Moldova

Transitional or Hybrid Regime
35
100
DEMOCRACY-PERCENTAGE Democracy Percentage 35.00 100
DEMOCRACY-SCORE Democracy Score 3.11 7
Last Year's Democracy Percentage & Status
35 100 Transitional or Hybrid Regime
The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 1 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. The Democracy Percentage, introduced in 2020, is a translation of the Democracy Score to the 0-100 scale, where 0 equals least democratic and 100 equals most democratic.

header1 Score changes in 2022

  • No score changes in 2022.

header2 Executive Summary

In 2021, Moldova emerged from a political and constitutional crisis and began a new period of political stabilization as a result of the snap parliamentary elections in July. The electoral success of the reformist Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) created fertile soil for an unprecedented political cohabitation between the executive and the legislature for the next four years. Although the quality of government improved in the second half of the year, the single-party majority in Parliament was also accused of accelerating reforms on several occasions.

President Maia Sandu, founder/leader of PAS and elected in 2020, took methodical steps to trigger the early elections that removed the 2019 Parliament voted in under an oligarchic regime. Early in 2021, animosities were apparent between the president and the then-ruling Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM), which sought ways to fend off the elections. In the first half of the year, the president used her constitutional prerogatives to nominate two candidates from her PAS for prime minister, despite the party holding only 15 seats in the 101-seat Parliament—neither candidate succeeded. Thus, with two failures to appoint a prime minister within the 45-day period provided by the constitution, the dissolution of Parliament and subsequent snap elections received approval from the Constitutional Court. To counter the court’s ruling, the PSRM, together with the Shor Party, tried to remove the court chair, Domnica Manole, declaring that the court had committed “usurpation of power.” The National Security Council, in an official statement, described the actions of the parliamentary majority as an attack on the constitutional order.1 External partners, mainly European Union (EU) institutions, condemned the pressure exerted on the judges. Subsequently, the court annulled the decision of the PSRM-led majority to remove and replace Manole, and early parliamentary elections took place in July.

Purportedly to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Parliament, then led by PSRM, voted to introduce a “state of emergency,” which the opposition viewed as a strategy to delay the early elections. Unlike the maximum period of two months in 2020, this new state of emergency lasted only 28 days. Based on an appeal from the opposition (PAS and Platforma DA), the Constitutional Court declared the state of emergency unconstitutional as a disproportionate measure, and also incompatible with the imperative of organizing early elections. Nevertheless, the parliamentary majority introduced a “state of public health emergency,” allowing territorial-administrative units to calibrate their epidemiological measures according to their local situation.

The electoral campaigns focused on the fight against corruption, social policies, modernization of rural areas, foreign policy, and management of the pandemic. There were political tensions over voting abroad and polling stations for the resident population in Transnistria. Despite the 191 stations initially suggested, the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) allowed only 150 stations, and voting in the breakaway region was limited to 41 polling stations in territories controlled by constitutional authorities. The massive diaspora vote (over 212,000 in 2021, up from 76,000 in 2019), coming mainly from expatriates or seasonal migrants based in Western countries, showed just how much the country might benefit from its emigrated population through means other than remittances.

As a result of the July snap elections, Moldova witnessed one of the most uncontested legislative periods since the government led by the Communist Party in 2001–2009. Only three political forces acceded to Parliament as a result of the elections: the PAS, with 63 seats; the Bloc of Communists and Socialists (BCS) with 32; and the Shor Party with 6. While the PAS’s absolute majority is four seats short of the constitutional majority needed to modify the constitution, the party nonetheless effectively monopolizes power in parliamentary structures, presiding over 8 of the 11 legislative committees. The new government was appointed without the need to negotiate with the opposition parties. Headed by Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilița (PAS), the government includes party members, representatives of the diaspora, and civil society organizations, as well as a technocrat in charge of the country’s digitization agenda.

Although Moldova saw no serious negative developments in the area of human rights during the year, there were tensions between the central authorities and education workers. The National Extraordinary Public Health Commission required mandatory COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated education personnel every 14 days, while providing no public support to cover the costs of these tests. This decision unleashed an outcry from workers’ unions. The mayor of the capital Chișinău, Ion Ceban (PSRM), supported the position of education workers and ordered the purchase and distribution of more than 3,000 tests (including donations) to educational institutions, with the intention of acquiring and delivering more free tests.2

Due to their inclusion in government structures (as heads of ministries, secretaries of state, and so forth), CSOs and activists faced the dilemma of co-optation in 2021 since many were reluctant to adopt critical positions towards the new reformist government. By contrast, the mass media raised harsh objections to modifications to the audiovisual code. From a dearth of human resources, as well as to ensure greater legitimacy for its reforms, the government incorporated civil society actors into the ranks of state institutions. In the first half of the year, the civic sector was critical of government decisions by the then-ruling PSRM and Shor Party; later in the year, after the snap elections, civil society gatekeepers began to soften their positions in some instances.

Rule-of-law reform was presented as a fundamental pillar of the Gavrilița government. Focus was placed on evaluating judges and prosecutors, and strengthening the National Integrity Agency, the anticorruption body that monitors assets of public servants and dignitaries, as well as recovering stolen assets from bank fraud. Capacity-building, good governance practices, and digitalization, as well as fighting political corruption by punishing illegal political party financing, were mentioned as underpinning the government’s intentions to build trust in the state and public institutions.

  • 1Presidency Office, “Declarațiile Președintelui Maia Sandu după ședința CSS, convocată în legătură cu riscul de subminare a ordinii constituționale” [Statements by President Maia Sandu after the CSS meeting convened in connection with the risk of undermining the constitutional order], presedinte.md, 23.04.2021, https://presedinte.md/rom/css-comunicate-de-presa/declaratiile-presedin…
  • 2Adevarul.ro, “Ion Ceban: Primăria a achiziţionat teste rapide cu 93 de lei, faţă de 250-300 de lei din reţeaua instituţiilor medicale unde îi trimite Guvernul pe profesori” [Ion Ceban: City Hall bought quick tests for 93 lei, compared to 250-300 lei from the network of medical institutions where the Government sends teachers], 13.09.21, https://adevarul.ro/moldova/actualitate/ion-ceban-primaria-achizitionat…

header3 At a Glance

In 2021, Moldova’s national governance gained greater stability as a result of the snap elections that brought victory to pro-reform political forces. The one-party monopoly on power ensured harmonious cooperation between key state institutions. On the downside, the role of the opposition, represented by BCS and the Shor Party, was drastically diminished. Consequently, civil society plays an even greater role in holding the government accountable and must overcome the effects of co-optation by the ruling party in criticizing its positions. Independent media outlets are active, but they encounter defamatory campaigns and restrictions from various political actors and local authorities. One of the most complicated areas of public policy continues to be the judiciary, where the government pursues radical reforms that are not always in line with the principles of transparent decision-making and depoliticization. Moldova’s anticorruption agenda benefits from full political support of the new government, but it still requires stronger institutions and a more focused effort to counter grand corruption and to recover stolen assets.

National Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the democratic character of the governmental system; and the independence, effectiveness, and accountability of the legislative and executive branches. 2.503 7.007
  • Moldova faced a political showdown in early 2021 between President Maia Sandu (PAS), elected in the previous year, and the country’s parliamentary majority made up of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) and the grouping “For Moldova” (Shor Party plus former members of the Democratic Party) for a total of 54 out of 101 seats in the unicameral legislature. President Sandu saw the possibility in forcing early elections to renew the legislature and eradicate political corruption. To this end, a new and credible Parliament was conceived as an endorsement for the president’s pro-reform agenda. In counter moves, the PSRM-led parliamentary majority tried to maintain the political status quo, arguing that early elections would aggravate the spread of COVID-19 and urging for the postponement of elections until the majority of the population was vaccinated and the epidemiological situation brought under control. However, President Sandu’s determination to change the sitting Parliament (elected in 2019) triggered a constitutional and political crisis that spanned the first four months of the year.
  • According to Moldova’s constitution, snap elections are mandated in the event that there are two failed attempts to appoint a new prime minister. Understanding this legal framework, President Sandu appointed two members of her Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) on separate occasions as candidates for prime minister—both were doomed to failure since the party held only 14 seats in Parliament. Natalia Gavriliță was appointed twice and Igor Grosu once, neither receiving votes even from their own party.1 On February 23, the Constitutional Court declared Natalia Gavriliță’s second appointment unconstitutional,2 paving the way for the president to name a second eligible candidate.
  • President Sandu and her party understood that the appointment of a second PAS candidate as prime minister would be rejected by the other parliamentary factions, thereby initiating the procedural steps leading to early elections. Two days after the president’s decree appointing Igor Grosu, the PSRM established a new majority on March 18 to propose Vladimir Golovatiuc (PSRM) as prime minister. Yet this move came too late; on March 22,3 the Constitutional Court declared the appointment of Igor Grosu constitutional. His candidacy was boycotted by the PSRM-led parliamentary majority on March 25.4 With this second failed attempt to appoint the prime minister, the legal conditions were met to dissolve Parliament and set the date for early elections. On April 15,5 the Constitutional Court confirmed the constitutionality of the president’s request to dissolve Parliament, and on April 29, President Sandu signed the decree for the dissolution of Parliament, which created the possibility for organizing early elections.6
  • On April 28, the Constitutional Court removed the last obstacle to early elections by declaring the PSRM-proposed “state of emergency” unconstitutional. The government’s arguments for the state of emergency were considered insufficient and obstructive to the president’s request to dissolve Parliament, which had been received by the court on March 29. The court ruled that the state of emergency passed by Parliament on March 31 to increase the limited powers of the interim government of Aureliu Ciocoi (serving since December 31, 2020) to handle the epidemiological situation did not correspond with constitutional provisions.7
  • On July 11, 2021, Moldova held early elections that led to the victory of President Sandu’s Action and Solidarity Party (PAS), which obtained an absolute majority of 63 seats in Parliament. The new government voted in on August 6 is comprised of 15 ministerial positions. The cabinet of ministers includes two representatives from the diaspora and another two from civil society organizations (CSOs). The comfortable majority led by the PAS has been shown to favor a stable law-making process and smooth cooperation between Parliament, the government, and the president’s office.
  • 1N4.md, “Natalia Gavrilița, premierul desemnat, nu a fost votată de Parlament. A acumulat zero voturi” [Natalia Gavrilița, the appointed prime minister, was not voted by the Parliament. He garnered zero votes], 11.02.2021, https://n4.md/natalia-gavrilita-premierul-desemnat-nu-a-fost-votata-de-…; Hotnews.ro, R. Moldova: Zero voturi în Parlament pentru învestirea Guvernului Gavrilița / Dodon anunță că a format o majoritate pentru numirea unui premier propus de socialiști [Moldova: Zero votes in Parliament for the inauguration of the Government Gavrilița / Dodon announces that it has formed a majority for the appointment of a prime minister proposed by the Socialists]. 11.02.2021, https://www.hotnews.ro/stiri-international-24599071-moldova-zero-voturi…
  • 2Constitutional Court, “Decretul Președintelui Republicii Moldova privind desemnarea candidatului pentru funcția de Prim-ministru – neconstituțional” [Decree of the President of the Republic of Moldova on the nomination of the candidate for the post of Prime Minister – unconstitutional], 23.04.2021, https://www.constcourt.md/libview.php?l=ro&idc=7&id=2097&t=/Media/Nouta…
  • 3Constitutional Court, “Decretul Președintelui Republicii Moldova privind desemnarea dlui Igor Grosu în calitate de candidat pentru funcția de Prim-ministru – constituțional” [Decree of the President of the Republic of Moldova on the appointment of Mr. Igor Grosu as a candidate for the post of Prime Minister - constitutional], 22.03.2021, https://www.constcourt.md/libview.php?l=ro&idc=7&id=2123&t=/Media/Nouta…
  • 4“Nicio șansă pentru guvernul Grosu. Socialiștii și deputații Platformei Pentru Moldova au boicotat ședința Parlamentului” [No chance for the Grosu government. Socialists and deputies of the For Moldova Platform boycotted the session of Parliament], 25.03.2021, https://primelestiri.md/nicio-sansa-pentru-guvernul-grosu-socialistii-s…
  • 5Constitutional Court, “Curtea a constatat circumstanțele care justifică dizolvarea Parlamentului Republicii Moldova de legislatura a X-a imposibilitatea formării Guvernului” [The Court considered the circumstances that justify the dissolution of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova of the tenth legislature in the impossibility of forming a Government], 15.04.2021, https://www.constcourt.md/libview.php?l=ro&idc=7&id=2151&t=/Media/Nouta…
  • 6Presidential Office, “Declarațiile Președintelui Republicii Moldova, Maia Sandu, în legătură cu semnarea Decretului de dizolvare a Parlamentului” [Statements by the President of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, regarding the signing of the Decree dissolving the Parliament], 28.04.2021, https://presedinte.md/rom/comunicate-de-presa/declaratiile-presedintelu…
  • 7Constitutional Court, “Hotărârea adoptată de Parlament referitoare la declararea stării de urgență – neconstituțională” [Decision adopted by the Parliament on declaring a state of emergency - unconstitutional], 28.04.2021, https://www.constcourt.md/libview.php?l=ro&idc=7&id=2172&t=/Media/Nouta…
Electoral Process 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines national executive and legislative elections, the electoral framework, the functioning of multiparty systems, and popular participation in the political process. 4.004 7.007
  • Under Moldova’s proportional voting system, only three contenders crossed the electoral threshold (5 percent for political parties, 7 percent for political blocs) in the July 11 early elections—namely, the PAS (52.8 percent), the bloc of Communists and PSRM (BCS, 27.1 percent), and the Shor Party (5.7 percent).1 Turnout was 52.3 percent,2 including 212,434 votes from the diaspora. In the parliamentary redistribution, the victorious PAS won an absolute majority of 63 seats, BCS won 32 seats, and Shor Party took 6 seats.
  • The OSCE/ODIHR assessed the elections as well managed and competitive. Election day generally proceeded in accordance with electoral rules, with only a few isolated, insignificant incidents reported. However, the OSCE noted that some decisions by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), related mainly to the allocation of polling stations abroad and in the breakaway region of Transnistria, called into question its political impartiality. The OSCE also raised concerns over the ineffective control of campaign finances as well as biased coverage of the election campaigns by the majority of media.3
  • One of the most controversial issues during the snap elections was the CEC’s June 5 decision to establish only 139 polling stations for Moldovan voters abroad, far less than the 191 suggested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration (MFAEI). Civil society representatives argued that the criteria for establishing polling stations abroad were “vague,” and advocated for at least 150 stations given the high voter turnout abroad during the 2020 presidential elections (263,177 votes, or 16 percent of the total turnout).4 The opposition parties, led by Platforma DA (Dignity and Truth Platform Political Party, or “Yes Platform”) and PAS, organized protests in front of the CEC building. As a result, on June 8, the CEC increased the number of polling stations to 146. This decision was challenged by seven political parties in the Chișinău Court of Appeal, which overturned the CEC decision of July 8. Subsequently, the commission slightly revised its previous decision, changing the number of polling stations from 146 to 150. Similar controversies revolved around the 44 polling stations approved by the CEC on June 5 in Transnistria, which some have alleged are targets of illegal voter transport and vote bribery. Of these 44 stations, 3 were suggested in locations that are not effectively controlled by constitutional authorities, creating serious security concerns.5 Following criticism from the National Bureau of Reintegration and the Intelligence Service (SIS), the CEC removed the three problem localities from the list.
  • On September 16, 2021, the PAS voted for six of the nine members of the CEC’s new composition. The BCS boycotted the vote, arguing that the PAS-led majority had refused to discuss such issues as increases in fuel and gas prices and the increase in benefits for medical workers.6 However, on October 28, Parliament approved two BCS representatives for CEC vacancies.7 Thus, among the eight CEC members appointed by Parliament and one by the president, the PAS holds the majority and key positions on the electoral body.
  • On December 3, in the first reading, 85 out of 101 parliamentarians voted to introduce new sanctions in the law on political parties; these relate to the organized transportation of voters, illegal financing during electoral campaigns, and use of administrative resources.8 In the case of illegal political financing, the proposed sanction for individuals would include a prison sentence of up to five years, and penalties from fines to liquidation for companies.
  • On December 5, the CEC postponed the second round of local elections in Bălți after excluding Shor Party candidate Marina Tauber, who was found guilty of undeclared funding and exceeding the funding limit during the election campaign. Tauber allegedly failed to report 34,260 MDL ($1,934).9 The CEC decision followed rulings by the Bălți courts. On December 5, the Supreme Court of Justice upheld the lower court decisions and annulled votes cast in favor of Tauber. The Shor Party and the PSRM condemned the CEC decision, accusing the PAS-led majority and President Sandu of political interference in the electoral body and “dictatorial” tendencies.10 The CEC invoked Article 75 of the electoral code,11 which nevertheless does not pertain after registered candidates have participated in the first round of elections and secured a place in the runoff. There was no reaction from local CSOs or international organizations.
  • On December 6, the CEC announced that the second round of local elections in Bălți would take place on December 19, 2021,12 with a runoff between independent candidate Nicolai Grigorișin, who obtained the second-highest result after the excluded Tauber, and the third-place candidate Boris Marcoci (PAS). However, to avoid speculations of favoritism by the CEC and the government, Marcoci bowed out,13 making way for the next competitor, BCS representative Alexandr Nesterovschi.
Civil Society 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses the organizational capacity and financial sustainability of the civic sector; the legal and political environment in which it operates; the functioning of trade unions; interest group participation in the policy process; and the threat posed by antidemocratic extremist groups. 4.755 7.007
  • Moldova’s legislative framework continued to be conducive to the development of civil society, whose financial stability depends on funding from external donors. The only way for CSOs to reduce this dependence is through donations from citizens; these can also be made through the “2-percent mechanism,” in force since 2016, which allows taxpayers to redirect 2 percent of their income tax to a selected nongovernmental organization (NGO). In 2021, over 34,800 taxpayers participated in the mechanism, 8,000 more people than in the previous year. The number of entities authorized to benefit from the mechanism increased to 665 in 2021, up 131 from 2020. The amount of tax revenue transferred to NGOs totaled 9.7 million MDL ($552,000). About 90 percent of these transfers go to civic associations (NGOs) and the rest to religious associations.1
  • On October 1, Parliament voted in the first reading to ratify the 2011 Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Conservative forces represented by the opposition (BCS)2 and the Moldovan Orthodox Church criticized the document. Opponents challenged Article 3, which defines “gender” as “socially constructed roles,” and Article 14, which advocates gender studies as part of educational curricula.3 On December 14, at the request of the Constitutional Court, the Venice Commission issued a legal brief explaining that the Istanbul Convention does not regulate marital relations, emphasizing that the role of the convention is to address gender and domestic violence, which should be qualified as a severe crime.4 In addition, the Venice Commission pinpointed that education materials on equality between women, men, and “non-stereotyped gender roles”5 should comply with international and European standards.
  • Defamatory rhetoric was used against some CSOs that support the PAS judicial reform. On October 4, Prosecutor General Alexandr Stoianoglo published conversations intercepted by Europol between the controversial former Anticorruption Prosecutor Viorel Moral and several representatives of think tanks in the justice field. Stoianoglo criticized a number of NGOs and the publications they issued about the activity of the Prosecutor General’s Office, characterizing them as part of a plot to prepare public opinion for his dismissal by the PAS-led government. On October 5, over a dozen CSOs condemned the attack, arguing that the Prosecutor General had misinterpreted the role of civil society. These NGOs claimed that Stoianoglo’s statements were “defamatory and unfounded” and had violated provisions of the penal code since they were based on materials from a criminal investigation.6
  • Some civil society representatives criticized the PAS-led government’s recruitment policy of making political and non-meritocratic appointments. Most prominently, accusations of conflicts of interest and political collusion were voiced over the ruling party’s vote on September 23 to appoint Ombudsman Natalia Molosag,7 who had represented President Sandu in court in 2020.8 Although they had supported her appointment, a majority of PAS parliamentarians joined various CSOs in demanding Molosag’s resignation.9 On December 9, Parliament dismissed Molosag with an absolute majority of 82 votes, including from the ruling party, almost two months after her appointment.10
  • Several civil society actors were co-opted by the PAS to run in the early elections. And with the PAS victory, the co-optation continued. Representatives of the think-tank community joined the government as ministers of Economy (Sergiu Gaibu),11 Finance (Dumitru Budianschi),12 and Environment (Iuliana Cantaragiu). Two others became secretaries of state in the ministries of Justice (Iulian Rusu) and Economy (Vadim Gumene).
  • On November 9, civic activist Angelica Frolov used social media to report the case of former serviceman Marian Pavlescu,13 who exposed humiliating treatment he had received during his army service due to his sexual orientation. Citing threats to his physical integrity, Pavlescu refused to return to the army to finish his term after being on leave. The Defense Ministry conducted an investigation but concluded that no type of harassment had been carried out against Pavlescu. Instead, the ministry demanded that prosecutors examine Pavlescu’s relationship with a 17-year-old male (legal under current law). Pavlescu’s lawyer, Doina Ioana Străisteanu, condemned the Defense Ministry’s attempt to deflect attention from the harassment of LGBT+ people in the military.14
Independent Media 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines the current state of press freedom, including libel laws, harassment of journalists, and editorial independence; the operation of a financially viable and independent private press; and the functioning of the public media. 3.003 7.007
  • Throughout September, a politically motivated smear campaign was carried out against the broadcaster TV8 over a scandal involving journalist Natalia Morari, a board member of the channel’s owner NGO “Media Alternativa.”1 Public outcry sparked over Morari’s personal relationship with one of the country’s most notable fugitives, Veaceslav Platon, who was implicated in embezzlement and other crimes related to the “Russian Laundromat” case. Morari’s private relationship with Platon contradicted her anti-oligarchic journalistic activity. Consequently, TV8 disassociated itself from Morari to quell the attacks, which nevertheless continued; meanwhile, Morari fled the country, allegedly joining Platon in the UK.
  • Politicians also took an aggressive tone against journalists before and during the early elections campaign. Several media NGOs accused the mayor of Balti, Renato Usatîi, of launching “inappropriate accusations” against a TV8 moderator during an interview on May 5.2 Then, on June 30, Alexandr Kalinin, a Party of Regions representative, insulted a ProTV journalist while he was moderating an election debate.3 Similarly, on June 17 and July 6, during public campaign events, the mayor of Taraclia, Veaceslav Lupov, used degrading language towards TUK.md journalists.4
  • A series of intimidations and attacks against journalists were reported in 2021.5 For instance, on February 5, the mayor of Kirsova threatened journalist Mihail Sirkeli for reporting on a fight involving the mayor and his son.6
  • Journalists also faced physical obstacles to their work and denials of access to information. On February 9, the military peacekeeping mission in the security zone between Transnistria and government-controlled Moldova obstructed journalists from crossing the checkpoint. Additionally, journalists were forced to erase camera images since filming in the zone is constrained for military security purposes.7 On April 15, during the state of emergency (April 1–28), the Emergency Situation Commission expanded the time frame in which authorities are required to respond to requests for information of public importance from 15 to 35 days.8 Media organizations objected to this change, arguing that it endangered proper and timely communications about the country’s epidemiological situation.9
  • On November 4, a majority of PAS parliamentarians (56) voted for the new Audiovisual Services Code, thereby returning the public broadcaster Teleradio Moldova under parliamentary control (as it was until 2019).10 Based on the new law, Parliament may dismiss members of the Audiovisual Council (AC), which supervises the national media, if its annual report draws a negative evaluation. Ignoring the 2020 report’s positive assessment, Parliament nevertheless replaced the seven-member AC for a six-year term.11 Four members were appointed by the PAS-led parliamentary and government group, two by civil society, and one by the opposition.12 Former AC president Ala-Ursu Antoci expressed her intention to challenge the parliamentary decision in court.13 Meanwhile, Teleradio Moldova was restaffed, and primarily journalists and media experts now compose its administrative bodies.14 Concerns over the public media’s editorial independence and potential for politicization were expressed by domestic and international sources, including the opposition, civil society, and the European Broadcasting Union.15
  • At the end of the year, Notka, an online media site, reported that Irina Vlah, executive of the Gagauz autonomous region, controls four of the region’s most important media outlets.16 According to Notka, the outlets benefit from local budget funds and employ journalists who work with Vlah’s office.
Local Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the decentralization of power; the responsibilities, election, and capacity of local governmental bodies; and the transparency and accountability of local authorities. 2.503 7.007
  • Municipal elections were held on September 19 and October 3 for the Legislative Assembly of the Gagauz autonomy. Reruns of the elections were required in 6 of the 35 electoral districts due to low turnout, while a second round took place in eleven distrricts. The autonomous legislative body is now composed of 25 independent candidates, 9 from the BCS, and 1 from the party “Building Europe at Home” (PACE).1 However, a lack of postelection political dialogue and fragmentation subsequently led to an unresolved crisis in the autonomy’s legislative body, which had repeatedly failed to appoint a new president as of year’s end.2
  • On September 17, the Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Andrei Spînu, announced that the government intends to reform the National Fund for Regional Development by simplifying procedures for local administrations to access external assistance, among other considerations for decentralizing financial resources.3
  • Cooperation between central and local authorities in 2021 was hampered by contradictory approaches to pandemic policies. On August 29, the mayor of the capital Chișinău, Ion Ceban, declared that his administration would not implement decision No. 60 of the National Public Health Commission of August 23,4 which sought to increase the vaccination rate of education workers to 95 percent by mandating vaccination or antigen certificates as a precondition for resuming in-person work on September 1. A suggested alternative for education workers was to submit negative COVID-19 tests every 14 days, the costs of which would be personally borne by individual workers, not the state, which led to public outcry. Ceban accused the central authorities of “harassment”5 against unvaccinated teachers and set out to buy and distribute 3,100 tests (including donations) to workers in the education system, 2,300 of which were purchased by the municipality of Chișinău.6
  • The government that formed after the July 11 early elections features a new Ministry of Infrastructure and Regional Development, created by removing infrastructure competences from the Ministry of Economy, and regional development from the Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment.7
  • With foreign aid from the EU, Romania, and other external donors, Moldovan authorities intend to assist local self-governments with capacity-building and infrastructure. On March 4, the EU launched the second phase of the “Mayors of Economic Development” project8 aimed at building the technical and managerial capacities of local administrations. On May 21, Moldovan Secretary of State Ghenadie Iurco and Romanian Ambassador Daniel Ioniță signed an agreement linking four Moldovan administrative-territorial units bordering Romania in the Iași region to an aqueduct system, which began construction by the Romanian company ApaVital in September. More than 100 localities and 250,000 people are expected to benefit.
Judicial Framework and Independence 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses constitutional and human rights protections, judicial independence, the status of ethnic minority rights, guarantees of equality before the law, treatment of suspects and prisoners, and compliance with judicial decisions. 2.753 7.007
  • On September 23, an overwhelming majority of Parliament—86 of 101 deputies—voted to amend the constitution (requiring at least 67 votes) in order to advance judicial reform.1 The changes eliminate restrictions for judges aspiring to serve on the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) and clarify powers of the Superior Council of the Magistracy (SCM). Specifically, Article 116 cancels the five-year period that judges must serve prior to being appointed to the SCJ. Additionally, the criterion of ten-year’s previous experience was eliminated for judges to serve on the SCJ. Also, the SCM become the guarantor of judicial independence, and its composition was reduced to 12 members, excluding participation by the Prosecutor General’s Office and Ministry of Justice.
  • On August 10, the Ministry of Justice published a bill that modifies Law No. 3/2016 on the Prosecutor General’s Office in order to introduce an evaluation mechanism and to clarify the legal situation in the event of a suspended Prosecutor General.2 The draft was approved in the first reading, although, at some points, the process lacked transparency,3 eluding the anticorruption evaluation and excluding public consultations with stakeholders, such as the Autonomous Prosecutor’s Office of Gagauz. To bypass public consultations, the parliamentary majority used the “emergency regime” provision.4 The law was approved on September 24 in the final reading. On September 30, the Constitutional Court denied as inadmissible the Prosecutor General’s request to examine the constitutionality of the new prosecution law, which again eluded transparency in decision-making and threatened to undermine the institution’s independence.5
  • On October 5, the Supreme Council of Prosecutors suspended Prosecutor General Alexandr Stoianoglo and appointed Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Victor Furtună to head an investigation into “alleged illegalities” committed by the PG.6 On the same day, the suspended Stoianoglo was detained for 72 hours, followed by an October 8 sentence of 30 days house arrest from the Chișinău Court.7 Eventually, four charges were brought against Stoianoglo.8 In response, a group of 23 CSOs questioned the “speed” with which the case against Stoianoglo was opened.9 Stoianoglo’s access to lawyers was obstructed,10 while Stoianoglo himself accused the government of politically motivated prosecution.11
  • At the same time, President Sandu demanded full transparency and compliance with the law from the prosecutors investigating the case.12 On November 4, the president initiated the procedure for Stoianoglo’s evaluation, followed by the Supreme Council of Prosecutors’s decision to form the Evaluation Commission on November 23.13 Stoianoglo contested the decision to evaluate him while he was being investigated, arguing that this could politicize the process.14 On December 13, the Venice Commission issued a critical opinion assessing the modification of Law 3/2016 on the Prosecutor General.15 According to the commission, the process by which the PAS majority had amended the law, including introducing the Prosecutor General evaluation mechanism, had several shortcomings, namely, the poor legislative process and quality of the evaluation mechanism itself.16 In addition, the commission expressed concern over politicizing prosecutorial bodies through legislative control and provided numerous recommendations.17 At the end of 2021, the Prosecutor General evaluation had not yet started, while Stoianoglo remained under judicial control, which prohibited him from leaving the country.
  • The Constitutional Court faced episodes of political pressure during the year. On April 23, the former parliamentary majority (made up of the PSRM and Shor Party with 54 seats) had adopted two controversial decisions affecting the independence of the court.18 The first referred to alleged “usurpation of power” by the court. Another sought to remove the court president, Domnica Manole, by annulling the 2019 parliamentary decision to appoint her as a constitutional judge.19 The National Security Council discussed the risk of undermining the country’s constitutional order,20 and EU institutions condemned the attacks21 on constitutional judges, demanding that officials refrain from actions that undermine the independence of the court.22
  • On October 12, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found in favor of the investigative journalism organization RISE Moldova and its director, Iurie Sanduța, ruling their case a violation of freedom of expression.23 In a 2017 proceeding, Moldovan courts had classified as defamation a RISE investigative piece looking into PSRM leader Igor Dodon’s financing from offshore companies in the Bahamas (totaling €1.5 million euro) ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
  • 1Agora.md, “Legea privind modificarea Constituției a fost votată în lectura a doua” [The law on amending the Constitution was voted in the second reading], 23.09.2021, https://agora.md/stiri/93485/legea-privind-modificarea-constitutiei-a-f…
  • 2Deschide.md „Ce prevede proiectul de lege care ar permite eliberarea lui Stoianoglo din fruntea PG“ [What does the bill provide for the removing of Stoianoglo from the position of the head of the Prosecutor Office?], 10.08.2021, https://deschide.md/ro/stiri/politic/90018/DOC--Ce-prevede-proiectul-de…
  • 3“14 organizații pentru drepturile omului cer Parlamentului „să se abțină de la examinarea proiectelor de legi în regim de urgență și să respecte transparența decizională"” [14 human rights organizations ask Parliament "to refrain from examining bills as a matter of emergency and to respect transparency in decision-making"], 14.09.2021, https://unimedia.info/ro/news/7fb42ddc050a49b6/14-organizatii-pentru-dr…
  • 4Parliament of Moldova, “LEGE Nr. 239 din 13.11.2008 privind transparenţa în procesul decizional” [LAW No. 239 of 13.11.2008 on transparency in the decision-making process], 13.11.2008, http://lex.justice.md/md/329849/
  • 5Constitutional Court, “Decizia nr. 149 din 30.09.2021” [Decision no. 149 of 30.09.2021], 30.09.2021, https://www.constcourt.md/ccdocview.php?tip=decizii&docid=1069&l=ro
  • 6“Procuratura Generală, decapitată: Stoianoglo, suspendat din funcție și anchetat penal” [General Prosecutor's Office, beheaded: Stoianoglo, suspended from office and investigated criminally], 5.10.2021, https://unimedia.info/ro/news/e9c4c605d975684f/procuratura-generala-dec…
  • 7“Mandat de arest la domiciliu pentru 30 de zile pe numele procurorului general suspendat, Alexandru Stoianoglo” [Warrant of house arrest for 30 days on the name of the suspended general prosecutor, Alexandru Stoianoglo], 8.10.2021, https://moldova.europalibera.org/a/mandat-de-arest-la-domiciliu-pentru-…
  • 8Related to his legislative activity when he was a deputy in 2011, erroneous calculations of severance payment to an ex-prosecutor, dropping the charges against Veaceslav Platon, allegedly involved in the "Russian laundromat", and indirectly benefiting from companies owned by Platon registered in Ukraine.

    Moldova’s head prosecutor arrested on four counts of corruption”, 6.10.2021, https://www.intellinews.com/moldova-s-head-prosecutor-arrested-on-four-…

  • 9“DECLARAȚIE PUBLICĂ: Solicităm nepolitizare, transparență și corectitudine maximă în cazul lui Alexandr Stoianoglo” [PUBLIC STATEMENT: We demand non-politicization, transparency and maximum fairness in the case of Alexandr Stoianoglo], 11.10.2021, http://api.md/news/view/ro-declaratie-publica-solicitam-nepolitizare-tr…
  • 10“Explicația procurorului pe interzicerea avocaților să discute cu Stoianoglo și cum au ajuns de la 4 la 5 capete de acuzare” [Prosecutor's explanation for banning lawyers from talking to Stoianoglo and how they received 4 to 5 charges], 8.10.2021, https://unimedia.info/ro/news/d7e3ec99f2193895/explicatia-procurorului-…
  • 11“Ofițerii SIS percheziționează casa lui Stoianoglo: „Este o răzbunare din partea președintelui țării”” [SIS officers search Stoianoglo's house: "It's revenge from the country's president"], 5.10.2021, https://unimedia.info/ro/news/dd0920efbe49f8f3/ofiterii-sis-perchezitio…
  • 12“Președintele Maia Sandu cere Procuraturii să informeze societatea plenar și la timp despre procedurile aplicate în cazul lui Alexandr Stoianoglo” [President Maia Sandu asks the Prosecutor's Office to inform the society in full and in time about the procedures applied in the case of Alexandr Stoianoglo], 8.10.2021, https://presedinte.md/rom/presa/presedintele-maia-sandu-cere-procuratur…
  • 13Initially, the composition of the Commission included the international expert in the fight against corruption Drago Kos, proposed by President Sandu, lawyer Ion Matushenko (representative of Stoianologlo), lawyer Angela Popil (Ministry of Justice), Mariana Alexandru (Romanian official specialized in the fight against corruption, DIICOT) and former judge Lilia Bulgac. The latter was appointed chairman of the Evaluation Commission, but she requested to be excluded in December 2021 for personal reasons while the participation of the Romanian official was refused by the General Prosecutor's Office of the High Court of Cassation and Justice of Romania due to limited powers in international cooperation in relation to a third country. In February 2022, a member representing the Prosecutor's Council of the Republic of Moldova was appointed.

    Newsmaker.md, “Președinta comisiei de evaluare a performanțelor lui Stoianoglo cere CSP-ului să o excludă din componența acesteia - NewsMaker” [The chairman of Stoianoglo's performance evaluation committee asked CSP to exclude her from the composition], 28.12.21, https://newsmaker.md/ro/presedinta-comisiei-de-evaluare-a-performantelo…; TV8, “CSP nu a identificat încă un candidat pentru Comisia de evaluare a lui Stoianoglo. Chestiunea, din nou amânată” [The CSP has not yet identified a candidate for the Stoianoglo Evaluation Commission. The matter is postponed again], 8.12.21, https://tv8.md/2022/03/02/csp-nu-a-identificat-inca-un-candidat-pentru-…

  • 14Newsmaker, “Стояногло попросил приостановить аудит его работы. Что решил Совет прокуроров?” [Stoyanoglo asked to suspend the audit of his work. What did the Council of Prosecutors decide?], 2.12.21, https://newsmaker.md/rus/novosti/stoyanoglo-poprosil-priostanovit-audit…
  • 15Venice Commission, “Republic of Moldova - Opinion on the amendments of 24 August 2021 to the law on the prosecution service, adopted by the Venice Commission at its 129th Plenary Session”, 13.12.21, https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2021)047-e
  • 16Idem.
  • 17Venice Commission, “Republic of Moldova - Opinion on the amendments of 24 August 2021 to the law on the prosecution service, adopted by the Venice Commission at its 129th Plenary Session”, 13.12.21
  • 18TV8, “Ultima oră! PSRM și Partidul Șor au votat declarația privind uzurparea Curții Constituționale” [Breaking news! PSRM and the Șor Party voted the declaration on the usurpation of the Constitutional Court], 23.04.2021, https://tv8.md/2021/04/23/ultima-ora-psrm-si-partidul-sor-au-votat-decl…
  • 19TV8, “Decizii controversate în Parlament și protest la Curtea Constituțională. Sinteza evenimentelor” [Controversial decisions in Parliament and protest at the Constitutional Court. Synthesis of events], 23.04.2021, https://tv8.md/2021/04/23/decizii-controversate-in-parlament-si-protest…
  • 20National Security Council, “Declarațiile Președintelui Maia Sandu după ședința CSS, convocată în legătură cu riscul de subminare a ordinii constituționale” [Statements by President Maia Sandu after the CSS meeting, convened in connection with the risk of undermining the constitutional order], 23.04.2021, https://presedinte.md/rom/css-comunicate-de-presa/declaratiile-presedin…
  • 21Constitutional Court, “Reacția purtătorului de cuvânt pentru afaceri externe și politica de securitate a Uniunii Europene” [Reaction of the Spokesperson for foreign affairs and the security policy of the European Union], 20.04.2021, https://www.constcourt.md/libview.php?l=ro&idc=7&id=2155&t=/Media/Nouta…
  • 22Presidential Office, “Comunitatea internațională își exprimă susținerea pentru statul de drept în Republica Moldova” [The international community expresses its support for the rule of law in the Republic of Moldova], 24.04.2021, https://presedinte.md/rom/comunicate-de-presa/comunitatea-international…
  • 23RISE.MD, “[RISE MOLDOVA VS DODON] CEDO pune un steguleț roșu asupra justiției din Moldova” ["[RISE MOLDOVA VS DODON] ECHR raises red flag on Moldovan justice"], 12.10.2021, https://www.rise.md/rise-moldova-vs-dodon-cedo-pune-un-stegulet-rosu-as…
Corruption 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Looks at public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anticorruption initiatives. 2.252 7.007
  • On August 4, the PAS-led parliamentary majority registered a draft amendment to Law No. 133/2016 on the National Integrity Authority (NIA) and Law No. 133/2016 on declaration of wealth and personal interests. The amendments were approved in the first reading on August 13. The Corruption Analysis and Prevention Center (CAPC) stressed that the amendments require verification subjects to prove their innocence in cases of irregularities, unlike past practices where integrity inspectors had to prove irregularities. Additionally, there is a risk of violating human rights since the legislation lacks a compensation mechanism in cases of abuse or errors from contradictory information on declared assets—for example, discrepancies between the cadastral value and contractual value of goods.1 Transparency International Moldova also opposed the risk of politicizing the Integrity Council (the NIA’s disciplinary body) since the ruling parties would appoint six of the nine members.2 In addition, the new law allows only 15 days for the expanded list of subjects for asset declarations (spouses, children, and so forth) to respond to NIA requests, which could be insufficient given delays in issuing pertinent information by other institutions.
  • On August 20, 57 PAS deputies voted to approve the “decision on the results of the parliamentary hearings on the progress of the actions in the process of recovering the financial means stolen from the banking system.”3 The document concluded that the Prosecutor General’s Office and the National Anticorruption Center lacked sufficient progress in the investigation of bank fraud and recovery of stolen assets related to the $1 billion theft. The document requested that Prosecutor General Stoianoglo review the slow investigation and expedite work with the EU’s Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust), among others, to recover the assets.
  • On August 24, reforms to the Law of the National Anticorruption Center (NAC) No. 1104/2002 were approved in the final reading, which allow for the appointment of the director by parliamentary majority vote based on the normalization of at least 20 deputies. The NAC criticized that the amended law “will weaken the institution and undermine its independence.”4
  • On September 21, appellate hearings were postponed for the thirtieth time in the case of businessman and Shor Party founder Ilan Shor, convicted of embezzlement and money laundering in 2017 for which he was given a prison sentence of seven and a half years.5 Shor has been a fugitive since June 2019 and in hiding in Israel due to his dual citizenship; although his parliamentary immunity was lifted, he was nevertheless allowed to run in the July early elections.6 Shor is also wanted for his involvement in the banking fraud scandal; however, the investigating prosecutor asked to postpone the hearings because the original case file was in Chișinău. In February 2018, the case was transferred from the Chișinău Court of Appeal to the court in Cahul, a city located in southern Moldova.
  • In July, former deputy and controversial businessman Veaceslav Platon fled to the UK.7 He was convicted in the “Russian Laundromat”8 case and spent 4 years of his 18-year prison sentence under a dossier allegedly fabricated during the previous regime of former parliamentary speaker and oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc (PDM), overthrown in the summer of 2019.9 Prosecutor General Stoianoglo released Platon from prison in June 2020, raising suspicions of informal ties between the two.10

Author:

Denis Cenusa is a political risk analyst based in Germany, where he is pursuing doctoral studies at Justus Liebig University in Giessen. He specializes in democratization, European integration, sanctions policy, state resilience and critical infrastructure, and energy security in the post-Soviet space. He is affiliated with the think tank Expert-Grup (Moldova) and the Eastern European Studies Centre (Lithuania). He holds an MA in European Interdisciplinary Studies from the College of Europe, Natolin (2013) and is an alumnus of the Advanced Program in EU Law and Economics at Riga Law School (2014).

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