MS Risk Blog

Growing Tensions Between Pro-Russian Moldavan President and Pro-Western Parliament

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Tensions during the last three months between President Igor Dodon and the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova have escalated dramatically since Moldova and Russia have been embroiled in a series of political rows in 2017 leading to Moldovia recalling their ambassador from Russia on 18 December. Dodon is a vocal supporter of Russia and an opponent of his country’s relations with the European Union and NATO. Dodon has vowed to take Moldova into the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia and revoke Moldova’s association agreement with the European Union (EU).  The Moldovan parliament has taken a more pro-western stance and has been moving towards closer relations with the EU. Dodon has intentionally refused to carry out his required duties as president whenever the legislation or appointment would not favor a closer Russian-Moldovan relationship. On three occasions since October 2017, the Moldovan Constitutional Court has had to temporarily suspend Dodon from power to enact legally passed legislation, or ministerial appointments, by the Chisinau-based government.

On 5 January the court suspended Dodon’s power to enact legislation that would restrict Russian television broadcasts as foreign propaganda. Previously, the court ruled that Dodon can veto a bill only once and must approve the legislation if passed again. Dodon refused to comply with the judicial ruling and was found to be in violation of his duties. Lawmakers say the bill would prevent the dissemination of what they describe as “fake news” on foreign channels and would ban television channels from airing news and analytical programs from countries that have not signed up to a European broadcasting agreement, such as Russia.

On 2 January the court suspended Dodon’s powers due to a disagreement between him and the pro-Western government over ministerial appointments. Dodon had earlier blocked the government’s choice of new ministers in a reshuffle, accusing the nominees of incompetence and saying some had links to a notorious scandal in which around $1 billion was siphoned out of the Moldavan banking system.

On 24 October the Moldovan Constitutional Court ruled that Dodon could be temporarily suspended over his failure to fulfill his constitutional duties and for causing an institutional deadlock for his refusal to appoint Eugen Sturza as defence minister. Dodon refused to approve Sturza because he said the 32-year-old did not have the proper experience to serve as defence minister.

On December 21 Dodon told his supporters to refrain from “revolution” and wait for the upcoming elections next year to oust the current government because he has seen what revolutions can do in other countries. However, it is important to note that Russia has used the perceived perception of persecution of Russian minorities in former Soviet Union republics as an excuse for military action. It is possible that the underlying context of this statement was more of a veiled threat against the Chisinau government than a genuine plea to Dodon’s supporters.