Moldova's Socialist-controlled parliament has approved legislation stripping President-elect Maia Sandu of control over the country’s intelligence service and moving it back under lawmakers' jurisdiction just weeks before she takes office.
The bill was approved on December 3 despite thousands of Sandu supporters protesting in central Chisinau.
Sandu, a former World Bank economist who favors closer ties with the European Union, defeated the Russia-backed incumbent Igor Dodon in last month's presidential election, but parliament is still dominated by the pro-Moscow Socialists aligned with Dodon.
The Socialists have argued that since Moldova was a parliamentary republic, control over the intelligence service should be handed to parliament.
In June last year, the Socialists voted to transfer the control of the Information and Security Service (SIS) from parliament to Dodon -- their former party leader.
Moldova, which declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, has been rocked by corruption scandals, including the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system several years ago. A frozen conflict with its Moscow-backed separatist Transdniester region has also added to the continued instability in Europe's poorest country.
Sandu's supporters shouted "down with the mafia" and "down with Dodon," while inside parliament, proceedings were suspended after lawmakers from Sandu's Action and Solidarity Party, supported by others, blocked the central rostrum.
However, the lawmakers approved the bill in two readings at once, the press service of Moldova’s parliament reported.
"The draft bill has been approved by 51 votes [out of 101] in the first and second, final reading," announced Vlad Batrincea, deputy speaker of parliament.
Sandu has described the move to strip her office of control of the SIS as "an attempt to usurp power" and undermine her presidency.
"People gave us their vote to punish the thieves, to return the stolen money to people," she told the protest rally.
"But the robbers now got scared, they want to protect the old corruption rackets, they want to throw the voice of the people into a landfill."
The Socialists have also drafted legislation that would give special status to the Russian language, which is widely spoken alongside Romanian in the country sandwiched between Ukraine and EU member state Romania.
Sandu's call for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Moscow-backed separatist region of Transdniester prompted the Kremlin to warn it could lead to "serious destabilization" this week.