Democracy and rights
Abbreviated as MDA by Abbreviationfinder, Moldova is one of the worst performing countries in Europe in terms of human rights. Political institutions are adversely affected by special interests and society is permeated by corruption. The judiciary is far from being able to guarantee fair treatment to citizens and there is abuse and torture in prisons.
The most recent elections have been judged to be largely free and fair, although some remarks have been made, such as applicable shortcomings in electoral lengths, the electoral law and laws governing party financing.
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There are no formal barriers to forming parties and conducting politics in opposition to the government, but it has unbalanced the system. Oligarchs and other businessmen can, through generous party financing laws, pump large resources into the parties they support while other parties remain underfunded and thus find it difficult to make themselves heard. Large parts of the media sector are also controlled by powerful business interests.
Criticism has been directed at the electoral law that was adopted in the summer of 2017, which means that half of the mandates are now filled by majority voting in one-man constituencies instead of proportional elections as before. The critics believe that the new system disadvantages smaller parties and that candidates in one-man constituencies risk being exposed to undue pressure from local interests. Another problem is that the exercise of power does not always follow the rules that apply to decision-making, but decisions can be made in informal processes.
Women and the country’s minorities are under-represented in politics. There is a law that says that 40 percent of all candidates in an election must be women, but compliance with the law is reported to be poor. After the last 2019 election, 23 percent of all MPs are women (in Sweden, the figure is 44 percent).
Freedom of assembly and association is enshrined in the Constitution and is usually respected.
Laws have been passed in recent years to increase citizens ‘transparency in decision-making, but the process is surrounded by rules and often individuals’ requests for information are rejected.
There is a national action plan for human rights. A so-called Equality Council and two ombudsmen have the task of ensuring that the action plan is followed. Lack of resources makes it difficult for them to fulfill their mission. Another aggravating circumstance is a general lack of knowledge of human rights in the administration.
Different forms of discrimination occur. The most vulnerable are women, linguistic and sexual minorities and people with disabilities (read more in Social conditions).
Religious freedom is enshrined in the constitution and the country’s religious minorities can usually freely exercise their faith, but in recent years there have been occasional attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, Baptists and Jews.
Freedom of expression and media
The constitution prescribes freedom of the press and opinions, but in practice the state exercises some control over the media. For example, the government can put pressure on individual journalists by denying them access to information or condemning them publicly. It has happened that journalists who have criticized the authorities have been subjected to threats and physical violence.
Large ownership concentration in the media industry is a problem, as are many media associated with a political party. Television is the most important medium and four-fifths of all TV channels are owned by interests attached to some party.
In 2009, a law was abolished against slander and defamation by senior public officials, which could result in imprisonment. Despite this, self-censorship among journalists is still commonplace. Corruption among power holders is a sensitive issue, as are the incomes and wealth of top politicians and their family members.
Moldova is ranked according to Reporters Without Borders latest press freedom index in place 91 of 180 countries, see list here. Of the countries in Europe, only Bulgaria and Russia receive a poorer ranking (111 and 149 respectively).
Systematic corruption occurs at all levels of society and is considered to be one of Moldova’s biggest problems. In the assessment of the degree of corruption in the world countries that Transparency International does each year, Moldova falls into the bottom layer of Europe, see list here. The country is considered the most corrupt in Europe after Russia and Ukraine.
Politics, the judicial system and the police have been identified as the sectors that are most affected by corruption but, for example, bribery also exists in other areas such as education and health care.
Moldova is still licking the wounds after the big scandal revealed in 2015 when the country’s banks paid out the equivalent of 12 percent of the country’s GDP to unknown people’s accounts and a former prime minister was sent to prison for a longer period (see Current policy).
Judicial system and legal security
Compared to other European countries, Moldova’s legal system is under-rated by the World Justice Project. In the latest survey, Moldova is ranked 83 in the company of countries such as Vietnam, El Salvador and China. Of the countries in Europe, only Russia receives a worse placement than Moldova.
According to the Constitution, the judiciary should be independent, but in fact judges, prosecutors and lawyers have a hard time doing a job well due to systematic corruption, lack of resources and pressure from political ends. It seems that people are brought to justice and sentenced for political reasons – to be silenced. This applies, for example, to human rights activists.
You cannot count on getting a fair trial or the help of a competent legal counsel. Often, negotiations are done with closed doors, even against the will of the accused. Attorneys have complained that they do not have enough time to prepare a case and that it can be difficult to meet clients. It has also happened that the accused is not even allowed to attend his own trial.
Overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions characterize the entire prison system. Prisoners are harassed, beaten and in some cases tortured by police and prison guards. Moldova has been sentenced in total to at least 20 occasions in the European Court of Justice for violating the torture ban in the European Convention.
The death penalty was abolished in 2006 and has not been applied since independence.
As far as the Transnistrian breakaway republic is concerned, the situation for human rights is generally considered even worse than in Moldova (see TRANSNISTRIEN: Politics).