Into Little Pieces: What Happens with Democracy in Moldova

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The word “democracy” in Moldova has long been said with irony. The difference between the official reports of the authorities on its development and the real state of affairs has become a target for bitter jokes and a reason for frustration. Meanwhile, for the citizens of the country it’s no fun. Judging by the dynamics of such development indicators as freedom of elections, pluralism of opinions, respect for civil liberties and the level of political culture, the situation is getting worse from year to year.

Steady decline

According to the Democracy Index, the world rating of the democracy development existing for 15 years already, Moldova is steadily going downhill. So, according to the results of 2018, the country has again slipped down to the 79th line of the rating. Moldova retained the inglorious status of a state with a “hybrid regime” and even strengthened in this rank thanks to the invalidation of election results of the Chisinau mayor. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (compiler of the Democracy Index), elections in the country are held with violations and cannot be recognized as free and fair. At the same time, the authors believe that the authorities are “putting pressure on” the opposition, the law and civil society are weak, and corruption is flourishing. A new portion of criticism from Western human rights defenders is supposed to be a new nail in the coffin of Moldova’s past glory as a “showcase” of the Eastern Partnership. In the same Democracy Index, the country inexorably shifts to the “authoritarian” part of the list, next, for example, to Tajikistan, Belarus and Russia. This state of affairs captured attention of Brussels that overreacted to the situation and actually ostracized the current authorities of the Republic of Moldova. The electoral processes in 2019 will certainly trigger the country to a further decline in the ratings of democracy, because it is impossible to hope for fair elections. So, the local human rights association Promo-LEX only during a month (from December 10 last year to January 8 this year) revealed a number of violations and inconsistencies associated with the use of administrative resources during campaigning, with concealment of financial statements and a few million undeclared expenses for public events.

The overall condition is critical but stable

Despite being busy with political clubbish affairs, the Moldovan establishment keeps an eye on external financial assistance to support the “democratic processes” in Moldova. The theft of a billion, no evident progress of reforms and the deterioration of the situation in the area of ​​human rights protection have turned the once heavy cash flows into a little stream. Not wanting to lose face and financial donors completely, in 2018 Chisinau once again started a deceptive maneuver. The Parliament of the Republic of Moldova adopted the National Action Plan on Human Rights for 2018-2022. The document was drawn up taking into account the recommendations of international institutions, including the UN Human Rights Council. However, it is believed that this plan will be nothing more than a declaration of intent, which should throw dust in the eyes of Western partners. Suffice it to recall that similar National Human Rights Plans were adopted in Moldova both for 2004–2008 and for 2011–2014, and things are still where they started. The citizens of the Republic of Moldova themselves feel this like nobody else. Nearly 95% of citizens believe that human rights are violated in the country, for example, the right to elect and be elected and access to justice. Office of the People’s Advocate presented such data on the International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2018. A similar study was conducted two years ago with about the same results. It may be needless to say about such criteria as the situation of women, the elderly and children. Women, according to Gender Pulse, receive salaries lower than men, even in traditionally “female” spheres, and child mortality in Moldova is 3 times higher than the overall EU figures. Today it is already difficult to believe that in 2011-2013 Moldova received $ 2.6 billion for the development of road infrastructure, health, education, human rights and justice reform only within the framework of the program “Revive Moldova”, which for the most part went out the window. Moldovan citizens, not trusting the Moldovan judicial system too much, try to defend their rights in foreign institutions like the European Court of Human Rights. A large part of their complaints relate to issues of ill-treatment and torture, ineffective investigation and lack of remedies. Only in 2018, the ECHR convicted Moldova 33 times. But, as it turned out late last year, despite the millions of euros spent on compensation, Moldova is one of the countries that are worst to abide by the ECHR’s decisions. The Moldovan government has fulfilled only half verdicts – 205 of 405. The beautiful western poster “Moldova is a success story” was a flash of a supernova when Moldova shone in the sky of the Eastern Partnership. Its gradually fading light is the ghost of Moldovan democracy, which seems to still exist on paper, but in fact is rapidly disappearing. At first sight, there are elections, human rights and the rule of law in Moldova, but, in fact, this is only a decorative superstructure. Elections here are fiction, human rights are a way to make money, the law is a tool to achieve personal goals, and democracy as a whole is a screen that covers narrow corporate interests of individuals.