Moldova plunged deeper into crisis Sunday as a new, acting president dissolved parliament and called elections after months of wrangling between pro-Russia and pro-European lawmakers failed to form a workable government.
The tiny country nestled between Ukraine and Romania has been in political chaos since a general election in February failed to give a clear majority to any party.
On Saturday, parliament approved a new government based on an unprecedented alliance between pro-Russian and pro-European forces.
It comprised the Socialist Party of then President Igor Dodon, which took 35 out of 101 seats in February’s vote, and the pro-European ACUM alliance, which got 26 seats.
The Democratic Party, the second largest in parliament with 30 seats and led by powerful oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, was effectively frozen out.
The move came however after the Constitutional Court had ruled Friday that new elections should be held.
On Sunday, the court suspended president Dodon and appointed Pavel Filip, who backs closer integration with the European Union, as interim leader.
Filip, the former prime minister from the Democratic Party, signed a decree dissolving parliament and called a snap vote for September 6.
– ‘Desperate step’ usurps power –
Dodon called his suspension a “desperate step” and an attempt to “usurp power”.
New Prime Minister Maia Sandu called for state officials to continue to back the just-formed government, apparently setting her on a collision course with the acting president Filip.
Sandu said that “in recent years government institutions have been forced to fulfil the orders of the Democratic Party” of Plahotniuc.
Thousands of supporters of the Democratic Party held a rally in the centre of the capital Chisinau on Sunday, attended by Filip.
The party bussed in large numbers of people amid a heavy police presence.
In a speech, Plahotniuc said: “We will go to the elections set for September 6 and win the trust of the public.”
He said Dodon was “not worthy of occupying the post of president.”
Filip said the Democratic party had not wanted snap elections but “in the current parliament, there is no one to work with.”
Dodon meanwhile said he was also considering the option of calling on Moldovans to take part in “peaceful protests”.
Neighbouring Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis in a statement called for “responsible dialogue of all political forces.”
“I firmly call upon all political forces in the country to respect democracy and rule of law,” he said.
Dodon complained Sunday that the Democratic Party did not want to “peacefully hand over power to a lawful parliamentary majority and a lawful government.”
He said the new government was backed by the “overwhelming majority of citizens.”
“We have no choice but to appeal to the international community with a call for it to act as a moderator in the process of peaceful handover of power,” Dodon said.
The Constitutional Court has already suspended Dodon several times in the last two years when he refused to back laws or appoint ministers.
Moldova, once part of Romania and later a Soviet Republic, is one of the poorest nations in Europe and contains a Russian-backed breakaway region called Transnistria.