Moldova

3,559,000
Chisinau
Europe
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Moldova is yet another of those strategic countries which has been routinely invaded and occupied over the ages. It is still happening today, albeit more passively, between pro-Russian elements and pro-European Union elements.

In the middle ages and before, the country we know today as Moldova was occupied by the Romans, Byzantines, Goths, Huns, Mongols and many others. In 631 A.D. it became part of the 1st Bulgarian Empire until 1018 and again the 2nd Bulgarian Empire after 1180.

The first time there is a discernible state came when Vlach noblemen Dragoş of Bedeu created a state to act as a buffer zone against the Tatars for the Hungarian king around the 1300s. The state became independent of Hungary in 1359 and its greatest and most famous ruler, Stephen the Great (Stephen III of Moldavia) ruled from 1457 until 1504. After that a series of weak rulers led to eventual decline and the Ottomans took over in 1538, although even then the state had a large degree of autonomy.

The 18th Century was a period of turmoil for the area and bits of the present day country were occupied by the Ottomans, Russians and Austrians to greater or lesser degrees. The Russo-Turkish war of 1806 – 1812 saw the Russians take over about half of the territory of the former state and the Bessarabia governorate was created as part of the Treaty of Bucharest in 1812.

Things stabilised for a while but after the First World War and the Russian revolution of 1917 things changed once more. Seeing a weakened Russia, local activists created the Moldovan Democratic Republic on 15th December 1917 and independence was declared on 6th February 1918. But a flood of Russian deserters and a weak government meant that lawlessness was a problem. The Romanians filled the vacuum and by late 1918 they were in charge and would remain so for 22 years despite Russia claiming they were a foreign power occupying their territory.

The start of the Second World War saw further turmoil as Moldova became an area once more that was disputed between the major powers. By the end of the war the region was occupied by Soviet troops and Moldova fell under Soviet control as the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980s a new vacuum was created and various protests led eventually to the creation of the Popular Front of Moldova (PFM) in 1989 leading to the first democratic elections on 25th February 1990. It was a transitory period and the PFM won most of the seats in the 380 seat Supreme Soviet (even though the Communist Party of Moldova was still the only recognised party).

The Popular Front of Moldova government was not popular, especially in the more Russian dominated areas of the country, including Transnistria (an area to the east of the country having a long border with the Ukraine). On 2nd September 1990 the local authorities in the area declared an independent state and, as war broke out, the Russian 14th Army intervened. The civil unrest stopped and the Russians remained. Although Transnistria remains part of Moldova as part of a peace settlement signed on 21st July 1992 the Moldovan government does not exercise any control over the territory.

By May 1991 the Republic of Moldova was formed as Russia went through its own transition and on 27th August 1991 Moldova declared independence from the Soviet Union.

The first elections to a non-Soviet parliament were held on 27th February 1994 and the Agrarian Party of Moldova (PAM) won 56 of the 104 seats in the new parliament. They were to rule until 1998 when the communists came back strongly in the form of the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM).

In the 1998 election the PCRM took 40 of the 101 seats but were prevented from taking power by the centre-right Alliance for Democracy and Reforms, an alliance of the Democratic Convention of Moldova (26 seats), For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova (24 seats) and the Party of Democratic Forces (11 seats).

Where they had failed in 1998, the PCRM won an amazing victory in 2001 by taking 71 of the 101 seats in the Moldovan parliament and in April of that year Vladimir Voronin, a former First Secretary of the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM), was elected President by the parliament.

In 2005 the PCRM won again but with a dramatically reduced majority, taking 56 seats whilst the three party Democratic Moldova Electoral Bloc (Our Moldova Alliance, Democratic Party of Moldova and Social Liberal Party) came second with 34 seats.

The year 2009 saw two general elections; in the April and the July. In the April election the PCRM won 60 of the 101 seats in parliament but a slow count raised suspicions. On 7th April a major protest ended as a riot and the parliament was attacked and set on fire. A subsequent recount did not find any major errors and the results of the April general election were confirmed. However, the first duty of a new parliament is to elect the president. The Communist Party nominated former Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanîi as their presidential candidate but they failed to gain the required 61 votes and President Vladimir Voronin (he was not eligible to stand again) was forced to call a fresh general election.

The July 2009 election saw the PCRM reduced to 48 seats and a four party alliance, the Alliance for European Integration made up of the pro-European and centre-right Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM), the centre-right and pro-European Liberal Party (PL), the centre-left and pro-European Democratic Party (PDM), and the centrist and pro-European Our Moldova Alliance went on to form a coalition government. Mihai Ghimpu of the Liberal Party was elected President of Moldova in September 2009.

The new government wanted to change the constitution to make the election of the president an election by popular vote. A referendum was held on 5th September 2010 but the 30.29% turnout was insufficient and the referendum failed. The constitutional court then ruled that fresh elections must be held and on 28th November 2010 the PCRM emerged as the largest party once more with 42 of 101 seats. Again they were stopped by the Alliance for European Integration (now minus the Our Moldova Alliance who failed to win any seats). The new government had 59 seats in the new parliament but personalities and rivalries were to get in the way between the three parties and the next few years would lead to further instability within the pro-European camp.

In 2014 the left-wing and Eurosceptic Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM), who had been around since 1997 but had supported the PCRM in previous elections, emerged as the largest party with 25 seats whilst the PCRM was reduced to 21 seats. The Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM) came second with 23 seats, the Democratic Party took (PDM) took 19 seats and the Liberal Party (PL) won 13 seats and the three parties formed a government led by PLDM leader and Prime Minister since 2013, Iurie Leancă.

Leancă lasted until February 2015 when he was replaced by Chiril Gaburici. Gaburici resigned on 22nd June 2015, over questions relating to falsifying school certificates and a much larger developing story about corruption, and was succeeded in an acting capacity by Natalia Gherman. Valeriu Streleț took over as Prime Minister on 30th July 2015 but he only lasted until the October.

By this point the government had gone through a sustained period of instability after it was discovered that $1 billion had been fraudulently siphoned from the Banca de Economii (Savings Bank, BEM). Moldova’s economy produces about $8 billion a year so the scandal was a major embarrassment to the government and a serious threat to the economy. A civil movement called Dignity and Truth was established in February 2015 and by September 2015 they had 100,000 people on the streets protesting against government corruption.

Their indignation and sheer numbers helped to destabilise one prime minister after another whilst creating serious tensions within the governing parties. Gheorghe Brega was brought in as another interim prime minister and he in turn was replaced by Pavel Filip in January 2016. Demonstrations continue but, for now, the situation looks to have stabilised.

The President is elected by Parliament for a four year term.

The unicameral Parliament has 101 members elected to serve four year terms.

The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Moldova at joint 123rd out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 30 (where 100 is least corrupt).