This week has been turbulent in Moldova as a group called the “Movement for the People” has bussed in protestors to the capital to express frustration with the pro-Western government. The country is currently in a cost of living crisis as energy bills swallow pension checks and inflations causes people to struggle to put food on the table.
Many of the protestors are disgruntled due to the government’s failings and false promises during this time of economic hardship. The Moldovan government had made several promises of raised salaries and higher pensions, all of which have yet to come. The government itself has voiced concern that these protest have been sparked by infiltrators from Russia to “derail Moldova from its course to one day join the EU”.
The ?OR Party has been the primary pro-Russian party in Moldova, currently only holding 6 seats out of the 101 total in Moldova’s parliament. They were formed in 1998 as the “Socio-Political Movement ‘Equality'”, and have since been known for their Euroscepticism and affinity for Russia. However, the protests have only served to harm the pro-Russian position with some in the parliament calling for the ?OR Party to be banned. In November of 2022, the Moldovan government asked the courts to begin proceedings to ban the party from political power, due to its alleged promotion of foreign interests and potential harm to the country’s independence after the recent protests, which many feel were instigated by ?OR.
During the autumn, the ?OR Party had organized the protests after the energy crisis hit the country in full swing. This crisis was caused mainly by the Russian stated-owned company Gazprom pulling over half of their normal supply of energy from Moldova’s markets, causing several major companies to halt operation and the Cuciurgan power station, which supplies 70% of Moldova’s energy needs, to drastically cut its production. Gazprom did the same to several other countries, in retaliation for Western sanctions due to the war in Ukraine.
Both ?OR and the Moldovan government have blamed each other for the current woes the country is facing. The Moldovan government blames the ?OR Party for spreading unrest across the country in favor of a pro-Russian future while also damaging relations with the European Union. They also blame Russia directly for the energy crisis, stating that the Russians intended to cause harm to Moldova’s government.
Moldova, much like Ukraine, has its own region of Russian separatists, known as Transnistria, that it has been struggling to keep as part of its sovereign territory. The Moldovan government has been tough on pro-Russian groups, having searched dozens of residencies suspected of being Russian sympathizers. Of those searches, so far 8 arrests have been made according to Government officials.
Moldova’s pro-Western population believes that sticking with the West is critical at this time of turbulence, with the government maintaining that their primary objective is to eventually be granted full membership into the EU. Those who wish to side with the West have also been active at the protests trying to combat what they claim as Russian influence.
Earlier in the month part of the Moldovan government stepped down due to being unable to handle the increasing number of crises. These protests have not shown any signs of slowing down, with analysts believing that until the cost of living is fixed, Moldova will continue down the path of instability.