Freedom in the World 2000 - 2001


In the year 2000, Moldova ended direct elections of the president and became a parliamentary democracy.  In doing so, it ended a constitutional crisis that had set parliament and President Petru Lucinschi against each other since the previous year.  In late December, however, parliament failed to elect a president according to a revised electoral code, and President Lucinschi called for the body’s dissolution.  Early parliamentary elections are scheduled for February 2001.  Lucinschi will perform his duties until a new parliament elects a new president.  Despite ongoing diplomatic efforts in 2000, no progress was made in negotiating a settlement on the political status of the self-declared Dnestr Moldovan Republic (Transnistria).

In 1991, the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic declared independence and made Mircea Snegur, the chairman of the Communist supreme soviet, the first president of a democratic Republic of Moldova.  In 1994, Snegur’s centrist Agrarian Democratic Party (ADP) won a majority of seats in the country’s first free and fair popular election. Petru Lucinschi, also a former Communist, defeated Snegur in 1996. The Communist Party won a plurality of votes in 1998 parliamentary elections, but three centrist parties united to form a new majority.  Moldova has undertaken important economic reforms, replaced the Soviet-era constitution, and joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace.  The country’s successes have been tempered, however, by an extremely low standard of living and by the situation in Transnistria.

When Moldova became a parliamentary democracy in 2000, President Lucinschi refused to participate in the December balloting by parliament.  The Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) nominated party leader Vladimir Voronin as its candidate, while a coalition of center-right parties and independent members of parliament nominated Pavel Barbalat, who heads Moldova’s constitutional court.  The constitutional court forced parliament to repeat its first vote when it found that Communist Party leaders had violated secret balloting rules and pressured party members to choose Voronin.  Parliament voted two more times but still failed to elect a president in the first round.

When Barbalat’s supporters boycotted a new round of voting on December 21, President Lucinschi moved to dissolve parliament.  The constitutional court supported Lucinschi on the grounds that the boycott violated election law, which states that a new election must take place 15 days after the last vote.  Lucinschi will officially dissolve parliament in January 2001, and early elections will take place in February.  Lucinschi, who urged centrist forces to form a bloc, will stay in power until a new parliament elects a new president.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

Moldova is a parliamentary democracy in which citizens age 18 and older can change their government under a system of universal, equal, and direct suffrage.  Voters elect members of parliament by proportional representation to four-year terms in the unicameral parliament.  Parliament, in turn, elects the prime minister.  In 2000, Moldova ended direct elections of the president and increased the powers of the government and the prime minister. President Lucinschi vigorously opposed the plan but ultimately acquiesced.  The year ended in crisis, though, when parliament failed to elect a president according to the new election rules. 

Post-Soviet elections in Moldova have been free and fair.  The self-declared government in Transnistria, however, severely limits the ability of voters in that region to participate in Moldovan elections.  The last parliamentary elections took place in 1998.  Fifteen parties competed in the election, but only four met the four percent threshold for representation.  The PCM won a plurality of 40 seats in the 101-seat chamber.  A coalition of the Democratic Convention of Moldova  (CDM), the Party of Democratic Forces (PFD), and the Bloc for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova (PMDP) formed a new majority with 26, 11, and 24 seats, respectively.

The constitution guarantees freedom of expression and access to public information.  Organizations like Reporters Sans Frontieres have reported some cases of intimidation and attacks on journalists who write about corruption or criticize public officials.  In 2000, Moldovan courts issued two important rulings that affect the media.  First, the constitutional court upheld a controversial civil code provision that imposes stiff fines and demands speedy retractions from journalists found guilty of libel.  More than 800 libel suits have been filed in Moldova since 1991.  Second, an appeals court upheld an order to revoke the licenses of eight radio and television stations that air considerable Russian-language programming. The court found the stations in violation of a legal requirement that 65 percent of their broadcasts be in Romanian. Amid sharp criticism of the court’s decision, parliament amended the law so that it only applies to programs produced domestically.  Also in 2000, parliament amended the electoral code so that foreign-owned media may not carry election advertisements.

Moldova’s constitution guarantees religious freedom. By law, religious groups must register with the state, but the Bessarabian Orthodox Church, which broke with the Moldovan Orthodox Church in 1992, has been denied registration several times.  In February 2000, the government again refused to register the church, and resolution of the conflict is pending before the European Court for Human Rights.  Religious education became mandatory in primary schools in 2000, and instruction is scheduled to begin in 2001.  In November, the Moldovan Orthodox Church threatened to excommunicate any member of parliament who supported a bill legalizing abortion. 

Moldovan citizens may strike, petition the government, and participate freely in social organizations, political parties, and trade unions.  Private organizations must register with the state, and demonstrations require permits from local authorities.  Moldovan law allows collective bargaining but prohibits strikes by government employees and essential workers.  In 2000, students in Chisinau boycotted classes when the city tried to end their public transportation benefits, farmers rallied in favor of lower taxes on their products, and retirees picketed to demand higher pensions.  Also in 2000, parliament defined procedures for amending the constitution, including a provision for citizens to propose amendments.

Moldova’s constitution calls for an independent judiciary.  It also guarantees equality before the law and presumption of innocence.   There is evidence that some prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement officials accept bribes.  The investigation into the alleged illegal sale of material evidence by Nicolae Alexei, the head of the Interior Ministry’s Department Against Organized Crime and Corruption, continued in 2000.  The government has suspended Alexei, who claims the charges are politically motivated, until the case is resolved.

The constitution preserves a variety of personal freedoms and entitlements such as the rights to choose one’s residence, move and travel freely, and have access to education.  It also calls for a market economy rooted in “fair competition.”  In 2000, the government approved plans to privatize the wine and tobacco industries and completed the privatization of 1.5 million hectares of agricultural land.  Despite accomplishments like these, Moldova remains one of the most impoverished countries in the region.

2001 Scores


Partly Free

Freedom Rating

(1 = best, 7 = worst)

Civil Liberties

(1 = best, 7 = worst)

Political Rights

(1 = best, 7 = worst)