election, and I’m not exaggerating, is for the Republic of Moldova to be or not to be,” Dodon, 41, said in a phone interview Thursday. “Will the current authorities, who mocked the people for seven years and created a corrupt oligarchic system, stay or will changes start?”

Moldova: Presidential candidate withdraws to boost pro-EU camp | Reuters

The government-backed candidate in Moldova’s presidential race withdrew on Wednesday, saying it was a tactical move to ensure the presidency remained in pro-European hands. The frontrunner ahead of Sunday’s election is pro-Russian candidate Igor Dodon, who wants to hold a referendum on the ex-Soviet nation’s Association Agreement with the EU. On Wednesday government choice Marian Lupu said he would step aside to boost the chances of fellow pro-Western candidate Maia Sandu. Sandu last week told Reuters that a split among pro-European politicians could harm Moldova. “This is a tactical decision. Moldova needs a pro-European president. Polls show she (Sandu) is more favored,” Lupu told journalists.

Moldova: Scandal-weary Moldovans may back pro-Russia candidate for president | Reuters

The frontrunner in Moldova’s presidential race wants to end his country’s seven-year flirtation with the European Union and pivot back to Russia amid deep public discontent with a pro-Western ruling elite that has presided over economic turmoil. The ex-Soviet republic is still reeling from a banking scandal last year involving the looting of one billion dollars – the equivalent of an eighth of Moldova’s economic output – that highlighted the scale of corruption in Europe’s poorest nation, where the average monthly family income is below $300. A victory for Igor Dodon, the opposition Socialist party candidate, in the Oct. 30 election, would be good news for Russia as it vies with the West for influence across eastern Europe, including in Moldova’s much bigger neighbor Ukraine.

Moldova: Pro-Western Moldovan Presidential Hopeful Warns Of ‘Massive Fraud’ In Looming Vote | RFERL

One of the leading pro-Western candidates in this month’s presidential election in Moldova has warned of “risks of massive fraud” in the vote, which has further divided the tiny post-Soviet state’s already fractious political scene. Speaking to RFE/RL on October 19 during a visit to Brussels for meetings with officials from the European Union, Action and Solidarity candidate and former Education Minister Maia Sandu said she was “here to warn the international partners of Moldova about the risks of massive fraud of the election and to ask them to help.” The presidential vote is Moldova’s first by direct election since 1996, a change whose legitimacy is being challenged by the Communist Party and other opposition elements.

Moldova: Official says Russia meddling in presidential race | Associated Press

The speaker of Moldova’s parliament accused Russia Tuesday of meddling in the country’s politics ahead of a presidential election that could cement the former Soviet republic as a contender for European Union membership or further Russan control. Parliament Speaker Andrian Candu said the government thinks “the Russians are financing political parties and leaders” and backing anti-government protests. Candu told The Associated Press that Moldova’s leaders also suspect Russia of “manipulating media outlets and doing propaganda.” “I try to be positive and optimistic, but there are external factors that are of concern for us,” he said in a telephone interview.

Moldova: Seven candidates line up for Moldova’s presidential elections | BNE

Seven candidates had already been announced for the Moldovan presidential elections by August 31, the first day of the registration period. They include candidates from most of the main political groupings, and include four pro-EU candidates. There were no surprises, except maybe for the pro-EU parties’ failure to agree on a joint candidate for the October 30 election, giving an advantage to rivals like Socialist leader Igor Dodon and Dumitru Ciubasenco of Partidul Nostru. Six of the seven are already registered, and more may step forward by the end of the period, but none that will significantly change the overall picture.

Moldova: 15,000 gather in capital to demand early elections | Associated Press

More than 15,000 people held an anti-government protest Sunday in the Moldovan capital to demand an early election in the impoverished Eastern European nation. Protesters in Chisinau shouted “We want the country back!” and “Unity, citizens!” in Romanian and Russian and blocked a main road out of the capital as temperatures fell to -10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit). The rally was organized by two pro-Russian parties and the civic group Dignity and Truth. Protesters earlier marched toward the Constitutional Court and the leader of the Socialists’ Party, Igor Dodon, urged them to block one of the main entrances to the city of one million. Dignity and Truth leader Andrei Nastase called on the government to announce by Jan. 28 that it would hold an early election or face acts of civil disobedience.

Moldova: Protesters weigh next move as election ultimatum passes | AFP

Protesters in tiny ex-Soviet Moldova on Thursday pondered their next move after the authorities snubbed a deadline to call early elections in the latest twist in the country’s protracted political crisis. Demonstrators—including both pro-European and pro-Russian groups—issued a Thursday ultimatum for parliament to be dissolved after ratcheting up street protests against rampant corruption among the impoverished state’s ruling elite. But the authorities blanked the demands from the protesters, insisting that a new government formed last week would remain in power.

Moldova: Between real and imitation democracy: elections in Transnistria | openDemocracy

Transnistria is currently in the throes of a parliamentary and local election campaign. The main candidates talk of their loyalty to Russia and accuse their opponents of impoverishing the population of this unrecognised post-Soviet republic—the region is on the brink of an economic collapse. The elections are due to take place on 29 November. As usual, electoral observers from Russia and fellow de facto states Nagorno Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are expected to take part. Taking the lead from Russia, the Transnistrian authorities will conduct a single day of voting, whereby city councils, village council heads and the parliament will be elected on the same day. But, unlike Russia, Transnistria is hosting a real election for parliamentary seats, and not just imitating one. Transnistria, a thin strip of land between Moldova and Ukraine, is the only territory in the world whose national symbol is still the Soviet hammer and sickle. State holidays include 7 November (the date of the October Revolution) and orthodox Easter. The republic’s principal symbol is Alexander Suvorov, the 18th century Russian military commander who founded Tiraspol (and now features on the republic’s currency).

Moldova: Pro-European candidate calls for new govt to be formed | Associated Press

The new, pro-European Union mayor of Moldova’s capital called Monday for the former Soviet republic to renew efforts to form a pro-European government. Dorin Chirtoaca, who is also deputy chairman of the Liberal Party, told Radio Chisinau that Moldova should have a new government in place by the end of August to avoid an early election. Parliament has until Sept. 12 to approve a new government after former Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici resigned June 12 amid a probe into the authenticity of his high school and university degrees.

Moldova: Three main pro-Europe parties likely to form coalition government in Moldova | Reuters

Moldova’s three main pro-Europe parties appeared yesterday to be able to form a new coalition government, despite the pro-Moscow Socialist Party taking first place in Sunday’s election. With 87 per cent of the vote counted, according to the election authorities, the three parties – the Liberal Democrats, the Liberals and the Democrats – had a combined vote of 44 per cent – enough to win a majority in the 101-seat parliament. This was in spite of the pro-Russia Socialist Party taking a surprise lead with 21.5 per cent of the vote and the communists, who wish to revise part of a trade deal with the EU, taking third place with 17.8 per cent. The three-party coalition, led by Prime Minister Iurie Leanca’s Liberal Democrats, has piloted one of Europe’s smallest and poorest countries along a course of integration with mainstream Europe since 2009, culminating in the ratification of a landmark association agreement with the EU this year.

Moldova: Pro-Western Parties Vow to Push Europe Ties After Close Victory | Wall Street Journal

Pro-Western parties in Moldova said Monday that they would press ahead with building closer ties to Europe, relying on a narrow victory in parliamentary elections to fend off Russia’s attempts to keep the ex-Soviet republic in its orbit. The election Sunday in one of the poorest countries in Europe was seen as an important battleground in the worst standoff between the West and Moscow since the Cold War, sparked by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Russia has opposed the European Union’s moves to seal free-trade and political-association deals with countries in the region, including Ukraine and Moldova. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Western leaders have warned that the Kremlin is trying to restore its old sphere of influence over its neighbors using economic and military pressure. After street protests in Kiev early this year ousted a pro-Moscow president, Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea region and has backed separatists in the country’s east. Russia has also stationed troops in Transnistria, a pro-Russia breakaway region of Moldova, and has blocked imports of some of Moldovan meat, fruit and wine in response to the landlocked country’s EU ambitions.

Moldova: Pro-Europe parties to win majority in new parliament – analysts | Reuters

Moldova’s three main pro-Europe parties appeared on Monday to be able to form a new coalition with most of the vote from an election on Sunday counted, despite the pro-Moscow Socialist Party taking first place. With 87 percent of the vote counted, according to the election authorities, the three parties – the Liberal Democrats, the Liberals and the Democrats – had a combined vote of 44 percent – enough to win a majority in the 101-seat parliament. This was in spite of the pro-Russia Socialist Party taking a surprise lead with 21.5 percent of the vote and the communists, who wish to revise part of a trade deal with the European Union, taking third place with 17.8 percent. A three-party coalition, led by Prime Minister Iurie Leanca’s Liberal Democrats, has piloted one of Europe’s smallest and poorest countries along a course of integration with mainstream Europe since 2009, culminating in the ratification of a landmark association agreement with the EU this year.

Moldova: Election pulls tense Moldova between EU and Russia | The Irish Times

A bitter election battle between rival parties favouring the EU and Russia is stoking tension in Moldova, amid echoes of the political conflict that spiralled into war in neighbouring Ukraine. Prosecutors are questioning several people suspected of planning violent unrest after this Sunday’s parliamentary ballot, and a popular pro-Russian party has been banned on the eve of the vote for allegedly receiving illegal funding from abroad. Analysts say the exclusion of the Patria party, which is led by a political novice who made his fortune as a businessman in Russia, could either help or hinder pro-EU parties in the election, and could also inspire protests among Patria’s supporters. Party leader Renato Usatii – who denies breaching funding rules and rejects critics’ claims that he is a Kremlin agent – opposes Moldova’s push for greater integration with the EU rather than with Russia. Like Ukraine and Georgia, Moldova signed a far-reaching association agreement with the EU in June and also secured visa-free travel to the bloc, despite complaints, warnings and the imposition of an embargo on its wine and food by Russia.