Transnistria*

Not Free
22
100
PR Political Rights 9 40
CL Civil Liberties 13 60
Last Year's Score & Status
24 100 Not Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.
* Indicates a territory as opposed to an independent country.

header1 Note

The numerical scores and status listed here do not reflect conditions in Moldova, which is examined in a separate report. Freedom in the World reports assess the level of political rights and civil liberties in a given geographical area, regardless of whether they are affected by the state, nonstate actors, or foreign powers. Disputed territories are sometimes assessed separately if they meet certain criteria, including boundaries that are sufficiently stable to allow year-on-year comparisons. For more information, see the report methodology and FAQ.

header2 Overview

Transnistria is a breakaway region of Moldova in which ethnic Russians and Ukrainians together outnumber ethnic Moldovans. The territory has enjoyed de facto independence since a brief military conflict in 1992, though it is internationally recognized as a part of Moldova. Its government and economy are heavily dependent on subsidies from Russia, which maintains a military presence and peacekeeping mission in the territory. Political competition is limited, and the dominant party is aligned with powerful local business interests. Impartiality and pluralism of opinion in media is very limited, and authorities closely control civil society activity.

header3 Key Developments in 2019

  • In February, local nongovernmental organization (NGO) Apriori Center lost an appeal over a 2018 prosecutorial determination that it violated a restrictive law that regulates foreign funding. The NGO continued to operate as recently as October, however.
  • Former interior minister Ghenadie Kuzmichev was convicted of smuggling in April, receiving a 13-year prison term and a fine. Kuzmichev’s lawyer claimed he was abducted from Moldovan-controlled territory in 2018, and that doctors hired by his family were not allowed to examine him while in detention.
  • Transnistrians did not hold a major rally or demonstration in the territory, a year after Communist Party leader Oleg Horzhan was arrested for trying to hold a rally.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 1.001 4.004

The president is elected to up to two five-year terms. Parliament speaker Vadim Krasnoselsky, an independent closely associated with the Renewal (Obnovleniye) Party, defeated incumbent Yevgeniy Shevchuk in the 2016 presidential election, following a campaign characterized by corruption allegations traded between the two. Shevchuk was defeated even as his campaign drew significantly on public resources. State media heavily favored him and sought to portray Krasnoselsky as a crony of Sheriff Enterprises, the powerful business conglomerate that dominates the economy and backs Renewal; Krasnoselsky previously served as the company’s security chief. Given Transnistria’s political status, established election monitors did not send missions to oversee the contest.

Constitutional amendments approved in 2011 created a relatively weak post of prime minister. The president appoints the prime minister, who is approved by the parliament. Krasnoselsky tapped Alexander Martynov to serve as prime minister in late 2016.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 1.001 4.004

Members of the 43-seat, unicameral Supreme Council are elected to five-year terms. Renewal won a landslide victory in 2015, in large part due to poor economic conditions and dissatisfaction with former president Shevchuk’s government. Renewal won 35 seats, while Breakthrough (Proryv) and the Communist Party each won one. Several independent deputies affiliated with Renewal gained seats.

A small group of Shevchuk’s allies and supporters demonstrated against the results, claiming vote manipulation. As Transnistria is not internationally recognized, no established election monitor sent a mission to observe the election’s conduct.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 1.001 4.004

Actors from various political camps have alleged that the Electoral Commission is subject to political pressure. In 2015, ahead of that year’s elections, authorities unsuccessfully tried to evict the Electoral Commission from its offices, in what was viewed as an attempt to interfere with its operations.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 1.001 4.004

Transnistria’s entire political establishment, including opposition parties and civil society organizations, supports the separatist agenda and Russia’s role as patron. With Krasnoselsky’s 2016 election, the political establishment is now fully controlled by Renewal.

In past years, the Communist Party has been able to hold some events and speak out against the government. However, in 2018, authorities jailed its leader, legislator Oleg Horzhan. Horzhan was stripped of parliamentary immunity and arrested for organizing illegal demonstrations, criticizing an official, and interfering with law enforcement agents. He received a four-and-a-half year prison sentence later that year.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 1.001 4.004

The Renewal Party has long dominated the legislature. In recent years, opposition candidates have occasionally faced difficulties registering to compete in elections. The imprisonment of Communist Party leader Horzhan has also discouraged meaningful opposition to the territory’s government.

While the main candidates in the 2016 election to the country’s powerful presidency were independents, the post effectively rotated between power bases when Shevchuk was defeated by Krasnoselsky. A number of corruption cases were initiated against Shevchuk in 2017, and he subsequently fled the territory.

Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 because the 2018 jailing of Communist Party leader Oleg Horzhan over his political activism has severely discouraged open opposition to the Renewal Party-led government.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 1.001 4.004

The Transnistrian political establishment is dominated by the monopolistic conglomerate Sheriff Enterprises. Additionally, the influence of Russia is undergirded by the presence of Russian troops, who are stationed to guard a Soviet-era ammunition depot and uphold a 1992 cease-fire between Transnistria and Moldova. Russia has also supported the territory’s pension system, and has additionally provided subsidized energy in recent years.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 1.001 4.004

Few women are included in the political elite; only 2 women sit in the parliament. However, women are able to exercise political rights and participate in campaigns.

While Transnistria has three official languages—Russian, Ukrainian, and Moldovan—Russian is used in governmental affairs. Authorities do not allow voting in Moldovan elections to take place in Transnistrian-controlled territory, though residents who sought to vote in Moldova’s February 2019 election were observed traveling into Moldova proper to participate. Residents with Russian citizenship had access to polling stations during Russia’s tightly controlled 2018 presidential election.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 1.001 4.004

Elected representatives are promptly inaugurated following elections. Sheriff Enterprises exerts a strong influence on government policies, which are also closely monitored by the Russian political establishment.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 0.000 4.004

Transnistrian politics have long been built on nepotism and favoritism. There are few visible safeguards against official corruption.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 1.001 4.004

Although the authorities publish some information on websites and are interviewed on television about their policies, many governmental discussions are not open to the media, and governmental openness and transparency are limited.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 0.000 4.004

Authorities closely monitor and control the public media, and Sheriff dominates private broadcasting, leading to widespread self-censorship. There are few independent print outlets and they have limited circulation. Critical reporting draws harassment by the government, which also uses bureaucratic obstruction and withholding of information to inhibit independent media.

In 2016, the parliament passed legislation giving authorities an even greater control over state media outlets, including the power to appoint editorial staff. The legislation also enabled officials to limit media access to their activities and bar the use of recording devices.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 2.002 4.004

Most of the population is Christian Orthodox, and authorities have denied registration to several smaller religious groups, which at times face harassment by police and Orthodox opponents. A 2016 law imposed restrictions and penalties related to unauthorized distribution of religious literature, preaching in public spaces, and organized religious activities in residential buildings.

Many congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses are unregistered in Transnistria, despite repeated attempts to maintain their status under a 2009 law on religion. Members of the Muslim community report a reluctance to practice their faith openly due to past intimidation by authorities.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 1.001 4.004

Academics and students may take part in international forums, but participation in events sponsored by Moldova is discouraged by concerns of reprisals from Transnistrian authorities. Academic analysis of topics such as the 1992 conflict, the role of the Russian Federation and peacekeeping forces, and Transnistrian statehood are subject to censorship.

The eight Latin-script schools in Transnistria governed by the Moldovan constitutional authorities face pressure from Transnistrian authorities. However, in February 2019, a UN Development Programme (UNDP) observer reported that the situation for these schools had improved somewhat, based on his findings from a 2018 visit to the territory.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 2.002 4.004

While people do share their opinions in private settings, including on sensitive political developments, restrictions on certain kinds of speech discourage free discussion. The Criminal Code penalizes public expression of disrespect for the Russian peacekeeping mission. Free expression in public spaces is limited by concerns over surveillance or reprisals for voicing dissent.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 0.000 4.004

Authorities limit freedom of assembly through rejection on administrative grounds of applications for permits to hold meetings and protests. Participants in unauthorized actions have faced administrative penalties or have been detained.

In 2018, authorities reportedly banned an annual May Day demonstration, prompting Communist Party leader Horzhan to attempt to organize a separate rally that June; those efforts led to his arrest and imprisonment. A number of participants in that event were also reportedly arrested. Authorities reportedly banned an annual commemoration of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution several days after Horzhan’s sentencing. Since Horzhan’s arrest, Transnistria has reportedly seen no major rallies or public assemblies.

Score Change: The score declined from 1 to 0 because there have been no notable protests or demonstrations in Transnistria since Horzhan was imprisoned for organizing public assemblies.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 1.001 4.004

Nongovernmental and civic work remains a challenge. Organizations working on human rights or which are perceived as threatening authorities face harassment. The local Coordination Council for Humanitarian and Technical Assistance, which is controlled by the prime minister, must approve governance-related work.

A 2018 law requires more burdensome reporting by NGOs, including on foreign funding, and prohibits foreign-backed NGOs from broadly defined “political activities”. In late 2018, prosecutors ruled that the Apriori Center, an NGO that provides legal advice and capacity-building support to individuals and other NGOs, violated the law, though Apriori has not received foreign funding since 2017. Apriori’s appeal was rejected in February 2019, though the organization remained in operation as recently as October.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 0.000 4.004

Trade unions in Transnistria are unreformed since the Soviet era, and they are not independent. Local and regional authorities manipulate trade unions for political gain.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 0.000 4.004

The judiciary serves the interests of the political authorities. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has asserted that Russia is responsible for the decisions of Transnistrian courts, and that these courts do not meet minimum standards of fairness.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 0.000 4.004

Justice is applied arbitrarily and serves the interests of those in power. The UNDP’s observer noted the heavy use of arrest and pretrial detention in his 2019 report.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 1.001 4.004

Torture in custody is reported, and prison conditions remain poor. Police mistreatment of suspects is common and there are no effective avenues for victims to gain recourse. The lawyer representing former interior minister Ghenadie Kuzmichev claimed he was abducted by Moldovan police and forcibly returned to Transnistria to face smuggling charges in 2018; he also claimed that Kuzmichev’s health declined in prison, and that doctors hired by his family were prohibited from seeing him. Kuzmichev was convicted in April 2019, receiving a 13-year sentence and a fine.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 1.001 4.004

While the Transnistrian constitution guarantees rights and freedoms of people “without distinction as to sex, race, nationality, language, religion, social origin,” these rights are not uniformly upheld. The Moldovan-speaking minority faces discrimination and harassment. Same-sex activity is illegal in Transnistria, and the LGBT+ community has been forced underground as a result of widespread government and societal discrimination.

However, the UNDP’s observer reported improved treatment towards people living with disabilities, along with domestic violence survivors, people living with HIV, and people living with tuberculosis in his 2019 report.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 2.002 4.004

Approximately 300,000 people in Transnistria hold Moldovan citizenship and can travel freely to European Union (EU) countries. Cars with local license plates cannot enter Moldova, but since 2018, Transnistrian residents can obtain neutral license plates for use on international roads. The agreement was reached as part of the 5+2 negotiation framework, comprised of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), with Russia and Ukraine acting as mediators; as part of the framework, Moldovan authorities began recognizing Transnistrian educational documents in 2018.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 1.001 4.004

Private property is only allowed for housing in Transnistria; other property rights, including land ownership, remain restricted. Procedures for establishing a private business are hampered by bureaucratic impediments.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 1.001 4.004

Same-sex marriage is not permitted. Many women are pressured to have large families. Domestic violence is a growing concern, with no law criminalizing it. However, the problem has become more public, including through television reports. Dedicated services, including psychological aid, a hotline for victims, and shelters are operated by civil society organizations supported by international donor organizations.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 1.001 4.004

Economic opportunity remains very limited. Sheriff Enterprises dominates the economy. Despite increased international aid to ensure better opportunities for women, many still fall victim to traffickers who subject them to forced labor or sex work.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    22 100 not free