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Definition: Moldova from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

country in E

Moldavia region; formerly (as Moldavian Republic or Moldavia ) a constituent republic of the U.S.S.R.; ✽ Chişinău area 13,012 sq mi (33,701 sq km), pop 4,362,000

Mol•do•van \-vən\ n or adj

Summary Article: Moldova
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Country in east-central Europe, bounded north, south, and east by Ukraine, and west by Romania.

GovernmentMoldova is a multiparty democracy, with executive power shared between a president and prime minister. Under its 1994 constitution, as amended in 1997 and 2000, it has a single-chamber legislature, the parliament (Parlament), comprising 101 members directly elected through proportional representation for a four-year term. From 2001 to 2015, the president, who is head of state, was elected by parliament for a four-year term, requiring the support of at least three-fifths of deputies. From 2016 the president has been directly elected, using a two-round majoritarian system. The president has decree powers and appoints a prime minister from parliament's membership to head the government and a cabinet. An independent constitutional court has powers of judicial review over acts of parliament. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

History Formerly a principality in Eastern Europe, occupying an area divided today between the republic of Moldova and modern Romania, the region was independent from the 14th to the 16th century, when it became part of the Ottoman Empire. Its eastern part, Bessarabia, was ruled by Russia 1812–1918, but then transferred to Romania. Romania was forced to

cede Bessarabia in June 1940 and it was joined with part of the Soviet-controlled Autonomous Moldavian Republic to form the Moldavian Socialist Republic in August 1940.

Nationalist revival Before and after World War II the republic was brutally ‘sovietized’. Collectivization in agriculture and seizure of private enterprises coincided with the infiltration of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians into the area. The republic witnessed significant urban and industrial growth from the 1950s. The initiative of glasnost (political openness) by the USSR's reform communist leader Mikhail Gorbachev brought a resurgence of Moldavian nationalism from the late 1980s, and there was pressure for language reform and reversion from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet.

In 1988 a Moldavian Movement in Support of Perestroika was formed and in May 1989 a Moldavian Popular Front (MPF) was established. In August 1989 the MPF persuaded the republic's government, led since July 1989 by the sympathetic communist president Mircea Snegur, to make Romanian the state language and reinstate the Latin script. This provoked demonstrations and strikes by the republic's Russian speakers and led the Turkish-speaking Gagauz minority, concentrated in the southwest, to campaign for autonomy. In November 1989, after MPF radicals had staged a petrol bomb assault on the Interior Ministry headquarters in Chişinǎu, the Moldavian Communist Party's (MCP) conservative leader, Semyon Grossu, was dismissed and replaced by the more conciliatory Pyotr Luchinsky.

Towards independence In the wake of the Chişinǎu riots, a temporary state of emergency was imposed and a ban placed on public meetings. This restricted campaigning for the February 1990 supreme soviet elections, in which, nevertheless, the MPF polled strongly. The movement towards independence gathered momentum, and a ‘sovereignty’ declaration was made in June 1990. In October 1990, both the ethnic Russian dominated Dnestr (Trans-Dniester) region (centred around Tiraspol, with a population of 700,000) and the Gagauz-inhabited region in southwest Moldova formed unofficial breakaway republics. Soon afterwards states of emergency were imposed in both areas.

A new state In March 1991 the republic boycotted the USSR referendum on preservation of the Union. The August 1991 attempted anti-Gorbachev coup by conservative communists in Moscow was supported by the Dnestr and Gagauz-inhabited regions, but was denounced by President Snegur and led to large pro-democracy demonstrations in Chişinǎu. After the coup attempt failed, MCP activity was banned in workplaces and in August 1991 the republic formally declared its independence. Immediate recognition was accorded by Romania. In December 1991 the republic joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Snegur was directly elected president, unopposed. In March 1992 Moldova was admitted into the United Nations and US diplomatic recognition was granted.

Trans-Dniester and Gagauz conflict After Moldova became independent, there emerged the possibility of union with Romania, with whom Moldova's majority ethnic group shared ethnic ties. President Snegur stated that he favoured a gradual approach towards unification and, after pro-unification border rallies, met the Romanian president in early 1992 to discuss the possibility of union.

The rise in Moldovan nationalism raised serious concerns in Dnestr. In response, it proclaimed its independence in September 1991. This was rejected by Moldova, but in December 1991 the Dnestr and Gagauz regions held presidential elections and plebiscites on independence from Moldova which received overwhelming support.

In March 1992 the situation deteriorated in breakaway Dnestr region and a state of emergency was imposed, after an upsurge of fighting between Moldavian security forces and ethnic Russians and Ukrainians. Hundreds died in the fighting in May and June 1992 and Russian troops intervened on the side of ethnic Russians. Ceasefires were agreed in the Dnestr and Gagauz regions and a Russian peacekeeping force was deployed in Dnestr.

Reunification rejected Lack of popular support for reunification and a weak economy led to the fall of the MFP-led government in July 1992. Andrei Sangheli took over as prime minister, heading a ‘government of national accord’ that drew much of its support from the Agrarian Democratic Party (ADP). The new administration launched a privatization programme in October 1993 and the following month introduced a new currency, the leu, to replace the Russian rouble. Meanwhile, President Snegur, having abandoned his earlier policy of seeking closer ties with Romania, attempted to improve relations with Russia and strengthen Moldovan statehood. This change of policy proved popular and in parliamentary elections in February 1994 the ADP won the largest number of seats. In a March referendum, voters rejected demands for a merger with Romania and prospects of reunification receded, with Moldova dependent on Russia for its fuel supplies and fearful that such a move might provoke a full-scale civil war.

Ceasefires remained effective in both the Dnestr and Gagauz regions and relations with Moscow had improved by mid-1994. A new constitution, adopted in July 1994, sought to guarantee political pluralism and free ethnic and linguistic expression. It also barred the stationing of foreign troops on Moldovan soil, establishing the republic's ‘permanent neutrality’, and granted special autonomous status to the Gagauz and Dnestr regions. Russia subsequently agreed to withdraw its troops from the Dnestr region by 1997. However, this was not fully achieved. Some were withdrawn, but in 2008 over 1,000 Russian 14th army troops remained stationed there.

Pro-Russian president In December 1996, Petru Lucinschi, formerly a senior figure in the USSR's communist party, was elected president, defeating Snegur. He attracted 54% of the vote and was supported by leftist parties, including the ruling ADP. A pro-Russian, he advocated closer ties with Russia and the CIS.

Lucinschi sought to improve relations with the breakaway Dnestr region and in November 1997 his new prime minister, Ion Cebuc, signed an agreement with Igor Smirnov, president of Dnestr, for improved economic and social cooperation.

In March 1998, elections were held to Moldova's parliament under a new proportional representation system and produced a ‘hung parliament’ in which no single party had a majority, but the largest single party was the MCP, with 30% of the vote. This led to political instability. In March 1999, a new coalition government was formed under prime minister Ion Sturza, but it fell in late 1999 and Dumitru Barghis became prime minister.

These political problems occurred at a time of economic crisis caused by economic difficulties in Russia, Moldova's main trading partner The result was largescale and continuing emigration: between 1989 and 2004 around 400,000 people, 9% of the population, left Moldova.

Constitutional change In July 2000, constitutional changes increased the powers of the parliament, including the power to elect the president, who had previously been elected by the people. These changes were made despite a referendum in May 2000 that had approved the idea of a directly-elected president. President Lucinschi was also critical of the change and refused to stand in such an election. A further setback followed in December 2000 when neither of the two presidential candidates were able to secure the required 61 out of 101 parliamentary votes. As parliament seemed unable to elect his successor, President Lucinschi called a general election in February 2001. The MCP secured 50% of the vote and 71 of the 101 seats, making Moldova the first post-Soviet state to return unreformed communists back to power.

Communist president The MCP leader, Vladimir Voronin, an old-style communist, was elected president by parliament in April 2001. He pledged to seek closer relations with Russia, strengthen the role of the state while maintaining a multi-party democracy, and announced that Moldova would not seek to join NATO. He appointed Vasile Tarlev, an independent industrialist, as prime minister, heading a government that included finance minister Mihai Manoli and foreign minister Nicolae Cernomaz from the preceding government.

For the 2005 parliamentary elections, the MCP made a dramatic shift to a pro-Western policy platform, seeking entry to the European Union, which Romania joined in 2007. This was caused by disillusionment with the Russian stance over solving the Dnestr conflict and by efforts by the Dnestr government to forcibly close schools that used the Romanian language. The MCP won the elections and Voronin was re-elected president.

Developments in Dnestr In September 2006 97% of voters in separatist Dnestr supported a referendum to press forward with the region's self-proclaimed independence and join a partnership with Russia. However, Moldova and western countries viewed the referendum as illegitimate since the region was not internationally recognized.

In April 2008 President Voronin held the first talks since 2001 with Igor Smirnov, president of Dnestr. The talks were mediated by Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE. It was agreed to continue holding talks and to draft confidence-building measures, including infrastructure projects.

Moldova's first female prime minister In March 2008, Tarlev resigned as Moldova's prime minister and was replaced by Zinaida Grecianii, a Russian-born economist, also from the MCP, as the country's first female prime minister.

The MCP won 60 of the 101 parliamentary seats at the April 2009 parliamentary elections, falling one short of the 61 needed to elect a new president. This created months of political instability. Supporters of the opposition also disputed the results, leading to protests and riots in Chisinau.

Communists lose power The MCP lost support in new elections in July 2009, winning only 48 seats, and the four anti-communist opposition parties agreed to form a governing coalition, the Alliance for European Integration (AIE), in August 2009. The Liberal Democrat leader, Vlad Filat, a businessman-politician, became prime minister and, in September 2009, the Liberal Democrat speaker of parliament, Mihai Ghimpu, replaced Voronin as acting president. Filat's government pledged to seek associate EU membership for Moldova, tackle corruption, and raise living standards.

In September 2010, the new government failed in its efforts to get sufficient support, in a national referendum, for a return to a directly elected president. New parliamentary elections were held in November 2010, but, although the AIE won 59 of the 101 seats, the result was indecisive. In December 2010, the parliament's speaker, Marian Lupu, a recent defector from the MCP who led the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM), became acting president. He remained so until March 2012, when Nicolae Timofti, an independent former senior judge, was elected president by the parliament.

The pro-Western governing coalition was divided and weakened in early 2013 by a corruption scandal involving ministers and the resignation of the prosecutor-general amid controversy. In March 2013, Filat lost a confidence vote in parliament called by the communist opposition and resigned. He attempted a return to power but was barred by the Constitutional Court, and was replaced as prime minister in April 2013 by his Liberal Democrat colleague, Iurie Leancǎ, formerly the foreign minister.

Closening ties with the EU During 2013–14 Moldova's relations with Russia deteriorated. In September 2013, Russia banned the important of Moldovan wines, claiming they contained impurities. But this economic pressure did not deter Moldova, which, in June 2014, signed an association agreement with the EU.

The parliamentary elections of November 2014 saw the pro-Russian Socialist Party (PSRM), which included ex-communists, win 20% of the vote to finish as the largest party with 25 seats. The communist MCP lost support, winning just 21 seats. The incumbent centre-right and pro-European AIE, comprising the Liberal Democrats and PDM and now renamed the Political Alliance for a European Moldova, managed to hold on to power. In February 2015, they formed a minority coalition government with Chiril Gaburici, a Liberal Democrat businessman, as prime minister.

However, the coalition was fragile. It had only 42 seats and relied on parliamentary support from the MCP. And the Moldovan economy was contracting and the currency falling sharply in value.

Banking scandal triggers protests In May 2015, revelations of a huge bank fraud, involving $1 billion (one-eighth of Moldovan GDP) disappearing from three Moldovan banks into secret offshore accounts, triggered anti-government protests. The protests continued throughout 2015-16 and the instability led to frequent changes of prime minister.

The banking scandal affected ordinary Moldovans because, to prevent economic collapse and to meet National Bank of Moldova guarantees, the state bailed out the banks with $870 million in emergency loans. This blew a large hole in public finances, damaging the economy and living standards. Dignity and Truth, a grass-roots organization, spearheaded a wave of protests directed against the country's corrupt business and political elite. There were frequent demonstrations and encampments outside the parliament building and civil disobedience, including non-payment of utility bills.

Frequent changes of prime minister In June 2015, Gaburici stood down as prime minister, after state prosecutors questioned the authenticity of his university degree. The deputy prime minister Natalia Gherman, took over in an acting capacity until Valeriu Strelet became prime minister in July 2015. Both were Liberal Democrats, and the pro-EU government coalition remained in office, pressing ahead with its goal of achieving EU candidate-membership status by 2018.

On 15 October 2015 the former prime minister Vlad Filat was arrested, being accused of receiving $250 million in bribes from a businessman at the centre of the banking scandal. With street protests intensifying, on 29 October 2015 Strelet lost a vote of confidence in parliament and resigned.

Gheorghe Brega became acting prime minister until 20 January 2016, when he was succeeded by Pavel Filip, of the PDM. This appointment led to further street protests because of Filip's links to Vlad Plahotniuc, a controversial PDM business tycoon and arch-rival of Filat. On 13 January 2016, the PDM had nominated Plahotniuc to become prime minister, but President Timofti had rejected this, citing concerns over Plahotniuc's integrity.

Pro-Russian Dodon elected president In accordance with a March 2016 ruling by the Constitutional Court, the presidential elections, held in October-November 2016, reverted to direct popular elections rather than indirect election by parliament, as had been the case since 1996. With the pro-EU parties weakened by scandals, Igor Dodon, leader of the pro-Russian PSR, was the winner. He secured 52% of the run-off round vote, defeating Maia Sandu, a former Liberal Democrat who had set up the pro-European and centrist Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) in 2016.

President Dodon favoured ending Moldova's association agreement with the EU and closening ties with Russia, including joining the Russian-dominated Eurasian Customs Union. However, Moldova's parliament remained dominated by pro-European parties which favoured closer ties with the EU. This meant stalemate was likely. But with Russian troops stationed in the Dnestr region and Russia's March 2014 annexation of Crimea, there were fears that Russia might exploit political instability in Moldova by annexing the Dnestr region.


Destination Moldova

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

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