On November 30, Moldova held a crucial parliamentary election, the results of which will determine the country’s future for years to come. Major political parties advocated not merely different policies, but diametrically opposite geopolitical options: an association agreement with the European Union or membership in the Russia-led Customs Union.
Despite intensive anti-European propaganda and political and economic pressure applied by Russia and its internal proxies, three pro-European parties captured the majority of seats (55 out of 101) and are set to form the next governing coalition by the end of the year. The outcome of this vote means that Moldova will continue on the path of further political and economic integration with the European Union.
The post-election euphoria is not likely to last, however. Ordinary Moldovans feel uneasy about the country’s future European prospects. Many are dissatisfied with the reforms implemented by various pro-European coalitions since 2009 and disappointed at the quality of the pro-European political elite whose time in power was marred by political scandals and allegations of corruption.
The elections have highlighted a widening gap between pro-Russian and pro-EU parts of the society. Particularly, the Russian-speaking minority has become the staunchest supporter of Moldova joining the Customs Union with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Even those who support Moldova’s European aspirations worry about the impact of Russian bans on Moldova’s agricultural, meat, and wine exports, as well as threats to curtail labor migration on an already feeble national economy.
These realities help explain why many voted for the political parties that favor either pro-Russian or non-aligned development of the country. Two of those parties, Communists and Socialists, have entered the next parliament with 46 seats altogether. This result gives them an opportunity to create serious opposition to the incoming coalition’s European integration reform agenda.
Both the EU and the United States have recognized the election outcome and called upon the pro-European political parties to form a new government as soon as possible to continue reform and ensure that Moldova can reap the full benefits of its European-integration policies.
Russia is expected to refrain from recognizing the election result, thereby trying to undermine the legitimacy of the next government. In Moscow’s view, Moldovan authorities committed gross violations prior to and during the election. Moscow will continue to use all political and economic levers to delay or derail Moldova’s approval of the association agreement with the EU.
Against this domestic and external background, the pro-European government will have to implement a bold reform agenda to modernize the country. Otherwise, it risks losing support of the already disillusioned electorate and squandering the goodwill and solidarity of its key international partners.
There is a shared understanding in the society that the pro-European parties have been given a last chance to make good on their promise to fight high-level corruption, make the judiciary independent, strengthen the rule of law, and de-monopolize the economy. The alternative to those steps is a full-scale collapse of public trust in the European project and another lost opportunity for Moldova to get out of the transition cycle toward a functioning democratic state. We shall see very soon whether Moldovan politicians understand the stakes