Moldova is the latest country in Europe to collapse into crisis after a contested election. Some 15.000 people, communicating through web-sites like ‘Twitter’, took to the street to protest against unfair elections taking control of the Parliament and Presidential Palace. The protests follow on from Georgia’s Rose revolution in 2004, Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2005, and the killing of ten protestors against election fraud in Armenia in March 2008.
The EU is the only political actor with the credibility to find a political solution to the current crisis. It is Moldova’s most important external partner: over half of Moldova’s trade is with the EU, a large number Moldovans work in the EU, and over 70% of the population support European integration. Javier Solana – together with the Czech and incoming Swedish Presidencies - must immediately travel to Chisinau to launch a mediation mission.
Moldova held parliamentary elections on 5th April. The Communist president Voronin whose second term is about to end is bound by the Constitution to stand down. But in the latest election, his ruling Communist party is reported to have obtained 50% of the vote, which would give it 61 out of 101 members of parliament. This would allow the party to consolidate its control of the political system by electing the president, the speaker and the prime-minister. Commentators claim that Vladimir Voronin will try to remain a de facto head a state by taking the position of speaker of parliament.
The election campaign was full of abuses, including the harassment of opposition parties and media by the police and the office of the prosecutor general. However, the election day itself seems to have taken place without major irregularities. Unlike in Russia or Belarus all the opposition parties were allowed to vote, and the Central Electoral Commission was relatively impartial.
As a result of the protests, the government cut internet access, opposition websites were suspended, the mobile telephony network in the centre was taken off the air, and the national public TV showed ignored the protests most of the day. Russia is currently trying to portray the crisis as a coup d’etat staged by Western and Romanian intelligence services, and is offering the Communist government a supporting hand.
A Six Point Plan
The EU should immediately send a high-level political mediation team led by Javier Solana and the Czech and incoming Swedish Presidencies. They should try to forge a deal between government and opposition which could include the following elements:
An agreement not to use violence by all sides. A full recount of the votes under the supervision of EU observers. The deployment of an EU rule of law mission to Moldova with a mission to reform the Ministry of Interior and the Prosecutor General Office. These two institutions have played a prominent role in pre-electoral abuses and harassment of the opposition and the media,replacement of the minister of interior and prosecutor general who are accused of pre-electoral abuses and the harassment of the opposition and the media. The new appointees should be appointed based on a consensus between the government and opposition.
A series of reforms to liberalise the media by ensuring equal access to the public TV Moldova 1 by the opposition and government; regular talk-shows with government and opposition leaders; extension of the broadcasting licences of existing independent media, particularly PRO TV (the only TV channel independent from the government).
A renewed Government-Opposition commitment to European integration. The Government should invite a High-level EU advisory group to advise on necessary reforms of key state institutions such as the presidency, the government and key ministries.