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This chapter provides a brief historical background and a description of major events in Moldova. It also provides basic political, economic, and social data arranged in the following categories: polity, economy, population, purchasing power parities, life expectancy, ethnic groups, capital, political rights, civil liberties, and status. The chapter discusses the progress and decline of political rights and civil liberties in Moldova. Residents of Transnistria cannot elect their leaders democratically. They are also unable to participate freely in Moldovan elections. In 2001, Dnestr Moldovan Republic authorities refused to let the Moldovan government open polling stations for national parliamentary elections. Instead, Moldovan authorities invited the region's estimated 80,000 registered voters to cross the Nistru River to vote in special polling places. Moldovan authorities called the vote "illegitimate and undemocratic." In the region's 1996 presidential election, Smirnov defeated challenger Vladimir Malakhov with 72 percent of the vote.