Interesting times in Moldova.

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moldova.jpgYesterday's election appears to have turfed out Moldova's ruling Communists, perhaps disproving the view that the country has a "managed democracy" along Belarusian lines, or indeed Russian or Iranian lines. 

As with Belarus, the end of the Soviet Union left Moldova poor and dependent on the Russians, a situation aggravated by rapid "market reforms" instituted in the early 1990s.

These proved so unpopular that the Communists came back in 1997, although they've been more or less new-style, with a record of continued privatisation and alleged corruption. 

There are plenty of other problems, too. The country has been a major source of trafficked women for Western Europe and elsewhere. Grimly, if you type Moldova into Google, the top suggestion from autocomplete is "Moldova girls".

Human rights violations have been rife, especially after the post-election riots earlier this year. In addition to torture and other mistreatment, one person died in disputed circumstances. That'd never happen here. A new administration will also want to make some progress about the long-running dispute over the Transdniestra, something my former boss has taken a close interest in

Curiously, the opposition, presumably soon to be the government, is made up of four parties, with the three larger groups almost evenly sized. They are the Liberal Democratic Party (16.6%), the Liberal Party (14.4%) and the Democratic Party (12.5%). I guess Western-leaning Moldovans want both Liberalism and Democracy, but if pressed, they prefer the Liberalism.

More seriously, even the fourth opposition party, Our Moldova Alliance, is large enough to keep the Communists in power if they did a deal. Wikipedia explains their heritage here. They're an amalgamation of four other parties, one of which was confusingly also called the Liberal Party, which was itself a merger between three parties, one of which in turn derived from yet another merger between two parties.

With this convoluted family tree, stability looks like it'll be hard to achieve, but even though Moldova may be a faraway country about which we know little, it borders the EU and its people deserve better.


Thanks for this James - a nice summary.

Bizarrely, about half of the historical nation of Maldova is in Romania, and I found myself in that part a few years ago. The combination of impoverished peasantry and massive rusting Soviet arms factories was the most stark in all the parts of Romania we visited. The presence of armed soldiers at all major junctions matched only (in my very limited experience) by Palestine. We were told that this was all much more extreme in the country itself. It is one of those small corners of the world everyone seems to forget until something flares up, so it's good to have a reminder.

If I remember right (my brief search doesn't yield a reference) when he visited Edinburgh, Joseph Stiglitz talked in some depth about it having it's economy destroyed by being forced to liberalise its money markets by the IMF.


Adam, you are right, half of Moldova (and all of its former capital cities) lies in Romania. Moldovans (from Romania and from the Republic of Moldova) speak Romanian.

When did you go to Moldova/Romania? I am Romanian and I am a bit surprised about your story about armed soldiers at all major junctions. Was it in the early '90s, after the events of 1989? Maybe some high official was visiting the area (although in that case they would have policemen and not soldiers at the junctions) or maybe there was some anti-terrorist drill or something. I personally saw more automatic weapons on the streets of Washington and London than in Romania. Hhhmmm
I was in the country of Moldova and yes, there are a lot of troops in the main squares etc..

You are right about the impoverished peasantry, especially in the region of Moldova, even tough now they are probably working in Italy or Spain. The rusting factories you saw in Romania are not Soviet arms factories; most of them are just regular Romanian factories from the Communist era that went bankrupt after 1989.

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