The European Union has condemned a move by Moldova's judiciary to invalidate a mayoral election won by a pro-Western candidate, urging the authorities to respect the voters' will amid continued public protests against the decision.
In a statement on June 27, EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn said the "nontransparent invalidation" of a June 3 runoff vote "deprives the people of Chisinau of their democratically elected mayor."
Andrei Nastase, the leader of pro-EU Dignity and Truth Platform, won 52.5 percent of the vote in the runoff in the capital, defeating Socialist Party candidate Ion Ceban, whose party favors closer relations with Russia.
But a court on June 19 voided the results, saying both candidates had used social media to call on voters to turn out to vote on election day, in what it ruled was illegal campaigning.
Days of protests by thousands of Moldovans who were calling for Nastase's victory to be recognized did nothing to convince an appeals court, which upheld the ruling on June 21.
On June 25, the Supreme Court rejected another appeal, ruling that social-media communications with voters illegally affected the outcome of the race. The ruling is final and the mayoral post will be filled by an acting mayor until the next election in 2019, according to Moldovan law.
In their joint statement, Mogherini and Hahn said the decision undermined the trust of the Moldovan people in the state institutions. They said that Nastase "gained a clear majority in the 3 June elections."
The independence of the judiciary and a transparent electoral process "are pillars of democracy" and respect for democracy and rule of law are "at the heart of the European Union's relations with the Republic of Moldova, as our Association Agreement testifies," they said.
The two EU officials said the 28-nation bloc expected Moldova to guarantee the independence of the judiciary in line both with its international commitments and its own citizens' expectations.
"To this end, we expect the Moldovan authorities to take appropriate measures to ensure that the results of the Chisinau mayoral elections, as recognized also by national and international observers and reflecting the will of the voters, are respected," the statement said.
The Supreme Court's decision was also criticized by the United States. At a meeting in Washington on June 25, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told visiting Moldovan Prime Minister Pavel Filip that elections "must reflect the will of the country’s citizens without political interference," the State Department said.
Meanwhile, Nastase and his ally, Maia Sandu, who heads the Action and Solidarity Party, on June 27 announced a massive protest rally scheduled for July 1 in central Chisinau.