Following Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Moldova, no party secured a majority, which may mean the former Soviet republic remains caught between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces. The vote on February 24 was a three-way contest between the pro-Russian Socialists (PRSM, 31.1%), the ruling Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM, 23.6%), and the pro-EU opposition ACUM bloc (26.8%). The ACUM bloc opposes the PRSM and PDM and had signed a pledge not to enter into a coalition with them in case of a hung parliament.
According to observers from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the elections were free and fair. “This was an active, hard-fought and polarized campaign in generally well-run elections,” said George Tsereteli, special co-ordinator and leader of the OSCE observer mission.
The stakes in this election were unusually high, as the Socialists had vowed to scrap the 2014 Association Agreement between Moldova and the EU, which was a key step towards joining the bloc. After Russia imposed an embargo on the country in 2013, more than 70% of Moldovan goods are annually exported to EU markets. Yet allegations of government corruption and concerns over the erosion of democracy have strained relations with the EU. The European Parliament has called Moldova “a state captured by oligarchic interests.” The EU froze aid to Moldova after a local court invalidated the 2018 mayoral election in the capital Chisinau on a technicality – a move seen as a bid to thwart the apparent victory of a pro-European candidate.
Last year Moldova ranked 117 out of 180 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Located between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova, with a population of 3.5 million, is not only, after Ukraine, Europe’s most corrupt but also poorest country. An estimated 800,000 Moldovans working abroad in the EU and Russia sent home $1.3 billion last year, 12 percent of the gross domestic product. In a positive development, a wave of young Moldovans, in the country and abroad, campaigned against corruption ahead of the elections. Some in the diaspora decided to come back from abroad to join the protests.
Because of Sunday’s result, there may be need for another electoral round, sooner rather than later. Moldovan President Igor Dodon has suggested as much, saying. “We have a major risk of early elections,” after casting his ballot.