Overall situation and state of civil society
Recent history in Moldova has been marked by growing political populism and a sharp divide between pro-European and pro-Russian camps, both amongst ordinary people and within political and business circles. This divide was starkly exposed in 2018, when the invalidation of mayoral elections in Chișinău sparked large protests against the country’s traditional oligarchs.
Parliamentary elections in February 2019 resulted in a relatively uniform distribution of votes between the ruling Democratic Party, the pro-Russian Socialist Party and the pro-European Block ACUM. Power-sharing negotiations between the parties were only concluded in June 2019, and resulted in an uneasy coalition between the Socialists and the ACUM Block which aimed to dismantle the oligarchic regime instituted by the Democratic Party and its leader Vladimir Plahotniuc. The old Government led by the Democratic Party refused to recognise the new Government . Their decision was supported by the Constitutional Court which dissolved the newly-elected Parliament. The crisis was ultimately resolved when the former Government resigned and the Constitutional Court revised its decisions, which were harshly criticized by the Venice Commission. The coalition between Socialists and ACUM Block disintegrated at the end of 2019. In 2020, the two sides eventually confronted in the presidential election, which opposed the pro-Russian president Igor Dodon and the pro-European candidate Maia Sandu. 2020 was deeply marked by the COVID-19 pandemics, which produced a change of paradigm in most areas. The CSO environment was seriously affected by the pandemics and the countermeasures used by public authorities in their attempt to limit the spread of the virus. The lockdown and the restrictions faced CSOs with operational difficulties, activities were suspended or cancelled, and additional costs arose for protection measures or access to beneficiaries. However, most CSOs have adapted quickly to the change, migrated many activities to online and have continued to operate at an almost normal pace.
During the past decades, social and economic difficulties have led to a steady outflow of Moldovans, with an estimated 25% of the population working abroad. This has seriously impacted the demographics and economy of the country, which is the poorest in Europe according to budget revenues per capita.
Moldova also faces a constant security threat from the frozen conflict in the Transnistrian region and struggles with a weak justice system, which has been used inter alia for legitimizing more than 20 billion USD from the Russian Laundromat. While corruption is a major topic in public debates following the failed justice reform undertaken a few years ago, the Moldova was often referred to as a captured state, with weak democratic institutions controlled by interest groups which converge to a single point of power.
The country’s primary media outlets are owned by a handful of media conglomerates affiliated and controlled by individuals with close links to political parties. In the World Press Index, Moldova has lost 15 positions since 2016 and ranked 91st out of 180 countries in 2020.
There are around 110,000 registered CSOs, though probably less than half of them are active. Nevertheless, CSOs are important contributors to the country’s development, with consistent inputs in developing democratic institutions, supporting human rights and building the foundation for a progressive social and legal framework.
Most CSOs are funded by grants, and are strongly dependent on foreign financial support. Alternative sources of income, such as state funded grants, the percentage tax designation mechanism, social entrepreneurship, donations or public procurements are mostly emerging and account only for a small share of CSO operating resources.