Moldova's Parallel Leader Warns Incumbent Against New Venezuela
Moldova’s newly declared Prime Minister Maia Sandu said her decision to form a parallel government in the former Soviet Republic is perilous and urged the former ruling party still claiming power not to turn the country into a second Venezuela.
Speaking in a phone interview from Chisinau, the 47-year-old former World Bank adviser insisted that her administration -- assuming it survives -- will be wholly pro-European even though it depends on the support of pro-Russia Socialist Party.
She said ninety percent of her fledgling cabinet were from her pro-Western Acum party and most have EU citizenship.
“We understand there is a high risk,” said Sandu. “But there is no other way for us to get rid of a regime that has canceled elections, changed election laws, engaged in corruption and captured institutions.”
Sandu finds herself at the center of a political standoff in one of Europe’s poorest countries, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. The crisis comes after years of corruption and misrule that culminated in a series of quickfire events that led to protesters spilling into the streets of the capital.
Over the weekend, the pro-Russian Socialist Party of President Igor Dodonmade a surprise announcement it was forming a government with the Acum party, which seeks closer ties with the European Union, in order to block a party backed by the country’s richest man, Vladimir Plahotniuc, from power.
Following the move, the Constitutional Court forced Dodon out and named an ally of the tycoon to lead, claiming the coalition had missed the deadline to form a government.
The turn of events left a country of 3.5 million, long on the fault line between East and West, with two presidents and two prime ministers. It also produced a rare spectacle: The EU and Russia backing the same horse, in Sandu’s coalition government.
“We are hoping for a peaceful transition of power, but if they don’t let us into our offices within the next few days, we will have to call our people into the streets,” said Sandu. “We hope Plahotniuc will do nothing to provoke violence, or do anything to create a situation here like what’s happening in Venezuela.”
Role of Judges
The country’s judges have been criticized by the international community for their lack of independence in the past, including last year, when the EU suspended 100 million euros ($113 million) of aid after a court overturned the election for mayor of Chisinau.
The Democratic Party-led government, which still occupies the official ministries, denies exerting political influence over the courts and says it has done more than any predecessor to make them independent.
Asked if she wasn’t concerned that the Socialists would brush Acum aside as soon as Plahotniuc is dealt with, Sandu acknowledged the risk but said she was confident that wouldn’t happen.
“They are more vulnerable to the regime and really want to get rid of it. They also know they can’t do that without international support, and they know we are the only political force in Moldova that has that support,” she said. The same applies to restarting the Western aid that a Socialist government would need, too, she said.
On Tuesday, the legislature will vote to reverse a recent election law that favored the Democratic Party by shifting some seats to a constituent system more easily influenced by government spending choices.
Filip has announced snap elections on Sept. 6, while Dodon’s coalition also seeks an early vote.
“If we go to elections, they have to be based on proportional representation and they must be organized by us in a free and fair manner,” Sandu said.
The crisis started brewing after February elections left the three main parties each with about one-third of parliament. The chamber had three months to form a government after the results were confirmed on March 9 or face a new vote. The court ruled that deadline had passed after 90 days, while the coalition argues that the law allows three calendar months to form a government.
Both Moscow and Brussels have come out in support of the elected government. The EU called for “calm and restraint” in a statement Sunday. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday that it’s “ready for joint work with the democratically elected authorities in Moldova.”
The U.S. seemed to avoid taking sides in the dispute and called for restraint from all parties, while it endorsed the February elections, according to a Sunday statement by State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus.
Dodon, who has called for a “peaceful transition of power,” will hold an emergency meeting of the country’s Supreme Security Council soon and will meet with accredited ambassadors to Moldova to discuss the situation.
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