Moldova’s opposition Socialist Party says it is launching a campaign to increase the powers of the president and turn the country’s current parliamentary system of government into a presidential one.
The party of Moldova’s Russia-friendly President Igor Dodon made the announcement as his supporters held rallied in three Moldovan town and cities -- Anenii Noi, Balti, and Cahul -- on September 24, the same day as the president had been planning to hold a nationwide referendum that could have broadened his powers.
However, the Constitutional Court ruled on July 27 that the vote was unconstitutional, saying the questions that were to be posed in the referendum were "beyond presidential authority."
In the planned referendum, Moldovans would have been asked whether the president should be allowed to dissolve parliament and announce early elections; whether the number of deputies in the single-chamber legislature should be reduced from 101 to 71; and whether history classes that are called History of Romanians should be renamed History of Moldova.
The September 24 rallies come amid ongoing disputes between Dodon and the pro-Western Democratic Party that dominates parliament.
The president is also frequently at odds on foreign policy and other issues with Prime Minister Pavel Filip’s government, which favors closer ties with the European Union and the United States.
Dodon rejected this month the government’s nomination for defense minister, Eugen Sturza, recommending one of his close political allies for the post -- former Defense Minister Victor Gaiciuc.
The president also vetoed several bills previously passed by lawmakers that he said were aimed at limiting his powers as supreme commander of Moldova's armed forces in the interest of foreign powers.
Meeting in a special session on September 21, lawmakers overrode the presidential vetoes.
Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has had three governments since 2015, after the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system sent the country into a political and economic crisis.
The country has been marred by widespread corruption and high migration, as well as the frozen conflict with Transdniester.
An Association Agreement between the European Union and Moldova, signed in 2014, fully came into force in July last year.