Gridlock in Moldova's government helps Russia and Putin

Two months after parliamentary elections in Moldova, the country is no closer to swearing in a new government. As negotiations between the leading parties have floundered, it has left the country without a direction and increasingly vulnerable to Russian influence. A coalition agreement is needed immediately to confirm a new prime minister, appoint a Speaker, and create a Cabinet. Disturbingly, Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinOvernight Defense: Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East | Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty Trump's antics shouldn't overshadow what he has accomplished in NATO MORE, a sworn enemy of Moldovan democracy, is being aided and abetted by this stalemate. 

Moldova’s 101-member Parliament requires at least 51 MPs to form a coalition government. In the February election, the pro-Russian Socialists (PSRM) won 35 seats, while the pro-Western Democrats (PDM) won 30 seats, and the pro-Western ACUM bloc won 26 seats.

The PDM has led the coalition government for the last three years, and has measurably improved the economy, diversified Moldova’s energy supply to reduce reliance on Russia, and reduced corruption while reforming the government. While there are still flaws, the progress for such a young country, only 28 years after declaring independence, is remarkable. PDM seeks to continue enhancing Moldova’s ties to Europe and the United States to rectify decades of corruption and mismanagement as a Russian satellite.

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Following the national elections, the PDM reached out to the ACUM bloc to form a coalition government with the aim of solidifying its commercial, cultural, and defense ties to the West. PDM offered ACUM the position of prime minister in a future coalition, yet no discernable progress has been made. This all but ensures a Moscow-backed, leftist administration in Moldova. The prospect of a resurgent Russia in the region should be deeply concerning to Europe and the United States. 

Pro-Russian Socialists expect to assume the responsibilities of speakership, minister of foreign affairs, minister of defense, minister of interior, and of the intelligence service. The potential socialist power grab is a grim outlook for democracy. Moldova is now facing a debilitating political stalemate, with grave regional consequences.

The Kremlin seeks to undermine and interfere with democracy at every opportunity. Russian operatives have been active across the globe, including Greece, Germany, France, the Baltic States, and most notably the United States. Russian Army information warfare and intelligence officers operate clandestinely to influence elections and erode confidence in democratic processes throughout the world. Vladimir Putin’s military is an empty suit, a shadow of its Cold War strength. Sabotaging Western democracy is the only move they can make. Failure to form a pro-West coalition will empower the Socialists, embolden Putin, and push the region back into the arms of a corrupt autocratic regime. One can almost see the former KGB leader gleefully wringing his hands as he struts around the Kremlin at the possibility of installing a puppet socialist administration in Moldova. 

According to the legal framework of Moldova, the government must be formed within three months of the validation of the election results, in this case June 9, 2019. The clock is ticking. If a government is not formed, Parliament is dissolved and snap elections must be scheduled in the fall. Let’s be very clear, snap elections will be a disaster for Moldova and cheered by Russia. A recent national poll revealed that nearly 70 percent of Moldovans view snap elections negatively and indicated they will not vote again. The same poll also found the snap election would reaffirm the status quo, which could well mean direct Russian intervention in Moldova. Couple this with the election results’ predictability, any snap election will likely fail and take democracy with it.

The geo-political instability would drag on for at least a year and bring catastrophic implications for Moldova’s economy and ultimately its national security. Pro-Western reforms will be on hold, the International Monetary Fund will not be able to proceed with its next round of aid, and Moldova’s investment rating will go into free-fall. 

PDM and ACUM must come together for the good of Moldova, the region, and democracy. Failure to negotiate a pro-Western coalition will effectively forfeit Moldova to the Kremlin, and 28 years of democracy and years of reform will be for nothing. The Russian bear will once again control the destiny of the Moldovan people and tip the regional balance of power significantly away from Europe toward a corrupt, autocratic Moscow.

Mullin represents Oklahoma’s 2nd District and is a member of the Congressional Moldova Caucus.