Moldova's transition to democracy initially had been impeded by an ineffective Parliament, the lack of a new constitution, a separatist movement led by the Gagauz (Christian Turkic) minority in the south, and unrest in the Transnistria region on the left bank of the Nistru/Dniester River, where a separatist movement--assisted by uniformed Russian military forces in the region and led by supporters of the 1991 coup attempt in Moscow--declared a "Dniester republic."
Progress has been made on all these fronts. In 1992, the government negotiated a cease-fire arrangement with Russian and Transnistrian officials--although tensions continue--and negotiations are ongoing. In February 1994, new legislative elections were held, and the ineffective Parliament that had been elected in 1990 to a 5-year term was replaced. A new constitution was adopted in July 1994. The conflict with the Gagauz minority was defused by the granting of local autonomy in 1994.
The February 1994 Parliamentary elections were conducted peacefully and received good ratings from international observers for their fairness. Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli was re-elected to his post in March 1994, as was Petru Lucinschi to his post as speaker of the Parliament. Authorities in Transnistria, however, refused to allow balloting there and discouraged the local population from participating. Inhabitants of the Gagauz separatist region did participate in the elections, however.
In the presidential elections of 1996, Parliamentary speaker Petru Lucinschi surprised the nation with an upset victory over the incumbent, Mircea Snegur, in a second round of balloting. The elections were widely judged as free and fair by international observers, a hallmark that would come to characterize every other nationwide election in Moldova as well.
Though President Lucinschi managed to institute some very important reforms--among them the successful fight for the "Pamint" land privatization program--his tenure was marked by constant legislative struggle with Moldova's Parliament. Several times, the Parliament considered votes of no confidence in the president's government, and a succession of moderate, pro-reform prime ministers were dismissed by a Parliament increasingly dominated by its single-minded Communist Party faction.
In 2000, Parliament passed a decree declaring Moldova a Parliamentary republic, with the presidency henceforth to be decided not by popular vote, but by Parliamentary vote. However, since no single candidate was able to garner a majority of votes, Lucinschi temporarily remained president. Later that year, when Parliament failed three times to successfully elect a new president, Lucinschi exercised his right to dissolve Parliament, calling for new parliamentary elections in the hope that a new Parliament would be more open to his initiatives--and, possibly, even rescind the decree on election of the president.
Widespread popular dissatisfaction with the government and the economy, however, led to a surprise at the polls, in February 2001. In elections certified by international observers as free and fair, Moldova's populace voted overwhelmingly for the communists. The communist faction, which had consisted of 40 of Parliament's 101 seats, jumped to 71--a clear majority. Communist deputies were then able to elect as president Vladimir Voronin, the leader of their faction.
Since election, President Voronin has proceeded with President Lucinschi's plans to privatize several important state-owned industries, and has even on occasion broken with his own party over important issues. Under President Voronin, Moldovan democracy and free elections continue to flourish, and relations with the United States remain strong.
In the atmosphere of heightened international sensitivity to terrorism following the events of September 11, 2001, Moldova has been a staunch supporter of American efforts to increase international cooperation in combating terrorism.
The population of the Moldovan region of Transnistria is 40% Moldovan, 28% Ukrainian, and 23% Russian. Moldova has tried to meet the Russian minority's demands by offering the region rather broad cultural and political autonomy. The dispute has strained Moldova's relations with Russia. The July 1992 cease-fire agreement established a tripartite peacekeeping force comprised of Moldovan, Russian, and Transnistrian units. Negotiations to resolve the conflict continue, and the cease-fire is still in effect. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also is trying to facilitate a negotiated settlement and has had an observer mission in place for several years.
In February 2001, the Communist Party of Moldova won more than two-thirds of the seats in the Parliament and selected party chairman Vladimir Voronin as President. Moldova succeeded during 2001 in joining the World Trade Organization and the Southeast European Stability Pact. Of primary importance have been the government's efforts to improve relations with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and to comply with agreements negotiated in 2000 by the former government. Agreement in these areas is critical because large government debts that come due in 2002 must be rescheduled. The government has made concerted efforts to find ways to pay for Moldova's energy supplies.
Politically the government is committed to present a budget that will deal with social safety net items such as health, education, and increasing pensions and salaries. The Moldovan Government supported democracy and human rights in FY 2001. The country remained divided, with the Transnistrian region along the Ukrainian border controlled by separatist forces. The new communist government has shown increased determination to resolve the ongoing conflict but has been unable to make significant progress because of fundamental disagreements with the separatist authorities in Transnistria over the status of that region.
Recent progress by Russia in destroying the weapons and munitions of the Organized Group of Russian Forces stationed in Transnistria have raised hopes that Russia intends to comply with the 1999 Istanbul Accords. In recent months, the leadership of the autonomous region of Gagauzia has become more vocal in its complaints that the Moldovan Government does not respect the region's statutory-enshrined autonomy.
Political parties and other groups publish newspapers which often criticize government policies. There are several independent news services, radio stations, and an independent television station. Peaceful assembly is allowed, though permits for demonstrations must be obtained; private organizations, including political parties, are required to register with the government. Legislation passed in 1992 codified freedom of religion but required that religious groups be recognized by the government.
A 1990 Soviet law and a 1991 Parliamentary decision authorizing formation of social organizations provide for independent trade unions. However, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Moldova, successor to the former organizations of the Soviet trade union system, is the sole structure. It has tried to influence government policy in labor issues and has been critical of many economic policies. Moldovan labor law, which is based on former Soviet legislation, provides for collective bargaining rights.
conventional long form: Republic of Moldova
conventional short form: Moldova
local long form: Republica Moldova
local short form: none
former: Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova; Moldavia
Data code: MD
Government type: republic
Administrative divisions: 10 juletule (singular - juletul) 1 municipality* 1 autonomous territorial unit**; Balti, Cahul, Chisinau, Chisinau*, Dubasari, Edinet, Gagauzia**, Lapusna, Orhei, Soroca, Tighina, Ungheni
Independence: 27 August 1991 (from Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 27 August 1991
Constitution: new constitution adopted 28 July 1994; replaces old Soviet constitution of 1979
Legal system: based on civil law system; Constitutional Court reviews legality of legislative acts and governmental decisions of resolution; it is unclear if Moldova accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction but accepts many UN and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) documents
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
chief of state: President Petru LUCINSCHI (since 15 January 1997)
head of government: Prime Minister Dumitru BRAGHIS (since 21 December 1999), one first deputy prime minister and two deputy prime ministers
cabinet: selected by prime minister-designate, subject to approval of parliament
elections: president elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 17 November 1996; runoff election 1 December 1996 (next to be held NA November-December 2000); according to the Moldovan constitution, the president, on consulting with the parliament, will designate a candidate for the office of prime minister; within 15 days from designation, the prime minister-designate will request a vote of confidence from the parliament regarding his/her work program and entire cabinet
election results: Petru LUCINSCHI elected president; percent of vote - Petru LUCINSCHI 54%, Mircea SNEGUR 46%; Dumitru BRAGHIS was nominated by the president 16 December 1999 and was elected prime minister by a parliamentary vote of 57-4 (40 abstentions) on 21 December 1999
unicameral Parliament or Parlamentul (101 seats; parties and electoral blocs, as well as independent candidates, compete in popular elections to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 22 March 1998 (next to be held spring 2002)
election results: percent of vote by party - PCM 30%, CDM 19%, PMDP 18%, PFD 9%; seats by party - PCM 40, CDM 26, PMDP 24, PFD 11
note: the comparative breakdown of seats by faction is approximate
Judicial branch: Supreme Court; Constitutional Court is the sole authority of constitutional judicature
Political parties and leaders: Bloc for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova or PMDP [Dumitru DIACOV]; Christian Democratic Popular Front or FPCD [Iurie ROSCA, chairman]; Communist Party or PCM [Vladimir VORONIN, first chairman]; Democratic Convention of Moldova or CDM [Mircea SNEGUR, chairman]; Party of Democratic Forces or PFD [Valeriu MATEI, chairman]
International organization participation: ACCT, BIS, BSEC, CCC, CE, CEI, CIS, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, IDA, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMF, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO (applicant)
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Ceslav CIOBANU
chancery: 2101 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone:  (202) 667-1130
FAX:  (202) 667-1204
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Rudolf Villem PERINA
embassy: Strada Alexei Mateevicie, #103, Chisinau 2009
mailing address: use embassy street address; pouch address - American Embassy Chisinau, Department of State, Washington, DC 20521-7080
telephone:  (2) 23-37-72
FAX:  (2) 23-30-44
Flag description: same color scheme as Romania - three equal vertical bands of blue (hoist side), yellow, and red; emblem in center of flag is of a Roman eagle of gold outlined in black with a red beak and talons carrying a yellow cross in its beak and a green olive branch in its right talons and a yellow scepter in its left talons; on its breast is a shield divided horizontally red over blue with a stylized ox head, star, rose, and crescent all in black-outlined yellow