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EU Freezes Moldova Aid Amidst Accusations of State Capture

The European Parliament has expressed serious concern over the further deterioration of democratic standards in Moldova, after courts in the country invalidated the results of a recent mayoral election in the capital, Chisinau. The Supreme Court last week upheld a June 19 decision overturning the victory of pro-transparency candidate Andrei Nastase, a decision which has caused tens of thousands to take to the streets of Chisinau in protest.

Mr Nastase says the ruling was delivered at the behest of Vlad Plahotniuc, the leader of the ruling Democratic Party and a powerful businessman, who denies interfering in the case.

Many Moldovans say Mr Plahotniuc, a billionaire who holds no formal government positions, has excessive influence over the government, media and justice system.

“The decision of the courts, which already have been many times cited as politically influenced and driven, is an example of state capture and a very deep crisis of institutions in Moldova,” the European Parliament said in a resolution passed on July 5 by a vote of 343-35, with 160 abstentions.

The European Parliament also called on the Moldovan authorities to respect the will of voters and to reform the judiciary system in order to prevent the situation from escalating further.

They also reiterated “concerns about the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a narrow group of people, deterioration of the rule of law, of democratic standards, and of respect for human rights.”

MEPs also cited “the excessive politicisation of state institutions, systemic corruption, insufficient investigation of the 2014 banking fraud, and limited media pluralism.”

The move comes a day after the European Union froze the first tranche of a 100 million euro macro-financial aid package for Moldova, saying the recent voiding of the Chisinau election violates key preconditions for getting the assistance: respecting democracy and the rule of law.

Disbursements under the macro-financial assistance programme depend on the successful implementation of specific economic policy measures laid out in a Memorandum of Understanding and the fulfillment of political preconditions related to respect for democratic mechanisms, the rule of law and human rights.