Following the decision by Moldova courts to invalidate the results of the mayoral election in the capital, Chisinau, the European Parliament has warned about the “further deterioration” of democratic standards in the country.

“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 resolution comes hot on the heels of the European Union’s decision to freeze the first tranche of a €100m 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.

“The Supreme Court decision of June 25 deprives the citizens of Chisinau of a democratically elected mayor,” the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, Federica Mogherini, told the European Parliament.

“The citizens of Chisinau have been expressing very clearly their dissatisfaction through peaceful demonstrations in these weeks,” she added. “Their safety and their freedom and right to demonstrate must always be respected and guaranteed. This is an absolute priority; I would like to stress what Rebecca Harms [Member of the European Parliament] mentioned before: we will keep an eye on what will happen in the coming weeks, we expect their safety and their freedom to be protected and guaranteed.”

As reported by Radio Free Europe, both the EU and the United States support Moldova’s pro-Western government but have strongly criticised the court decisions nullifying the election of Andrei Nastase, an antigraft campaigner and politician.

Nastase took 52.5% of the vote in the June 3 runoff election, defeating Socialist Party candidate Ion Ceban, who favours closer relations with Russia.

But Moldovan courts in three successive decisions ruled that both candidates had used social media to call on voters to turn out on election day, and said that amounted to illegal campaigning.

The court decisions prompted tens of thousands of people to take to the streets in protest.

In a separate report, Balkan Insight noted that the centre-right grouping in the parliament, the European Popular Party, EPP, introduced the resolution on July 5 and it was passed overwhelmingly by 343 votes to 35, with 160 abstentions.

While the European Social Democrats agreed that the invalidation of the mayoral election by the Moldovan Supreme Court on June 25 was wrong. But they questioned whether Europe should cut off the first payment of macro-financial aid worth €100m for Moldova, designed to aid reforms.

“Let’s be clear on one thing: the election in Chisinau have nothing to do with the Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) and the budgetary support to Moldova and cannot in any way influence them,” warned Victor Boștinaru, S&D vice-president responsible for foreign affairs. “By stopping them, we would do nothing other than condemn Moldova to financial and economic problems and isolation, with one single winner: Russia.”

According to the press officer of the European Parliament, Gediminas Vilkas, the resolution is only a political statement for the Commission to take into consideration.

“The citizens of Chisinau have been expressing very clearly their dissatisfaction through peaceful demonstrations in these weeks,” Vilkas was quoted as saying. “Their safety and their freedom and right to demonstrate must always be respected and guaranteed. This is an absolute priority; I would like to stress what Rebecca Harms [Member of the European Parliament] mentioned before: we will keep an eye on what will happen in the coming weeks, we expect their safety and their freedom to be protected and guaranteed.”