Pro-EU parties reach coalition deal in Moldova as Moscow cries foul

By bne IntelliNews December 5, 2014

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Moldova’s three main pro-EU parties said on December 4 that they had agreed to form a coalition government. The move, which confirms Moldova’s course towards integration with the European Union, was expected after the three parties took slightly more seats than their pro-Russian rivals in the November 30 election.

Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (PLDM) leader Vlad Filat, Democratic party leader Marian Lupu and Liberal party leader Mihai Ghimpu agreed at a meeting on December 4 to create a coalition. The three parties have a combined total of 55 seats in the 101-seat parliament.

While the three parties have agreed to work together, numerous details remain to be thrashed out, including the composition of the new government. The PLDM said in a December 4 press release that they have set up expert groups to draw up the government’s programme for the next four years.

The largest share of votes on November 30 was taken by the Socialist Party of Moldova, a radical offshoot of the Moldovan Communist Party, taking 20.51% of the vote according to the Moldovan Central Election Commission. The PLDM was an extremely close runner up with 20.16% - though this represented a drop of eight percentage points since the last election.

The general election was widely viewed as critical to deciding whether Moldova’s future orientation lay towards the EU or to Russia. Both the Socialists and Patria - which was barred from taking part just days before the election - wanted the EU Association Agreement signed by Prime Minister Iurie Leanca in June to be scrapped, while the Communist Party under former President Vladimir Voronin took a softer stance, calling for the agreement to be amended.

A majority for the pro-Russian parties would most likely have led Moldova towards joining  Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian Economic Union - due to be formally launched on January 1, 2015 - alongside Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia.

This would have reversed progress made towards EU integration in 2014, when Chisinau signed the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). Shortly before the agreements were signed, Leanca said he was certain that signing “is for the good of the country, the economy and the people ...  Europe is in our history, our culture, our language and our values – but most importantly it is where we see our future,” the prime minister added. Chisinau is now aiming for EU accession by 2020, and before the election the previous government indicated it plans to submit its application to Brussels next year.

Moldova’s economy is already increasingly oriented towards the EU, with more than half its exports going to EU countries, a trend that has increased after Russia introduced a series of trade embargoes in the second half of this year.

But while Leanca’s government forged ahead with EU integration, the popular mood within Moldova was divided, with around half the population estimated to favour retaining traditional ties with Russia. Younger urban voters’ enthusiasm about the EU has been balanced by a preference on the part of older voters and Moldova’s substantial ethnic Russian minority to remain within Moscow’s sphere of influence.

A decisive move towards the EU could also force Chisinau to finally give up hopes of ever regaining control over the breakaway region of Transnistria, also known as Transdniester. The region, which lies between the eastern bank of the Dniester river and Moldova’s border with Ukraine, has been de facto independent from Chisinau since a brief war in the early 1990s. While stopping short of recognising Transistria as independent, Russia has continued to provide military backing as well as supporting its stagnating and corrupt economy.

As Moldova slips further away from its influence, Moscow has shown its displeasure with the result of the election, raising fears of Russian-backed protests within Moldova in the coming days.

Russia was angered by the decision, announced by the Moldovan Electoral Bureau just days before the election, to ban Patria. The bureau said it had made the decision after police reports showed Patria was funded from abroad, which is illegal in Moldova. Its leader, businessman Renato Usatii, is also alleged to have links to the Russian security services. The decision was backed by Moldova’s Supreme Court on November 26.

While the Organization for Security and Cooperation/Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OCE/ODIHR) assessed the vote as “democratic and free”, Russian observers - which are typically complimentary about polls in friendly CIS countries - issued a damning report on the election. “We cannot ignore the fact that the conclusions about their transparent and democratic nature are at odds with the gross violations committed during the preparation and conduct of the elections,” says a December 3 statement from the Russian foreign ministry.


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