Moldova’s upcoming elections in November present short-term and long-term political risks. Here are five specific events to watch in the coming months.
1. Short-term support for the European Union
The situation in Moldova has been one of overwhelming support for accession to the European Union in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. The ruling Liberal Democratic coalition has emphasized its commitment to signing an association agreement with the European Union on Friday, June 27th. Visa-free travel (introduced in April 2014) and the effects of the crisis in Ukraine, which led to the election of a pro-European presidential candidate in Kyiv’s Mariyinsky Palace, could serve as a catalyst for support for European integration.
Pirkka Tapiola, the head of the European Delegation to Moldova and a key partner in advance of the signing of an association agreement, has emphasized the short- and long-term effects of the agreement, including direct investment in the Moldovan economy and infrastructure, as well as support for political transition, justice and the rule of law.
2. Short-term effects of Ministry of Justice sentencing in corruption case
In the short-term, effects of low-level arrests, like the arrest of three police officers in Straseni for passive corruption, or the investigation of corruption in the administration of Moldovan prisons, as well as the sentencing of a Moldovan judge to seven years in prison for corruption, are not likely to be seen as meaningful attempts to fight high-level graft. Instead, corruption could hamper the willingness of the Moldovan electorate to give an incumbent party its vote of confidence, overriding support for Europeanization. The effects of corruption could also have a similar effect on Moldova’s military strength and investment climate.
Freedom House ranked Moldova slightly lower (4.82) in 2013 than in 2012 (4.89), largely due to some lagging features of transition, including lack of civil society transparency and endemic corruption. According to the 2013 report, “the justice system continues to exhibit political influence, abuse of authority, corruption, and inconsistent interpretation of legislation. For these reasons it still scores low in public opinion polls.
3. Long-term effects of intra-party dynamics in the ruling parties
The shift from the opposition to coalition rule of the Communist Party of Moldova (PCRM) until 2009, and the effects of recent polls suggesting the party had shifted from second to third place in overall party popularity in Moldova, has affected intra-party dynamics before the elections.
The party’s traditional alliance to Russian interests in Moldova, coupled with the socialist party’s opposition to signing an association agreement, have split the party between pragmatists (like party leader Voronin) and committed Marxist factions.
4. Long-term effects of political changes in Transnistria
There is little chance of breakaway republic Transnistria gaining Russian recognition any time soon; however, the long-term effects of lack of external investment into Transnistria could intensify the risk of political radicalization.
The success of ongoing 5+2 peace negotiations, and the integration of Transnistria in Moldova, hinge on the economic climate in the breakaway republic. In an interview with the head of the Moldovan think tank Expert-Grup, Adrian Lupusor, it becomes clear this is the biggest political risk factor beyond the signing of the association agreement, and in advance of elections.
5. Short-term investment climate in Moldova
Russian preferences for stronger bilateral ties stand in opposition to the European Union’s desire for economic and political integration. Still, according to recent analysis, there has been marked decline in Russia’s ability to exert economic leverage over the country.