The participation of Moldovan YOUTH, in the political and social life

Even though more than 30% of migrants out of Moldova are young people under 35, we can still talk about the youth sector in Moldova and draw a general diagnosis. But first, before the numbers and statistics about youth, you need to have a picture of the general background and present situation of politics in Moldova.

Have you ever heard the Groucho Marx’s saying, „Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”? Well, probably he was thinking about Moldova when he wrote it.

Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova emerged as an independent republic following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. So, just for review, some general facts:

  • Population – 3.5 million (without the diaspora)
  • Capital – Chișinău
  • Major languages – Romanian (called “Moldovan” in official documents), Russian and Ukrainian.
  • Major religion – Christianity
  • Currency – Leu
  • Political system – semi-parliamentary republic (prime minister being, de facto, the head of state)
  • President – Igor Dodon (Socialist Party of Republic of Moldova)
  • Prime minister – Pavel Filip (coalition „Alliance for European Integration III)

After two mandates of Communist Party ruling, in 2009 was formed the Alliance for European Integration, composed of four parties (PLDM, PL, PDM and AMN) that became a shiny hope in the eyes of the citizens. It was elected three times already and is still in power. In 2014, Moldova signs the Association Agreement with the European Union, prompting Russia to impose import restrictions on the country’s agricultural produce. Even it was a step to democratization; the events that succeeded during the mandates of the three Alliances disappointed the society and created repulsion in the young sector. Also, the coalition lost the trust of European Union and United States because of their populism and lack of real actions.

Moldovan politics is a drama, soap opera, sometimes totally unbelievable. And let’s point out the latest events that will make you understand why the Moldovan Airport is so full of young people.

We can start with the most scandalous event after the independence – $1bn theft. In 2015 it emerged that $1bn, equivalent to one-eighth of the country’s GDP, had been stolen from three banks using off-shore companies. Unless the cash is recovered, Moldovan citizens will have to cover it. Almost an year the people protested in front of the political institutions, some of them even moving to live there in tents. Even the European Union, with the help of Romania ran an investigation, nothing was stated clear and people still don’t have a concrete answer about what happened. In 2016 Vlad Filat, a former prime minister and Mr Plahotniuc’s great rival, was jailed for abuse of power. In the words of one diplomat, that has left Mr Plahotniuc as the “last man standing”.

But who is Mr Plahotniuc? The sayings of one diplomat can explain: “Let’s be clear, this is a captured state—captured by one guy. An oligarchic dictatorship. There is no interest in judicial reform in this country, because if there was, this regime would come tumbling down like a house of cards.” In 2014 Mr Plahotniuc’s party won only 15.8% of the votes in the general election. However, directly or indirectly he is thought to control more than half the deputies in parliament, and hence the government. He controls a number of mass-media channels. He is also said to exercise great influence over the judiciary, though he claims that this is an “invention” by his enemies.

And now, let’s meet Mr Igor Dodon, the currently, probably most hated president by the young people in Moldova. After his election in 2016 (where a lot of irregularities has been noticed), almost all young people on social networks added the cover photo with “Dodon is not my president”. Mr Dodon won in the elections with 52.1% of the vote against 47.9% for Maia Sandu, a popular former minister of education. 

In recent weeks, highlights of the drama have included the following episodes. President Igor Dodon, who has little power but wants his country to align its economy and foreign policy with Russia, refused for ten months to sign off on the appointment of a new minister of defence. The government, which claims to be pro-Western and in favour of co-operation with NATO, insisted on its choice. In the end, the constitutional court suspended Mr Dodon from the presidency for just long enough for the new minister to be appointed.

The next day, prosecutors indicted seven men for conspiring to assassinate Vlad Plahotniuc, the head of the Democratic Party. Mr Plahotniuc says he aims to anchor Moldova safely to the West. Then on November 2nd, in a television interview, a jailed gangster alleged that Mr Plahotniuc had paid him to murder a Russian banker in London.

Mr Dodon and Mr Plahotniuc say they stand for starkly differing visions of the future, but many believe that in fact the two are operating a political cartel. In July, for instance, they co-operated to pass a new electoral law which could benefit their parties while serving to keep others out of parliament (the mixed vote)

Also, you should know that even being such a small country, we have a separatist region (Transnistria) and an autonomous region (Autonomous Teritorial Unity of Gagauzia). If the relations between Chisinau and ATU Gagauzia are pretty friendly, the relation with Transnistria is tensioned since the war in 1992 (between Russian supported Transnistria and new declared state, Republic of Moldova). Even the Russian Federation signed the Istanbul Convention in 1999 and agreed to retire the 14th Russian Army from Transnistria, declaring themselves as “Peacekeeping Mission”, it never happened.

Two-thirds of Moldovans are of Romanian descent. The languages are identical and the two countries share a common cultural heritage. That’s why, the intellectual sector and a lot of citizens are hoping for unification of the two countries, the idea being totally dismissed by the socialist president, Igor Dodon. Also, as in Macedonia many people holds Bulgarian passports, in Moldova around 1/3rd of the citizens hold Romanian passports.

So, if the main political actors and drama series has been exposed, you can clearly understand the disappointment of Moldovan young people in politics and social inclusion. Most of them try to get as far as possible from political life, being totally confused or disgusted. According to the 2017 last statistics, only 10% of the Parliament Members are aged less than 35 years old. Only 9% of the mayors in the villages and cities are under 35 years old.

The most illustrative situation is the participation of young people in the Parliamentary ellections in 2014, the percentage being of 34,43%. If we speak about the participation of young people in volunteering activities, the rate of involvement is of 33,7%, women being more inclined to volunteer than men. According to the study „ Involvement of young people for a positive change in society” (2017), as form of involvement of young people (15 – 29 years old), the most widespread is membership in a sports club (8%), followed by the signing of petitions (7%). 6% of young people take part in protest demonstrations, 4% in strikes, and 3% are members of an NGO, religious organizations, political parties, trade unions or citizen initiative groups.

If we speak about the entrepreneurship spirit of Moldovan youth, we can say that a lot of young people are prone to open their business. According to a study released by Magenta Consulting, around 56% of them have such intentions. It is noticed that the share of men among those who want a business is higher. The main barriers encountered by the young entrepreneurs are lack of money, the current political situation in the country, competition.

But a lot of young people in Moldova are part of the passive category. They have low incomes, low education and information, less useful relationships, they are conservative and intolerant. Young people in this category remain outside of all programs, including participation. They are basically concerned about solving the socio-economic problems that they face.

In conclusion, I can say that young people in Moldova cannot be characterized by the word „active”. They are pretty active on the social networks, but when it comes to real involvement, they prefer to hide under the monitor. Many young people are not correctly informed, preferring to get information from facebook or other social platforms or from TV channels, which is not always accurate. The young people that are active citizens prefer to leave the country and develop their projects in the Western European democracies, usually not being willing to return in Moldova. 

Of course, there are a lot of Moldovan young people that make history, creating mass-media portals, NGOs and businesses and benefiting from different grants.   

So, dear Macedonian friends, now you are able to draw a final line and make a comparison between the youth activism in our countries. Even politics can be discouraging sometimes, try to think positive and never give up on your dreams and projects! Because young people will change the world! 

Written by Raisa Tofan