The unusual alliance between pro-Russian and pro-European political forces, which seemed to herald the beginning of a new era of de-geopoliticisation in the region, has ended. At light speed, an informal coalition of pro-Russians and the so-called Democratic Party elected a new, officially technocratic, yet factually highly political government. Following these evolutions, Moldova continues to be a captured state that has only changed its master. The most recent events raise significant concerns regarding the country’s future commitment towards the rule of law and anti-corruption reforms.
An unlikely coalition of the pro-Russian PSRM (the Socialists) and the pro-European ACUM (Romanian for “now”) emerged in the midst of the constitutional crisis of June 2019 following the parliamentary elections of 24 February to oust the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc. Since 2009 Democratic Party chairman Plahotniuc managed to capture the main state institutions. In a rare act of international consensus in the region, the EU, Russia and the United States supported the new government.
Led by ACUM’s Maia Sandu, this government managed to improve relations with the West significantly. Sandu’s credibility as a reform-minded politician opened doors in Brussels, Washington and major European capitals and led to financial support. After the EU had frozen the macro-financial assistance in 2018 due to the bad political situation, the European Commission relaunched the disbursement as “an expression of support for the implementation of key reforms to improve democratic standards and protect the rule of law”. Also, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a loan tranche arguing that Moldova had made progress on its reform agenda and achieved macroeconomic stability.
In the context of the ACUM-dominated government’s top priority to cleanse the country from corruption and establish an independent judiciary, the mechanism for appointing Moldova’s General Prosecutor (GP) became the centerpiece of reform. The General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO) is of overwhelming importance in the Moldovan judicial system. In the past, an entirely obedient GPO had served as Mr Plahotniuc’s spearhead against political opponents and cloak for corruption schemes. According to the Constitution, the GPO contributes “to the administration of justice and to the defense of the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of the individual, of the society and of the state”. Plahotniuc had misused the largely corrupt GPO as a cue ball of political and personal interests.