Why this story matters:
Thousands of Moldovans protested for several days last week after a Chișinău court ruled to invalidate the mayoral elections won on June 3 by the pro-European candidate, Andrei Năstase.
Năstase, backed by the European People’s Party and the Romanian Liberals, won 52.57% of the votes against pro-Russian Socialist candidate Ion Ceban (47.43%). Ceban is backed by the country’s president, Igor Dodon.
Ceban then filed a lawsuit against Năstase, accusing him of unlawful “agitation” on election day and of getting help from unnamed “foreign forces”. The result of the lawsuit left both politicians baffled: the court decided to invalidate the elections because, according to the published opinion, both Năstase and Ceban were guilty of “electoral agitation” on election day, when the law bans them from campaigning.
By "electoral agitation", the judge referred to the fact that the two politicians had asked people to show up at the polls on social media, which illegally swayed the results, in the opinion of the court.
Moldova’s Supreme Court on June 25 backed the local court ruling, leading Moldovans to protest and question whether they can trust their justice system -- which was deemed by the European Commission to be one of the most corrupt and politically influenced on the continent.
Details from the story:
- Andrei Năstase, candidate for the Pro-European Dignity and Truth Platform PPDA, won the second run-off election for the mayoralty on June 3, beating the candidate of the pro-Russian Socialist Party, Ion Ceban.
- However, on June 19, the Chișinău court invalidated not only Năstase’s victory but the entire election.
- The Appeals Court upheld the ruling.
- Năstase has called the decision illegal and has blamed the Democratic party-led government for influencing the court.
- With the elections invalidated, the ruling party will still control the City Hall through its political ally, the European People’s Party of Moldova -- which is not affiliated with the European faction.
- The European People's Party of Moldova is set to appoint an interim administration.
- Chișinău residents have taken to the streets every night in support of Năstase and demand that their votes be recognized.
- Prime Minister Pavel Filip has denied interfering in the court ruling, saying the ruling Democratic Party had nothing to gain from it.
- “For Moldova, as a state, these rulings bring nothing good. [...] The debate is now around the question whether Moldova will still remain a democracy!” Chișinău-based analyst Ion Tabarta explained.
- During the past ten years, since Moldovans ousted Communist Vladimir Voronin, the small country has been split by geopolitics between pro-EU factions and pro-Russian factions. However, what seems to unite all sides is the perception that endemic corruption inevitably gets in the way of democracy.