Moldovan pro-EU party plans corruption crackdown after election landslide

Allies of President Maia Sandu seek ‘pragmatic, predictable’ relations with Moscow

Moldova’s president,  Maia Sandu, prepares to cast her vote in a snap parliamentary election, in the capital, Chisinau. Photograph: Aurel Obreja

Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, prepares to cast her vote in a snap parliamentary election, in the capital, Chisinau. Photograph: Aurel Obreja

 

Moldova’s pro-EU Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) has said it plans to launch an immediate attack on corruption this summer, once its landslide victory in parliamentary elections is confirmed.

Preliminary results from last Sunday’s ballot gave PAS 52.6 per cent of votes and 63 of the 101 seats in Moldova’s parliament, well ahead of a pro-Russian bloc of Socialists and Communists, whose 27.3 per cent will give them 32 seats.

The vote was a second successive striking election success for Moldovan president Maia Sandu, the founder of PAS, who became her country’s first female head of state last November by beating incumbent Igor Dodon, leader of the Socialist Party, advocate of closer ties with Moscow and frequent visitor to the Kremlin.

Igor Grosu, the acting leader of PAS, said on Friday he hoped the election results would be confirmed this month, after which the party’s deputies would immediately get down to work rather than taking a summer recess from parliament.

‘Reign of thieves’

He said the new government would immediately table Bills to cancel all deputies’ immunity from prosecution and to allow officials to be stripped of illegally acquired assets, and would also aim to raise the national minimum pension to 2,000 Moldovan lei (€94) by October.

Ms Sandu said the dominant victory for PAS should spell “the end of the reign of thieves in Moldova”, following years of struggle in which she and other anti-corruption campaigners were repeatedly stymied by the Socialists and parties closely linked to shadowy “oligarchs” – tycoons with major political clout.

“We have made it to the point where we have a parliamentary majority that is taking on the tasks and actions that are essential for the country, namely: cleansing state institutions of corrupt elements and strengthening [their] capacity . . . so that the state protects citizens and ensures they have normal working conditions and normal living conditions,” she told Moldovan television.

Evidence of wrongdoing

A Harvard graduate and former World Bank adviser, Ms Sandu (49) defied smear campaigns and intimidation to become leader of one of Europe’s poorest and most corrupt countries, which lost $1 billion from its banking system in a 2014 fraud case.

A major computer failure at Moldova’s audit chamber and customs service on Thursday is now being investigated, and Ms Sandu said she hoped it was not a sign of officials trying to hide evidence of wrongdoing.

“This is a message for all officials who are trying to cover their tracks: you will be punished for these actions, so do not commit such violations,” she warned.

Moscow says it is willing to work with a PAS government, and Mr Grosu has called for “correct, pragmatic, predictable relations with Russia”, which is his country’s chief energy supplier and has some 1,500 soldiers stationed in Transdniestria, a region of Moldova that is run by Kremlin-backed separatists.