Moldova: protests against the oligarchic regime

In the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, the opposition stormed parliament. The protesters broke into the building and demanded an urgent meeting with the deputies. Their leaders announced the launch of an indefinite protest. The reason for such drastic action was the emergency session of Parliament, which had to approve Prime Minister Pavel Filip – protégé of oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc  - and vote for his government.

Oligarchic squabble

Moldova is a classic example of the post-Soviet failed state. One of Europe's poorest countries was broken by the contradictions between oligarchic groups. In the last few years, starting in 2009, the country was ruled by an alliance of the group of businessman - Vladimir Plahotniuc (Democratic Party) and Prime Minister Vlad Filat (Liberal Democratic Party), with the support of the Liberal Party. The union was politically organized as the "Alliance for European Integration". In October 2015, the union fell apart. Against the backdrop of mass protests against the corrupt regime, Plahotniuc decided to sacrifice his partner. Filat was arrested on corruption charges. A new political crisis emerged. Plakhotniuc tried to form a government controlled by himself, having brought across deputies from all parties and thus securing a parliamentary majority.

The contours of confrontation

At the beginning of the confrontation, several centers became apparent - Plahotniuc, who managed to win the support of the majority of MPs and suggested himself and then a puppet prime minister, and President Nicolae Timofti, a protégé of Filat, who strongly opposed the initiatives of Plahotniuc. The oppositions parties "Our Party", "Socialist Party", and the liberal movement "Dignity and Truth" oppose both oligarchic groups.

As of September 2015, the Socialists, "Our Party" and "Dignity and Truth" organize mass protests. Their supporters have been demonstrating outside parliament and to the government demanding early elections. They are supported by a large part of the population dissatisfied with the consequences of oligarchic regimes, massive corruption, the impoverishment of the population, and the destruction of national statehood.

The geopolitical significance of Moldova

From a geopolitical perspective, Moldova is an important space that connects the East European Plain to the Balkans. Therefore, Russia needs to control Moldova as the Balkans is traditionally viewed as a sphere of interest. In turn, Atlanticist powers are interested in preventing Russia from establishing control of the territory, formerly part of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire. The escalation of tension in Moldova could have a negative impact on the Transnistrian conflict, frozen since 1992. This would be against interests of Russia, because Transnistria is its de facto dependent state.

European Integration vs. pro-Russian orientation

An important factor in the domestic policy of Moldova is the fight of the forces advocating European integration against pro-Russian ones. The society is split 50/50, with a significant part of the politically active young people in the capital supporting the idea of unification with neighboring Romania; Moldova links the communities’ language and national culture. However, the present confrontation is not directly related to these contradictions. The Democratic and Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition movement "Dignity and Truth" are in favor of integration with the EU. "Our Party" and "Socialist Party" seek rapprochement with Russia.

The Nuland Factor

Atlanticists are trying to exploit the desire of the population to move closer to the European Union and Romania, who is also trying to involve Moldova in the Atlanticist camp. The visit of Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, in Bucharest contributed to the intensification of protests. Earlier, Romania supported President Nicolae Timofti in the confrontation with Plahotniuc. After the visit of Nuland Romanian President Klaus Iohannis defected to Plahotniuc, calling for the formation of a new "pro-European" government as soon as possible. After the US showed its clear support for Plahotniuc, Timofti changed his stance too.

The unwillingness to act decisively

The leaders of the opposition, Renato Usatîi ("Our Party") and Igor Dodon ("Socialist Party"), called on their supporters to leave the occupied Parliament building, after the deputies had left its underground passage. Meanwhile, they have showed an unwillingness to use revolutionary action similar to that of Kiev’s Maidan, which would include not only peaceful protests, but the violent seizure of strongholds in the capital. Opposition leaders are calling for a peaceful seizure of power, although in modern Moldova, where oligarchic mafias control the whole electoral system, this is virtually impossible.


The most likely outcome is a continuation of the protest and the political crisis in Moldova. Regime change in the near future is not expected. Plahotniuc will try to negotiate with the leaders of the opposition or to organize a split in their ranks through bribery.

As was noted above, there is no common understanding of the geopolitical future of the country in the opposition camp. Although the bulk of the protesters consist of pro-Russian forces, ultra-liberals are active too. Anti-corruption protests may be used by external forces and to advance to power ideological liberals. One of the most likely candidates from that point of view is the Minister of Education of Moldova, a former employee of the World Bank, Maia Sandu. Supporters of "Dignity and Truth" endorse her as their candidate for the post of Prime Minister.