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World > Europe > Moldova > Government and Political Conditions (Notes)

Moldova - Government and Political Conditions (Notes)


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
In 2000, Parliament passed a decree making Moldova a parliamentary republic, with the president elected by Parliament instead of by popular vote. Widespread popular dissatisfaction with previous governments and economic hardship led to a surprise at the polls in February 2001. In elections certified by international observers as free and fair, slightly over half of Moldova's voters cast their ballots for the Communist Party. Under the rules of Moldova's proportional representation system, the Communist faction, which in the previous Parliament consisted of 40 of Parliament's 101 seats, jumped to 71--a clear majority. The Parliament then elected the leader of the Communist faction, Vladimir Voronin, to be President.

President Voronin's first term was marked by up and down relations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Politically, the government was committed to the reduction of poverty by allocating more resources to social safety net items such as health, education, and increasing pensions and salaries. Voronin proceeded with former President Lucinschi's plans to privatize several important state-owned industries and even on occasion broke with his own party over important issues. Under President Voronin, relations with the United States have remained strong. From January to April 2002, large demonstrations took place in opposition to several controversial government proposals, including expanded use of the Russian language in schools and its designation as an official language. While the demonstrations were sometimes tense, the government did not use force and ultimately agreed to Council of Europe (CoE) mediation.

In March 2005 parliamentary elections, the Communist Party received 46.1% of the vote, or 56 seats in the 101-member Parliament--more than enough for the 51-vote minimum required to form a government, but short of the 61 votes necessary to elect a president. However, President Voronin was re-elected with support from the Christian Democratic People's Party and from the Democratic and Social Liberal party factions, after Voronin promised to deliver on needed reforms and Euro-Atlantic integration for the country. These defections broke apart the opposition unity of the pre-election Moldovan Democratic Bloc, led by Our Moldova Alliance (AMN) faction leader and former Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean.

Local elections in May and June 2003--the first nationwide contests since the Communists came to power--did not meet the relatively high electoral standards set in previous Moldovan elections, according to international observers. While the voting itself generally met international standards, the government's behavior in the campaign period--including bias in state media, misuse of administrative resources, and the arrests of two opposition mayors--represented a step backward. The Communists won the largest share of votes, but lost in the country's highest-profile race, for mayor of Chisinau. Former Mayor and AMN leader Serafim Urechean decided to give up his mayoral seat to retain his mandate as an elected parliamentarian in the March 2005 elections, as Moldovan legislation prohibits holding both positions simultaneously. Early mayoral elections for Chisinau were held in July 2005 but were declared invalid due to low turnout. Elections in the semi-autonomous region of Gagauzia were held in December 2006; Mikhail Formuzal, a longtime opponent of President Voronin, was elected ?Bashkan? (Governor). Local elections across Moldova are tentatively scheduled for May 2007.

In addition to state-sponsored media, there are several independent newspapers, radio and television stations, and news services. The independent media organizations, along with some that are affiliated with political parties, often criticize government policies. In August 2004, Teleradio Moldova (TRM) was officially transformed from a state-owned company into a public broadcaster. However, journalists and civil society representatives, who claimed the process was nontransparent and meant to stack the new TRM staff with those favorable to the government, met this move with large protests. In February 2007, a controversial privatization process shut down the popular, pro-opposition Chisinau radio station Antena C, and installed new pro-government management. The U.S. Ambassador, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and western diplomatic missions condemned the developments, which seemed to run counter to the Moldovan Broadcasting Code and risked silencing political opposition. Peaceful assembly is allowed, though permits for demonstrations must be obtained; private organizations, including political parties, are required to register with the government. Legislation passed in 1992 codified freedom of religion but required that religious groups register with the government.

In February 2005, Brussels and Chisinau agreed on a European Union (EU)-Moldova Action Plan, a ?roadmap? of reforms to strengthen the democratic and economic situation of the country and facilitate its Euro-Atlantic integration. Although Moldova has made some progress toward laying the structural and legislative foundation for reform, the EU has emphasized that more implementation is needed.

Transnistria
The population of the Moldovan region of Transnistria is approximately 40% Romanian/Moldovan, 28% Ukrainian, and 23% Russian. Separatist forces maintain control of the Transnistrian region, which lies along the Ukrainian border. Moldova has tried to meet the Russian minority's demands by offering the region rather broad cultural and political autonomy. The dispute has strained Moldova's relations with Russia. The July 1992 cease-fire agreement established a tripartite peacekeeping force comprised of Moldovan, Russian, and Transnistrian units.

Negotiations to resolve the conflict continue, and the cease-fire is still in effect. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is trying to facilitate a negotiated settlement and has had an observer mission in place for several years. In July 2002, OSCE, Russian, and Ukrainian mediators approved a document setting forth a blueprint for reuniting Moldova under a federal system. Over the next year and a half, the settlement talks alternated between periods of forward momentum and periods of no progress. In February 2003, the U.S. and EU imposed visa restrictions against the Transnistrian leadership. In April 2003, the Moldovan Government and the Transnistrian authorities agreed to establish a joint commission to draft a constitution for a reintegrated state. However, fundamental disagreements over the division of powers remained, and a settlement proved elusive.

In a surprise move, President Voronin decided not to sign a Russian-brokered settlement with Transnistria in November 2003; the proposal--seen by many as pro-Transnistrian--sparked opposition protests. During the summer of 2004, the Transnistrian separatists forcibly closed several Romanian language Latin-script schools in the region, for which the regime was subject to international condemnation. In 2005, the Transnistrian regime prevented several farmers on the right bank of the Nistru River from working their fields on the left bank, within Transnistria's 'borders.' The OSCE Mission to Moldova eventually mediated solutions to these crises.

After a 15-month pause, the sides met for a renewed round of settlement negotiations in October 2005. Mediators from Ukraine, Russia, and the OSCE joined the Moldovan and Transnistrian representatives at the talks. In addition, the U.S. and EU joined the talks as observers. However, subsequent '5+2' negotiations have made little progress on a settlement or on withdrawal of Russian forces from Moldova.

Russia still has weapons and munitions of the Operational Group of Russian Forces (formerly the Russian 14th Army) stationed in Transnistria, although it pledged to remove them under a timetable established at the 1999 OSCE Ministerial--the so-called 'Istanbul Accords.' However, there has been no progress on Russian withdrawals since early 2004.

In response to Moldova?s call for international monitoring of the border, in December 2005 the EU dispatched a Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) to help stem the flow of illegal trade between Ukraine and Moldova. In March 2006, Ukraine and Moldova began implementing a 2003 customs agreement, under which Transnistrian companies seeking to engage in cross-border trade must register in Chisinau. Despite the protests of the Transnistrian regime, all major Transnistrian businesses have subsequently registered. In what is seen as a response to the new customs procedures, the Transnistrian regime boycotted the 5+2 talks in March 2006. The talks have since been stalled. In September 2006, the Transnistrian regime held an 'independence referendum'. Despite the fact that the Transnistrian regime claimed that the referendum demonstrated overwhelming support for independence, the vote was not monitored by any western organizations, and no country recognized the referendum or the independence of Transnistria.

Principal Government Officials
President--Vladimir Voronin
Prime Minister--Vasile Tarlev
President of Parliament--Marian Lupu
Foreign Minister--Andrei Stratan
Ambassador to the United States--Nicolae Chirtoaca
Ambassador to the United Nations--Alexei Tulbure

Moldova's embassy in the United States is at 2101 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-667-1130; fax 202-667-1204).

More information about Moldova can be found at the official (Romanian and Russian language) Government of Moldova website at www.moldova.md. The Moldova.org site is maintained by the Moldova Foundation, a non-governmental organization, and has some useful links.


Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions - Moldovan leu Exchange Rates
Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.



Facts at a Glance
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Climate
Current Time
Ranking Positions
Moldovan leu Exchange Rates


Notes and Commentary
People
Economy
Government and Political Conditions
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.





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