Moldova: Fall of Government Threatens Return to Political Gridlock

3 MINS READMar 5, 2013 | 14:18 GMT
Moldova: Fall of Government Threatens Return to Political Gridlock
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat in Brussels on June 26, 2012.

Moldova is in a state of political paralysis after parliament passed a vote of no confidence against the government of Prime Minister Vlad Filat on March 5. The country is familiar with political deadlock, having held three inconclusive elections between 2009 and 2012 and having had no official president during that time. While Russia will look to take advantage of the collapse of Filat's Western-oriented Alliance for European Integration coalition, Moldova's chronic political deadlock will preclude any significant shifts in the country's foreign policy.

The opposition Communist Party, which had been held out of government since the formation of the Alliance for European Integration, presented the no-confidence motion in an effort to take advantage of the ruling coalition's recent internal divisions. Filat had lost support amid a series of corruption scandals in the coalition, which includes Filat's Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova, the Democratic Party of Moldova and the Liberal Party. Fifty-four deputies in the 101-member parliament voted to pass the no-confidence motion, which required 51 votes.

Filat now has three days to form a new coalition. If that fails, Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti will appoint a new prime minister or new elections will be held. Elections are the most likely option; fractured though the ruling coalition may be, none of its component parties is willing to form a government with the Communist Party, whose 42 seats represent the largest party in parliament but leave it short of being able to forward its own candidate for prime minister.

New elections could be problematic for Moldova. Three previous elections did not give any party the necessary votes to nominate a presidential candidate, a deadlock that was only broken in a fourth vote, held in March 2012, when two Communist Party lawmakers broke rank and voted in favor of Timofti, giving the candidate the necessary 61 votes to become president. The Moldovan government governed normally for a year, but the recent corruption scandals and the resultant no-confidence vote threaten to catalyze another prolonged political crisis in Moldova.

Still, no matter what path the formation of a new Moldovan government takes, there will be little strategic change in Chisinau's foreign policy. Even during its domestic political thaw over the last year, Moldova remained deadlocked between its two most important foreign relationships: the European Union and Russia. While Moldova made small moves to strengthen its relationship with the European Union — particularly Romania — during this time, major progress did not occur. This is because Moldova's society remains split between constituencies that are oriented toward Europe and those that seek to strengthen the country's ties with Russia, and also because Moscow retains a significant lever through its economic links and its military presence in Moldova's breakaway territory of Transdniestria.

The fall of the government could bring about a new internal political reality, either through the strengthening of the Communist Party or through a new arrangement of the parties that make up the Alliance for European Integration. It will take time for this new reality to take shape, but the deadlock in Moldova's foreign relationships is more deeply set.

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