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


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

Moldova’s President Igor Dodon, who was temporarily relieved of his duties by a Moldovan court to allow a stand-in to call a snap election, delivers a speech as Parliament Speaker Zinaida Greceanii listens during new ministers’ swearing-in ceremony in Chisinau, Moldova June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

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 recognize 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 most politically tumultuous nations of 3.5 million people, 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, European Union and NATO have urged both sides to show restraint. Russia welcomed the formation of the new government and hoped matters would stabilize soon.

On Sunday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Washington “calls on all Moldovan parties to show restraint and to agree on a path forward through political dialogue”.

Late on Tuesday, Filip’s government said it had decided to relocate the Moldovan Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in a move which could bring more support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.

In 2017, Trump decided to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing decades of U.S. policy and angering Palestinians who want the city’s eastern part for the capital of a future state.

The EU did not explicitly endorse the new government but took “good note” of the formation of a coalition, adding in a statement that it stood “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 toward the EU,” said Sandu.

Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich



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