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As rivals dig in, Moldova president pushes back against snap election

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As rivals dig in, Moldova president pushes back against snap election
Igor Dodon, who was relieved of his duties as Moldovan President, speaks to the media in Chisinau, Moldova June 9, 2019. REUTERS/Vladislav Culiomza   -   Copyright  VLADISLAV CULIOMZA(Reuters)
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By Alexander Tanas

CHISINAU (Reuters) – Moldovan President Igor Dodon on Tuesday scrapped a decree for a snap parliamentary election that was hastily issued by his rivals over the weekend, as two opposing factions tussled for control of the tiny east European country.

The leaders of the pro-EU ACUM bloc and Dodon’s Russian-backed Socialists broke months of post-election deadlock by agreeing to form a government aimed at fighting corruption and keeping a party run by tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc out of power.

But Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party does not recognise the new government and insists Pavel Filip, the prime minister who led the government until February’s vote, is still in charge.

The Democrats persuaded the Constitutional Court to briefly suspend Dodon on Sunday, install Filip as president for enough time to allow him to issue a decree calling a new election. Dodon and ACUM say the court is under Plahotniuc’s control.

Both sides accuse the other of trying to usurp power. The crisis threatens more instability for one of Europe’s poorest and smallest nations of 3.5 million, where the West and Russia vie for influence.

“The decree signed by Mr. Filip on the dissolution of parliament and the declaration of early parliamentary elections on Sept. 6 does not comply with constitutional norms,” Dodon said.

The United States, the EU and NATO have urged both sides to show restraint. Russia welcomed the formation of the new government and hoped matters would stabilise soon.

The EU did not explicitly endorse the new government but took “good note” of the formation of a coalition, adding: “the European Union stands ready to work with the democratically legitimate government.”

The agreement between ACUM leader Maia Sandu, a former World Bank adviser and education minister, and the Socialists broke the impasse after February’s election produced a hung parliament. Sandu was made prime minister.

But the Constitutional Court ruled that Sandu’s side had missed the deadline to form a government and that the country should hold a snap election.

“Without getting rid of Plahotniuc, without cleaning up the institutions, without releasing citizens from fear and oppression, Moldova has no chance to move towards the EU,” said Sandu.

Democratic Party vice chair Vladimir Cebotari said the Constitutional Court’s judgements could not be ignored.

Sandu’s government convened in parliament on Monday, while Filip’s cabinet met in the government building, which was surrounded by police officers and Democratic Party supporters.

The Democrats have invited Sandu for dialogue, but Sandu said that could only take place if the Democrats stopped surrounding government buildings and allowed her ministers to enter their offices.

(Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Alison Williams)

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