Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Disputed Identity as Unescapable Pluralism. Moldova's Ambiguous Transition

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Disputed Identity as Unescapable Pluralism. Moldova's Ambiguous Transition

Article excerpt

Abstract: Romania's accession to the European Union in 2007 provided Europe with an odd new neighbor. The small country of Moldova (4.3 millions inhabitants, with only two thirds de facto residing there) was pictured by The Economist in 1995 as "a perfect lab for the enacting of reforms" and a "model" for the right approach to reforms. Since its independence in 1991, this former Soviet republic with a Romanian-speaking majority embarked on establishing a democratic system of government based on fundamental rights and freedoms. It adopted a Constitution in 1994, which created a semi-parliamentary political system, with a President directly elected by voters. Moldova adopted all the UN conventions she was required to; unlike in the Baltic States, its minorities were granted citizenship and Russian was practically given the status of a second official language. In 1994, the country held its first free and fair popular elections; in 1998, 2001 and 2005 free elections were again held. In 2000, the Constitution was revised and Moldova again gave satisfaction to Western advisors, by giving up direct elections for President so turning its back completely to semi-presidentialism. The effects were immediate: the Parliament elected the first Communist President since the fall of Communism.

Keywords: transition, demonstration effect, Moldova, communism, Transnistria, Russia


Analyzing 'what went wrong', a 2000 UN report identified as primary cause that 'Reform implementation was influenced by the electoral cycles' and also that '...both legislative and executive slowed down their activity during elections ... Three electoral campaigns were run once in four years, in the framework of an unconsolidated state and an economy plagued by risks'. In other words, had it not been for Moldova's democratic process the country would have recorded steadier progress. But these 'problems' are common to all East European success stories, as the countries which recorded the greatest economic progress are also those which advanced further on the democratic path, and these advances, both in Central and SEE Europe were always contentious. Compared with Poland's, Moldova's politics, with elections only once in four years, was relatively dull.

It is perhaps due to the difficulty of explaining Moldova's exceptionality that the country is usually left out, together with Albania, with whom it shares the title of the poorest European country, when discussing the democratization of Eastern Europe. Moldova has slowly turned into an embarrassment to Western donors. Since declaring independence in 1991, Moldova has been one of the most pluralistic post-Soviet states. Still, she struggles with state consolidation, a weak economy, identity problems and a massive desertion by nearly all its qualified workforce. Writing in 2003, International Crisis Group advanced optimistically that: 'The conflict in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova is not as charged with ethnic hatred and ancient grievances as other conflicts in the OSCE area and it is more conducive to a sustainable settlement."1 Four years later we are as far as ever from having solved the Transnistrian conflict. Quite to the contrary, in 2006 Transnistria organized a successful referendum on its independence.

Explaining why Moldova fares so bad after behaving relatively well does not stumble from want of justifications. As we shall show, structural constraints to an independent, prosperous and democratic Republic of Moldova are plenty. We confront too many explanations, not too few. This paper will review them briefly, discussing the project's hypotheses underlined by Valerie Bunce as a conclusion of the broader discussion.

Brief assessment of Moldova's democracy

How democratic is Moldova? Its elections have been repeatedly considered free and fair by OSCE international observers, except for the breakaway region of Transnistria. …

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