Parliamentary elections were held in Moldova on February 24, 2019. According to the final data presented by the Central Electoral Commission, the voter turnout was 51% and the Socialist Party emerged as the largest parliamentary group with 35 out of 101 seats (1).
The ruling Democratic Party came second with 30 seats, while the ACUM bloc received 26 mandates and the Shor Party won seven. The three remaining seats were divided among independent deputies (2).
In its preliminary report, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) stated that the elections were “competitive and fundamental rights were generally respected” (3). Furthermore, the OSCE observation mission noted that “[m]ost aspects of the elections were administered in a professional and transparent manner (4)”. That said, both the Socialist and the Democratic Party accused each other of vote-buying by candidates or charities associated with them (5). Moldova’s Constitutional Court nevertheless validated the election outcome on March 9 (6).
The Socialist Party, affiliated with Moldova’s President Igor Dodon, is known to be pro-Russian. On the other side of the spectrum, the Democrats of chairman Vladimir Plahotniuc are considered pro-Western, but have called to balance East-West relations (7). They are challenged by the ACUM (“NOW”) bloc, a coalition between former Minister for Education Maia Sandu and protest leader Andrei Nastase. The ACUM bloc is more outspokenly pro-European Union and ran an anti-corruption campaign (8). The fourth major actor is the Shor Party, often described as conservative and led by businessman Ilan Shor (9).
With the Parliament divided among these four parties, the election result set the stage for coalition talks. Right after the elections, the Democratic Party offered ACUM to start negotiations, but the offer was declined. On March 11, ACUM’s co-chairs also turned down an invitation from the Socialist Party to form a coalition government. The Democrats then reiterated their offer to form a parliamentary majority with ACUM on March 14, now even willing to give the prime minister’s seat to the pro-EU bloc (10). ACUM seems to have resisted though, “rejecting any sort of political alliance or cooperation with oligarchic parties” (11).
Vladimir Socor, Senior Fellow of the Jamestown Foundation, estimates that “[v]arious coalition formulas are under discussion, non easily attainable” (12) and the political landscape bears the question why that is the case. First, President Dodon has repeatedly stressed “’the openness of the Russian leadership’ and its ‘great interest’ in developing a strategic partnership between Russia and Moldova” (13), a stance that seems hard to reconcile with ACUM’s overtly pro-EU agenda.
Most importantly though, ACUM’s supporters view the movement as “a credible pro-Western, morally uncorrupt [sic], and well-educated force” (14). By contrast, Plahotniuc “is widely believed to control key state institutions, the prosecutor general, the judiciary, financial flows, and media” (15), as Balazs Jarabik and Leonid Litra point out, scholars at the think tanks Carnegie Europe and New Europe Center. Thus, ACUM and the Democratic Party may both be pro-European to some extent, but remain prime adversaries nevertheless. Vladimir Socor therefore concludes that the “newly elected parliament contains three mutually incompatible parties” (16).
Not surprisingly, a local parliamentary researcher recently confirmed that “there is no news on forming a coalition”. According to the same source, Moldova’s Constitutional Court ruled on May 15 that the Speaker of the parliament needs to be elected before President Dodon is allowed to nominate a prime minister. The President reacted to the ruling by saying he would dissolve the Parliament if no speaker is elected by June 21. New elections would then be likely to take place in autumn.
Last updated: May 2019
Philip Aaron Bowes, M.A. Intelligence and Strategic Studies
(1) ELECTION GUIDE: DEMOCRACY ASSISTANCE & ELECTION NEWS, “Republic of Moldova: Election for Parlament (Moldovan Parliament)”, date unknown, http://www.electionguide.org/elections/id/3120/, (accessed 1 May 2019).
(2) RADIO FREE EUROPE/ RADIO LIBERTY, “Moldova’s Constitutional Court Confirms February 24 Vote Result”, 10 March 2019, https://www.rferl.org/a/moldova-constitutional-court-confirms-parliament-elections/98212890.html, (accessed 1 May 2019).
(3) ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY AND CO-OPERATION IN EUROPE, “International Election Observation Mission: Republic of Moldova - Parliamentary Elections, 24 February 2019: Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions”, 25 February 2019, https:// www.osce.org/odihr/elections/moldova/412346?download=true, (accessed 18 May 2019), p.1.
(4) Loc. cit.
(5) Ibid. p. 2.
(6) RADIO FREE EUROPE/ RADIO LIBERTY, “Moldova’s Constitutional Court Confirms February 24 Vote Result”, op. cit.
(7) Loc. cit.
(8) RADIO FREE EUROPE/ RADIO LIBERTY, “Moldova Polls 'Competitive' Despite 'Strong Indications Of Vote Buying,' Monitors Say”, 25 February 2019, https:// www.rferl.org/a/moldova-socialists-lead-democrats-acum-parliamentary-vote/29788181.html, (accessed 1 May 2019).
(9) Loc. cit.
(10) BANILA, Nicoleta. “Moldova's Democratic Party invites pro-EU ACUM bloc to form govt coalition“, SeeNews: Business Intelligence for Southeast Europe, 14 March 2019, https://seenews.com/news/moldovas-democratic-party-invites-pro-eu-acum-bloc-to-form-govt-coalition-646593, (accessed 1 May 2019).
(11) MUNTEANU, Igor. “What does Moldova’s inconclusive election mean for the country’s future?”, Emerging Europe, 15 March 2019, https://emerging-europe.com/voices/ what-does-moldovas-inconclusive-election-mean-for-the-countrys-future/, (accessed 1 May 2019).
(12) SOCOR, Vladimir. “Moldova’s Parliamentary Elections: One Silver Lining Amid Multiple Negative Trends (Part One)“, Eurasia Daily Monitor, 11 March 2019, https://jamestown.org/program/moldovas-parliamentary-elections-one-silver-lining-amid-multiple-negative-trends-part-one/, (accessed 1 May 2019).
(13) Igor DODON cited in RADIO FREE EUROPE/ RADIO LIBERTY, “Crucial Moldovan Parliamentary Vote Marred By Fraud Allegations”, 24 February 2019, https://www.rferl. org/a/moldova-elections-dodon-socialists-acum-democrats-russia-eu/29787009.html, (accessed 1 May 2019).
(14) SOCOR, Vladimir. Op. cit.
(15) JARABIK, Balazs and Leonid LITRA. “Moldova Election: A Democratic Illusion?“, Carnegie Europe, 21 February 2019, https://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/78416, (accessed 1 May 2019).
(16) SOCOR, Vladimir. “Moldova’s Parliamentary Elections: One Silver Lining Amid Multiple Negative Trends (Part Two)“, Eurasia Daily Monitor, 18 March 2019, https://jamestown.org/program/moldovas-parliamentary-elections-one-silver-lining-amid-multiple-negative-trends-part-two/, (accessed 1 May 2019).