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Moldova's Dual-Power PM Sandu Urges Democratic Party To Accept Opposition Status


Maia Sandu speaks during a briefing at parliament in Chisinau on June 13.

CHISINAU -- As Moldova approaches its second week of dual power, the cabinet backed by parliament has called for a public show of support on June 16.

"This event on Sunday is not a protest," said Maia Sandu, who was selected prime minister by a disputed session of parliament on June 8, in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Moldovan Service. "The Sunday event is a march in support of democratic processes, a march in support of the recently elected government. This march will be a powerful signal to the [other cabinet] that its time is over."

Moldova has been in the throes of a simmering political crisis since it held inconclusive legislative elections in February. In an extraordinary parliamentary session on June 8, the pro-Russian Socialist Party and the pro-European ACUM bloc formed a coalition and elected a government headed by ACUM co-Chairwoman Sandu.

The former cabinet, dominated by the Democratic Party (PDM) of controversial tycoon Vlad Plahotniuc, questioned the legitimacy of the session, and this position was backed by the Constitutional Court. The court's ruling invalidating the decisions of the June 8 parliamentary session has, in turn, been rejected by the Socialist-ACUM coalition.

The PDM government has called for new parliamentary elections on September 6.

"People have started to feel what freedom means," Sandu said. "Everyone wants to regain this freedom, including people inside the Democratic Party.... This desire for freedom is greater than the resistance that the regime is showing."

"The only thing we must ensure now is the peaceful transfer of power," she added.

The country is anxiously awaiting an assessment by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission of the Constitutional Court's action, an assessment that could offer a peaceful way out of the present standoff if both sides accept it. The commission's assessment is expected not later than June 21.

The commission's opinions are not binding, but are usually heeded by member states. Moldova became a member of the Council of Europe in 1995, four years after gaining independence from the Soviet Union.

"Sadly, I have heard Democratic Party representatives saying that the Venice Commission's opinions do not matter, and they are preparing the ground for not accepting the decision of the commission," Sandu said.

"The most important thing now for us, as citizens, with the help of our international partners, is to convince [the PDM] to leave, to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power. And, in turn, we will respect their right to form an opposition."

Sandu said the Socialist-ACUM coalition did not accept the proposal to hold elections on September 6 under the electoral law under which the February elections were organized.

Sandu said the law, which was criticized by the Venice Commission and the EU, favored the PDM.

"The snap elections they called are illegal," she told RFE/RL. "If it comes to early elections, this decision will be made by parliament, with the president. And we will be the ones who will organize those elections on the basis of a new electoral system -- a proportional system."

Sandu played down the fact that ACUM is a pro-European Union party in partnership with the pro-Russian Socialist Party, although she acknowledged that the West's support for her cabinet "bothers" some in the Socialist Party, while Moscow's support is unwelcome to some in her own.

"In the end," she said, "I think what will matter will be concrete actions and how we can build a foreign policy that serves the interests of Moldovan citizens."

Sandu urged the PDM to relinquish control of government buildings and accept the role of parliamentary opposition.

"The government can only function well when there is a strong opposition in parliament," she said. "And we want the Democratic Party to rid itself of corrupt elements and become a genuine opposition in parliament."

"We will not seek revenge," she added. "I have said this many times. We want to get rid of the regime and when we have gotten rid of this regime, we will start a constructive process.

"We have a lot to build. We must build institutions and adopt programs in the interests of the citizens. We have to recover money and receive funds from international institutions. We have to build a good business environment to create jobs...and secure higher salaries for the people."

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