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Moldova's Interim Leader Dissolves Parliament, Calls Snap Elections

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Igor Dodon (right) has been frequently at odds with Pavel Filip (left) and his government.

CHISINAU -- Moldova has plunged deeper into political crisis after the country's top court suspended President Igor Dodon and his appointed replacement dissolved parliament and called for snap elections.

Thousands of people massed in the capital, Chisinau, on June 9 in support of Dodon's replacement, Pavel Filip, while Dodon slammed the court's decision and accused a rival political party, the Democratic Party -- backed by an influential tycoon -- of trying to cling to power.

The crisis adds more instability to Moldova, one of Europe's poorest states, long plagued by corruption and politically divided by those favoring closer ties with the European Union, and those wanting tighter relations with Russia.

Protesters, who were bussed into the capital by the Democratic Party, chanted, "We are the people, Dodon is the traitor."

Many put up tents in front of ministries and other government buildings. Some also threw live turkeys into the yard outside the presidential building, a reference to an insulting nickname given to Dodon several years ago.

At a news conference on June 9, Dodon accused the tycoon backing the Democratic Party, Vladimir Plahotniuc, of not wanting to give up power. He called for his supporters to organize protests, and called for help from other nations.

"Those who over the last years have controlled the state institutions do not want to give up the power in the Republic of Moldova," Dodon said. "It was expected. I do not think anybody wants to leave Plahotniuc alone."

Elections held in February resulted in a hung parliament, leading to months of coalition negotiations.

On June 7, the Constitutional Court ordered new elections be held under Moldovan law that requires a government be formed within three months of the certification of election results.

But in an extraordinary parliamentary session on June 8, parliamentary leaders from Dodon's Socialist Party struck a deal with a pro-European bloc known as ACUM.

The two groups, which together control 61 of parliament's 101 seats, agreed on a framework for political cooperation and approved a new government. The move was widely seen as a way to keep Plahotniuc and his Democratic Party out of power.

The Democratic Party, which holds 30 seats in parliament, slammed the deal, and appealed to the Constitutional Court, which then suspended Dodon and appointed Filip as interim president.

"The court finds the decision of June 8, 2019, taken by the members of the 10th parliament to elect Zinaida Greceanii to the post of speaker of parliament to be unconstitutional," the court's statement said.

The court also declared all future decisions of the parliament invalid as well.

Filip then dissolved parliament and ordered new elections to be held on September 6.

Maia Sandu, who had been named prime minister under the deal reached on June 8, criticized the court decision and called for support from public servants.

"You are the foundation of the good administration of the country," she said in a speech. "Politicians come and go, but you are the ones who truly govern this country, through your skills, knowledge, and loyalty to the Republic of Moldova."

Under Moldovan law, if parliament fails to form a government within three months of the certification of election results, the president can dissolve the legislature and call new elections.

The February elections were certified on March 9, and analysts have assumed that the deadline for forming a new government was June 9.

However, on June 7 the Constitutional Court ruled that the deadline was actually June 7, 90 days after the certification.

In addition, there is a dispute about whether the president must dissolve parliament. The Constitutional Court ruled that he must, while Dodon argues that the president has the option of allowing continued efforts to form a government.

The Democratic Party has said they will ask the Supreme Court to rule on the matter.

The political turmoil prompted a joint statement from EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who called for "calm and restraint."

"In light of the developments following the decisions taken yesterday by the Parliament...the European Union strongly reiterates its call for calm and restraint. Dialogue between democratically elected representatives must remain the key to finding a solution to the current political crisis," she said in the statement issued on June 9.

In a post on Facebook, EU Ambassador to Moldova Peter Michalko said that "democratically elected representatives should decide the outcome of the political process."

The U.S. Embassy in Moldova called on political parties to respect democracy and the rule of law, as did Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

Romania is closely linked -- culturally, economically, and politically -- to Moldova.

There was no immediate public reaction from Russia, which continues to hold influence on politics in the former Soviet republic.

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