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.
Transnistria is internationally recognized as part of Moldova, but has operated with de facto independence since a brief military conflict in 1992. 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 restricted, and the ruling political group is aligned with powerful local business interests. Media freedom is restricted, authorities closely control civil society activity, and due process is not upheld by local authorities, who have carried out targeted arbitrary arrests with impunity.
- In May, the legislature approved amendments criminalizing the act of filing complaints to international or Moldovan bodies about violations committed by regional authorities. Individuals appealing to such prohibited institutions can be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
- In September, a Tiraspol court sentenced local resident Victor Pleșcanov to more than three years in prison over his critical remarks about the local authorities, the Russian army, and the full-scale Russian military invasion of Ukraine. While Pleșcanov, who was charged with inciting extremism, was known to authorities as a critic of the local regime, the prosecution of verbal remarks by a private citizen reflected a serious deterioration of free expression in Transnistria.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?
The president is elected for up to two consecutive five-year terms. Incumbent Vadim Krasnoselsky, who was backed by the Renewal (Obnovleniye) Party, was reelected with 79 percent of the vote in the December 2021 presidential election. Krasnoselsky’s only competitor was a local clerk, Sergey Pînzar, who won 11.8 percent of the vote. Another 8.8 percent of ballots were ruled invalid. Turnout stood at 35.2 percent, a record low for a presidential contest. The Renewal party was established and is funded by Sheriff Enterprises, the powerful business conglomerate that dominates the Transnistrian economy.
The 2021 elections were considered especially uncompetitive. Notable opposition figures Anatoly Dirun and Nikolai Malyshev were not allowed to register as candidates by the Central Election Commission due to alleged irregularities in the signatures collected for their nominations. Another candidate, Sergei Dechev, withdrew his candidacy without explanation. An electoral-code amendment instituted in June 2021 removed the option to vote “against all” option from the presidential ballot.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
The unicameral Supreme Council has 33 members, all serving five-year terms. Elections for the Supreme Council were last held in November 2020. Candidates ran unopposed in 23 of the 33 electoral districts; by comparison, only two candidates had run unopposed in each of the previous two legislative elections. Voter turnout was just 28 percent of the eligible electorate. Renewal won 29 seats, and the remainder went to candidates who had other links to Sheriff Enterprises.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?
The Central Election Commission has long been criticized by various political figures for lack of impartiality and independence. In 2021, it refused to hear challenges to the election results and dismissed voter objections to its earlier decision to eliminate the possibility for voters to vote “against all.”
In light of its unrecognized status, established international election monitors do not monitor elections in Transnistria or formally assess the competency of its electoral bodies. The Russian Federation sent an election monitoring mission for polls in 2021.
|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?
Transnistria’s entire political establishment supports the separatist agenda and Russia’s role as the territory’s foreign patron. Figures who oppose the local elites linked with Sherriff Enterprises are subject to intimidation and have been mostly silenced in recent years.
The opposition Communist Party is repressed. In 2018, its party leader was arrested, stripped of parliamentary immunity, and jailed for organizing illegal demonstrations, criticizing officials, and interfering with law enforcement agents. He was released from prison in December 2022 after completing his sentence.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
The Renewal Party has long controlled the legislature, and the 2016 victory of Vadim Krasnoselsky cemented its control over the executive branch. The territory’s persecuted opposition parties did not play a significant role in the 2020 legislative elections, which left the Supreme Council with no genuine opposition. Opposition candidates were prevented from contesting the December 2021 presidential election, which Krasnoselsky won by a wide margin amid low turnout.
|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?
The ruling Renewal Party and the political establishment more broadly are dominated by Sheriff Enterprises. In addition, the political influence of the Russian government is undergirded by the presence of Russian troops, who are ostensibly stationed in Transnistria to guard a Soviet-era ammunition depot and, as peacekeepers, to uphold a 1992 cease-fire between Transnistrian and Moldovan forces. Moscow has also financially supported the territory’s pension system and provided subsidized energy.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?
Residents have the legal right to vote, participate in campaigns, and run for office. However, the system in practice allows little opportunity for independent political activity by any segment of the population. Few women are included in the political leadership; only two women hold seats in the Supreme Council.
While Transnistria has three official languages—Russian, Ukrainian, and Moldovan—Russian dominates in governmental affairs and public communications.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?
Transnistria’s flawed elections undercut the democratic legitimacy of both executive leaders and legislative representatives. The 2020 legislative and 2021 presidential elections were both marred by low rates of participation and a lack of competition. Sheriff Enterprises exerts a strong influence on elected officials’ policy decisions, which are also closely monitored by Moscow.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?
Transnistrian politics have long been built on personal business interests, nepotism, and favoritism. There are few visible safeguards against official corruption.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?
Although officials publish some government information on websites and are occasionally interviewed by media outlets about their policies, the public is generally excluded from decision-making processes, and governmental openness and transparency are limited in practice.
|Are there free and independent media?
Authorities closely monitor and control the public media, and Sheriff Enterprises dominates private broadcasting, leading to widespread self-censorship. The territory’s few independent print outlets have limited circulation. Critical reporting can result in reprisals including criminal charges. The government also uses bureaucratic obstruction and withholding of information to inhibit independent journalism.
Legislation adopted in 2016 gave authorities even greater control over state media outlets, including the power to appoint editorial staff, and enabled officials to limit media access to their activities and bar the use of recording devices.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?
Most of the population is Orthodox Christian, and authorities have denied registration to several smaller religious groups, which at times face harassment by police and Orthodox opponents. The law imposes restrictions and penalties related to unauthorized distribution of religious literature, preaching in public spaces, and organized religious activities in residential buildings. Foreign religious groups are not permitted to register, and foreign individuals may not found or join registered groups.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have been unable to obtain registration in Transnistria. Members of the Muslim community reported a reluctance to openly practice their faith due to past intimidation by authorities, and they have struggled to advance plans to establish a mosque in Tiraspol.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?
Academics and students may take part in international forums, but potential reprisals by Transnistrian authorities are a deterrent to participation in programs sponsored by Moldova. 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 few Latin-script schools in Transnistria that are overseen by the Moldovan state face pressure from Transnistrian authorities.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?
Legal restrictions on certain kinds of speech discourage free discussion. Among other provisions related to defamation or insult of the authorities, the criminal code penalizes public expression of disrespect for the Russian peacekeeping mission in the region.
In September 2022, a Tiraspol court sentenced a civilian, Victor Pleșcanov, to three years and two months in prison after he was convicted of inciting extremism in connection with critical remarks about the Russian army and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to reports, he was initially arrested in June after indicating that he planned to buy yellow and blue fabric to make a Ukrainian flag to hang from his balcony, and speculating about the negative reaction of security services. Pleșcanov was known to authorities as a critic of the regime, but the prosecution of a verbal exchange in his private life reflects a significant deterioration of freedom of expression in the region.
|Is there freedom of assembly?
Freedom of assembly is tightly restricted. Authorities consistently reject applications for permits to hold meetings and protests, and participants in unauthorized actions face administrative penalties or criminal prosecution.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and civic activists operate in a repressive environment. Groups that work on human rights issues or other topics deemed politically sensitive are subject to surveillance and harassment.
A 2018 law requires more burdensome reporting by NGOs, including on foreign funding, and prohibits foreign-backed NGOs from engaging in broadly defined “political activities.”
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?
The trade union system in Transnistria has not been reformed since the Soviet era, and unions are manipulated by the political leadership in practice. Independent labor activism is not tolerated.
|Is there an independent judiciary?
The judiciary serves the interests of the political authorities and Sheriff Enterprises. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has asserted that Moscow is responsible for the decisions of Transnistrian courts, which do not meet minimum standards of fairness.
In May 2022, the Transnistrian legislature approved amendments criminalizing the act of filing complaints to international or Moldovan bodies about violations committed by regional authorities. Individuals appealing to such prohibited institutions can be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?
Security and law enforcement agencies in Transnistria regularly engage in arbitrary arrests and detentions and deny detainees access to attorneys. Trials and other criminal proceedings lack safeguards for due process and are frequently held without public scrutiny, with the outcomes announced after the fact.
Moldovan citizen Adrian Glijin was abducted by territorial security forces in 2020 and accused of treason, in what Moldovan authorities and NGOs characterized as a politically motivated, retaliatory action by Transnistrian authorities connected to separate criminal case in Moldova. Glijin was held incommunicado for more than a year, and in 2022, was sentenced in a closed-doors process to 13.5 years in prison.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?
Police mistreatment of suspects is common, and physical abuse is employed to obtain confessions. Prison conditions remain poor and denial of proper medical care has been reported.
Authorities have been accused of engaging in forced disappearances and abductions in recent years, such as in the case of Adrian Glijin. In 2022, the Moldovan NGO Promolex reported on the cases of two men, Vladimir Pogorlețki and Nicolae Garmaș, saying they were subjected to torture and ill-treatment by the Transnistrian authorities. In August, Garmaș was sentenced by a Tiraspol court to 1.5 years in prison in connection with his previous complaints about torture in police custody.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?
While the Transnistrian constitution guarantees people’s rights and freedoms “without distinction as to sex, race, nationality, language, religion,” and other such categories, these protections are frequently violated. Members of certain minority groups including Moldovan speakers and most notably Roma, face discrimination and harassment. Women are also subject to discrimination in practice; among other problems, they are formally excluded from numerous occupations that are considered hazardous or physically difficult. Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Transnistria, and members of the LGBT+ community generally do not identify themselves publicly due to widespread government and societal discrimination.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?
Approximately 300,000 people in Transnistria hold Moldovan citizenship and can travel freely to European Union (EU) countries. Since 2018, Transnistria residents have been able to obtain neutral license plates for use on international roads. Moldovan authorities began recognizing Transnistrian educational documents that year.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?
Full private property rights are only recognized for housing; other property rights, including land ownership, remain restricted. Procedures for establishing a private business are hampered by bureaucratic impediments.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?
Same-sex marriage is not permitted. Domestic violence is a persistent concern, and it is not considered a criminal offense in the absence of serious physical injury. However, the problem has become more public in recent years, including through television reports. Dedicated services, including psychological aid, a hotline for victims, and shelters, are operated by NGOs supported by international donors.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?
Economic opportunity remains very limited. Sheriff Enterprises dominates the economy. Despite increased international aid meant 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 Score18 100 not free