EU Freezes Aid For Moldova, Citing Nullification Of Chisinau's Mayoral Election

BRUSSELS – European lawmakers have expressed serious concern over the “further deterioration” of democratic standards in Moldova, after local courts invalidated the results of the mayoral election in the capital, Chisinau.

“The decision of the courts, which already have been many times cited as politically influenced and driven, is an example of state capture and a very deep crisis of institutions in Moldova,” the European Parliament said in a resolution passed on July 5 by a vote of 343-35, with 160 abstentions.

The move comes a day after the European Union decided to freeze the first tranche of a 100 million euro macrofinancial aid package for Moldova, saying the recent voiding of the Chisinau election violates key preconditions for getting the assistance: respecting democracy and the rule of law.

The EU and the United States support Moldova's pro-Western government but have strongly criticized the court decisions nullifying the election of Andrei Nastase, an antigraft campaigner and politician.

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Nastase took 52.5 percent of the vote in the June 3 runoff election, defeating Socialist Party candidate Ion Ceban, who favors closer relations with Russia.

But Moldovan courts in three successive decisions ruled that both candidates had used social media to call on voters to turn out on election day, and said that amounted to illegal campaigning.

The court decisions prompted tens of thousands of people to take to the streets in protest.

The European legislators called on Moldovan authorities to respect the will of voters and to reform the judiciary system in order to prevent the situation from escalating further.

They also reiterated “concerns about the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a narrow group of people, deterioration of the rule of law, of democratic standards, and of respect for human rights.”

The lawmakers also cited “the excessive politicization of state institutions, systemic corruption, insufficient investigation of the 2014 banking fraud, and limited media pluralism.”