Taming the Oligarchs? Democratization and State Capture: The Case of Moldova
- Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization
- Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, The George Washington University
- Volume 29, Number 1, Winter 2021
- pp. 63-89
- Additional Information
Drawing on state-centered perspectives, this article explores the link between oligarchic state capture and democratization by looking at Moldova between 2009 and 2019. It proposes the concept of oligarchic state capture, a situation where business magnates exert influence over all three branches of government through extensive networks. While the major oligarchs in Moldova cooperate to bring down competitive authoritarianism, they derail democratization. In contrast to earlier studies emphasizing the interest of oligarchs in wealth defense, the present study explains how oligarchs engage in extreme state exploitation and thereby undermine public trust in democratic institutions. Partial deoligarchization succeeds after inter-oligarchic conflicts and popular backlash enable the formation of a fragile multiethnic, transideological political coalition that demands the restoration of state autonomy vis-à-vis the wealthy elites.