Over the last decade, the political landscape of Moldova was dominated by the Party of Communists, the only communist party to have taken power democratically in a former Soviet Republic. Vladimir Voronin, president of the country from 2001 to 2009, was the popular leader of the Party. His time in office was marked by an attempt to be equidistant from Russia and Europe, a moderate economic growth but also by rampant corruption.
The Communist-led governments of the 2000s were initially characterised by a friendly attitude towards the Russian Federation. Following the failure of the so-called Kozak Memorandum in 2003, an attempt brokered by Russia to solve diplomatically the Transnistrian conflict, granting large powers to the breakaway region, bilateral relations between the Republic of Moldova and Russia slowly started to deteriorate. In 2006 Russia imposed an embargo on Moldovan wines, one of the country’s main exports, which heavily affected the already weak Moldovan economy.
After the parliamentary election of April 2009 was won by the Communists, civil unrest erupted after accusations were made towards the ruling party of having allegedly won the election through fraud. Following a period of social and political turmoil, a new election was held in July 2009 and a pro-European platform composed by the Liberal Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party emerged victorious.
WikiLeaks published several documents attesting that Voronin tried to maintain his party in power after the electoral defeat with a $10m bribe to political rivals.
Since then, governments with a pro-European agenda followed one another, trying to implement economic reforms that were desperately needed in the country. Vladimir Filat, a controversial businessman and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, was Prime Minister from 2009 to 2013. Subsequently, Iurie Leanca, an experienced diplomat widely respected abroad, assumed office. Under his leadership, the government signed the European Union Association Agreement in June 2014, a treaty reinforcing the economical and political ties between the European Union and the Republic of Moldova.
A second Russian embargo, this time on Moldovan agricultural products, was implemented in July 2014; since then, most fruits and vegetables produced in the country cannot be exported to Russia anymore. Officially this is due to new sanitary regulations required by the Russian Federation but many in the country believe the ban was introduced in retaliation for the closer relationship between Moldova and the European Union. The embargo has caused serious damage to the agricultural sector, which employs more than one-fourth of the population.
Despite the narrow victory of the Pro-European Coalition at the November 2014 parliamentary election, Leanca resigned in February 2015. Soon thereafter, he launched a new political group, the European People’s Party, strongly committed to further pro-European reforms.
Currently, Moldova is in a period of political instability. In November 2014, a massive scandal hit the country’s fragile banking system; it was discovered that more than $1 billion, the equivalent of 15% of the national GDP, were stolen from three of the largest local banks, through a series of fraudulent loans. Then, the newly appointed Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici, from the Liberal Democratic Party, had to resign only a few months after taking office, for allegedly having forged some of his school certificates. Since July 2015, Valeriu Strelet is the new Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova.
Moldova is one the poorest countries in Europe, with a GDP of $8 billion in 2014. The former Soviet Republic is still largely dependent on remittances from workers abroad. It is estimated that one-fourth of the national GDP is made of remittances. At least half a million Moldovans have migrated abroad since 1991.