Political Crisis in MoldovaFebruary 8, 2016 in Moldova
Moldova has seen a rough start of this year as the political crisis since the voting down of the Strelet government has carried on. Large masses of people have taken to protesting what is considered political corruption and demanding new elections. In October 2015 the government, led by Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet, was voted down with a vote of no confidence. The joint motion from the Democratic Party (PDM), Party of Socialists (PSRM) and Party of Communists (PCRM) was carried after it won 65 votes in the 101 seat parliament. The no confidence motion was a response to the series of popular protests against the government accusing it of official corruption. The Moldovan government has gone through a longer period of political instability after it was discovered that 1 billion US dollars had been fraudulently siphoned from the Banca de Economii. Since 1 billion USD is the rough equivalent of 15% of the Gross Domestic Product of Moldova, the theft of this money has brought severe financial hardship to a lot of its citizens. In the middle of December last year, about two weeks after the motion of no confidence was carried, President Nicolae Timofti unexpectedly nominated Ion Sturza, one of Moldova’s former Prime Ministers, as his candidate for the head of a new government. Sturza was unlikely to get the support of lawmakers though, and a majority of the Moldovan parliament boycotted voting for Sturza’s government in early January of this year. On the 15 of January president Timofti instead nominated former technology minister and ex-candy factory manager, Pavel Filip as his candidate for the Prime Minister position. The constitution of Moldova states that the President can nominate a candidate for the post as Prime Minister, a candidate who then has 15 days to form a government and present, for parliamentary approval, a political programme. It further states that the President can dissolve the parliament and appoint early elections if no vote of confidence for the new government is agreed on within 45 days of nomination. That period would have expired on 29 January. A parliamentary vote was held on 20 January and resulted in the approval of the new government. It thereby ended the three-month deadlock between Parliament and President. The approval of the new government led masses of the population to hold large-scale protests in the streets of Chisinau and throughout the country for three days. The popular discontent has since then sparked other anti-government protests around the country but mainly concentrated to the capital area. It seems the people of Moldova refuse to accept the new government and call for early parliamentary elections. Parliamentary elections take place every four years and the next one is scheduled for 2018. Some protests have been peaceful while others have resulted in clashes between protesters and authorities. On 20 January, the day the new Prime Minister was approved and presented his new government to Parliament, hundreds of protesters were reported to have stormed the Parliament building, pushing their way through the lines of police officers trying to hold them back. 15 people were injured in these clashes, nine of them reportedly from the authorities. The government of Moldova has been viewed by many as a corrupt ruling class who prioritises their own interest over the good of the republic. This is something the common people have had enough of, and it seems the Moldovans are ready to express just how fed up they are. Experts on the matter say some Moldovans prefer pro-Russian parties as an alternative to the pro-European government, which has been in power since 2009. Some protesters have directed a lot of criticism towards the government for failing to carry out promised reform and fight the corruption that has been one of the biggest problems in the country. “There is very real anger at the Moldovan political elite,” said Daniel Brett, an associate professor at the Open University. Protests have been arranged by the pro-Russian parties of the opposition and by a civic group called Dignity and Truth. On 24 January, local police blocked access to all administrative buildings in the capital as opposition went on with its anti-government protests. The numbers were estimated to 15000, still calling for new elections and the Parliament dissolved. In a way this is similar to the situation in Kiev a couple of years back. But the political lay-out is in reverse, instead of a popular strive towards closer cooperation with the west and the EU, the current political climate of Moldova is characterized by strong scepticism towards the EU. The large numbers and the passion with which people have participated in the protests might indicate that many are willing to go far for change. The question is how far and whether or not the discontent will lead to further escalations and more violence. It would seem that the leaders of the opposition would do better to discourage violence, avert possible attempts to topple the regime, and rather take power through winning fair and democratic elections. Change of rule without the people’s consent is generally not sustainable.