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Brussels Hits Moldova Where It Hurts

Pressure grows for a re-run of disputed Chisinau mayoral election as rumors fly about oligarchs pulling the strings.

9 July 2018

The European Union is piling the pressure on Moldova to intervene into a court decision voiding the outcome of an important election.

 

Last week, the EU said it had frozen a 100 million euro ($118 million) aid package over dissatisfaction with “recent political events in Moldova and, in particular, the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice of 25 June on the invalidation of election results in Chisinau," Reuters reports.

 

The following day, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to suspend union aid to Moldova until the authorities recognize the result of the Chisinau election and conduct transparent fraud investigations.

 

Lawmakers cited the precedent of an aid freeze in 2015 during the turmoil over the disappearance of about $1 billion from Moldovan banks, Balkan Insight writes.

 

Moldova is keen for more financial aid to prop up its economy, weakened by the constant outflow of young workers seeking better opportunities abroad.

 

Anti-corruption campaigner Andrei Nastase won the most votes in the 3 June mayoral runoff election in the capital, beating the candidate of the Moscow-friendly Socialist Party. A lower court, however, voided the result because both candidates used social media to address voters after the official end of campaigning. The decision by the Supreme Court to uphold that ruling cannot be appealed.

 

The pro-Western Nastase has accused the country’s most powerful oligarch, Vladimir Plahotniuc, of arranging the court ruling, Reuters says. Plahotniuc leads the ruling Democratic Party, which criticized the European Parliament resolution, saying it will erode Moldovans’ confidence in the EU.

 

Nastase himself is not immune to the kind of conspiratorial rumors that circulate around many Moldovan politicians. Critics are suspicious of his ties with two tycoons, Victor Topa and the unrelated Viorel Topa, who are now living in Germany. They were sentenced to long prison terms in separate trials on charges of embezzlement and blackmail, which they claim were orchestrated by Plahotniuc, RFE/RL writes.

 

Nastase has rejected accusations that the two Topas are financial backers of the PPDA, the political party he formed in 2015.

 

In an e-mail to RFE/RL, Nastase said that if the Moldovan authorities could prove that the two "have financed the PPDA with one nickel, I will resign and withdraw from public life."

 

 

  • Nastase’s mayoral race won the support of another pro-Western opposition figure, Maia Sandu, in what was probably a tit-for-tat favor after Nastase backed her candidacy in the 2016 presidential election, RFE/RL says. Sandu lost to Socialist Igor Dodon in a runoff.

 

  • Not all is dark on Moldova’s financial horizon: The World Bank has approved funding estimated at $30 million after the government showed progress in implementing reforms in the areas of managing public finances and improving the business climate, public broadcaster TRM reports.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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