The Republic of Moldova is a small, densely populated country, which gained its independence and became a sovereign state on 27 August 1991.
It is situated in South Eastern Europe, north of the Balkan Peninsula. The total area is 33,843 square km. The distance between the North and the South extremities is 350 km, and from East to West is 150 km. Moldova shares borders with Romania and Ukraine. Under the Constitution adopted in July 1994, Moldova is a democratic republic based on the rule of law. The Constitution separates the state powers into three branches – the legislative, the executive and the judicial branches. The legislative power belongs to the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, elected for four-year terms. The Parliament is unicameral. It consists of 101 deputies – representatives of parties and electoral blocks, as well as independent candidates. The executive power is exercised by the Government. Its role is to carry out the domestic and foreign policy of the state, as well as to control the activity of public administration. The Government consists of a Prime Minister, deputy prime ministers, ministers and other members. The President of the Republic of Moldova designates a candidate for Prime Minister through consultation with parliamentary factions.
The President of the Republic of Moldova is legally distanced from all branches of power. Nevertheless he / she is mostly allied to the executive branch. The President is elected by Parliament for a four-year term. The judicial branch encompasses the Supreme Court of Justice, Courts of Appeal and ordinary courts. The Supreme Court of Justice is the highest court and has the power to review decisions made by lower courts. The Constitutional Court of Moldova is the sole authority of constitutional jurisdiction in the Republic of Moldova. The six justices are appointed for six-year terms. The Parliament, the Government and the Superior Counsel of Magistracy appoint two justices each. The Constitution recognises the principle of local autonomy and states that all local issues be resolved and managed by local authorities, which operate independently pursuant to law. Each level of public administration has its own and delegated functions. The basic functions of local government include the organisation of social services, welfare services for the elderly, housing and utilities, water supply and sewerage, the provision of public services, physical planning, public transport, and the maintenance of local roads and streets.
Moldova is currently divided into 37 first-tier units, including 32 districts (in Romanian - "raioane"), three municipalities (Chişinău, Bălţi, Bender), one autonomous territorial unit (Gagauzia) and one territorial unit (Transnistria). The capital and largest city is Chisinau. Moldova has 66 cities (towns), including the five with municipality status, and 917 communes. Some other 699 villages are too small to have separate administration, so are administratively part of either cities (40 of them) or communes (659). This makes for a total of 1,681 localities in Moldova.