Thousands of people protested against the Moldovan government in the capital city Chisinau on Monday, while pro-Russian President Igor Dodon and government officials laid flowers at the monument of Stephen the Great to celebrate the 27th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Moldova.
Protesters had originally gathered in the area of the monument, before being were moved on by police who had erected an iron fence in the centre of Chisinau behind which were stood hundreds of officers, some of them armed with automatic machines.
The demonstrators called for the resignation of the cabinet, the investigation of the disappearance of a billion dollars from the banking system and the validation of elections for the Chisinau City Hall.
Demonstrations such as these have been frequent in the post-independence period, which has been marked by continuous internal turmoil, poverty and mass migration, as well as a war that resulted in the loss of Transnistria region of its territory.
The Republic of Moldova proclaimed its independence from the USSR in 1991, in the broad context of similar movements in practically all the member states of the former Soviet Union.
Moldova’s independence was followed almost immediately by a prolonged period of unrest. In the first year after the proclamation of independence, separatist movements began in the east and south of the country, and in 1992 in Transnistria, a region that is still independent of the Republic of Moldova and which is supported by Moscow, a bloody took place.
This has also been a period of acute economic crises, especially in 1998, of changes in elites and political leadership, internal political turmoil, and large-scale protests.
In 2009 Chisinau announced that its main objective was to join the European Union and since then it has achieved a number of important successes in this respect, namely the abolition of the visa regime and the signing of the free trade agreement with EU Member States.
However, relations with Brussels have cooled, after the theft of at least one billion dollars from the banking system in 2014, and the stalling of many important reforms, including a much needed overhaul of the justice system.
Moreover in 2016, pro-Russian President Igor Dodon came to power, further straining relations with the EU.
Also, Brussels, along with Washington,has expressed concern about plans to abandon the old electoral model based on party lists in favour of a mixed system.
However, the dissatisfaction of the foreign partners reached a climax after the elections for mayor of Chisinau earlier this year. The election was won by the pro-Western leader of the Dignity and Truth Platform, Andrei Nastase, only to be annulled by the courts on the grounds that candidates had broken the law by using social media to rally supporters to cast their vote on election day, after the end of the campaigning deadline.
The court’s decision was described as ‘nontransparent’ and a threat to democracy by the US government “The court’s unusual and unwarranted decision thwarts the electoral will of the Moldovan people and damages respect for the rule of law and democratic principles in Moldova,” said the State Department following the ruling.