European Commission Says Will 'Closely Monitor' Moldova’s New Electoral Law

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission has warned that it will "closely monitor" the implementation of Moldova’s controversial new electoral law.

EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Christos Stylianides told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on October 3 that suggestions made by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission of legal experts and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe "have not been addressed by the new electoral law."

The bill introducing a mixed electoral system was approved by lawmakers and signed into law by President Igor Dodon in July despite mass protests in Chisinau and criticism from the EU and the United States.

The new legislation provides for half of the lawmakers to be elected on party lists and another half in individual constituencies.

"The effect of this law on multiparty democracy will depend on how it is implemented," said Stylianides, who was speaking on behalf of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Critics say the electoral changes favor Moldova's two largest political parties -- the ruling pro-Western Democratic Party and the opposition pro-Russia Socialists. They say the Democratic Party initiated the changes in an effort to have a better result in 2018 parliamentary elections amid declining popularity.

However, supporters of the new legislation say the changes will make politicians more accountable.

Stylianides also reiterated the need for Moldova to respect human rights and the rule of law in order to get the first tranche of a 100-million-euro ($118 million) microfinancial-aid package in December.

The assistance, which consists of a loan of 60 million euros ($71 million) and a grant of 40 million euros ($47 million), is aimed at helping Moldova meet its short-term financing needs. It is meant to complement an International Monetary Fund (IMF) program that was approved in November 2016.

The financial-aid package was delayed in May after several political groups in the European Parliament voiced concerns about Moldova’s media situation, the rule of law, and recent changes to the country’s electoral law.

Moldova has had three governments since 2015, after the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system sent the country into a political and economic crisis.