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Rival Moldovan Governments Meet Separately As Russia Sides With New Alliance

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The government led by Prime Minister Maia Sandu (center) meets in the parliament building in Chisinau on June 10.

Two rival governments, each declaring itself legitimate, have held separate meetings in Moldova, as Russia threw its support behind a new ruling coalition between the Moscow-friendly Socialist Party and a pro-European Union bloc.

The country' Constitutional Court suspended President Igor Dodon, the former leader of the Socialists, on June 9.

Prime Minister Pavel Filip then stepped in as interim president, immediately dissolving the parliament and calling for snap elections to be held in September.

The court's move came a day after the Socialists and the pro-EU ACUM bloc announced their surprise alliance with the stated goal of removing Filip's ruling Democratic Party (PDM) from power.

The Democratic Party is led by the controversial tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc, who many say has been ruling Moldova from the shadows.

After inconclusive February parliamentary polls that resulted in a hung legislature, the court on June 7 ordered the parliament's dissolution and for new elections be held under Moldovan law, which requires a government to be formed within three months of the certification of election results.

But in an extraordinary parliamentary session on June 8, parliamentary leaders from the Socialists struck a deal with ACUM. The leaders of the new alliance accused the court of misinterpreting the constitution and annulling the previous poll after 90 days, not three months.

Democratic Party leader Vladimir Plahotniuc speaks at a rally in Chisinau on June 9.
Democratic Party leader Vladimir Plahotniuc speaks at a rally in Chisinau on June 9.

The two groups, which together control 61 of parliament's 101 seats, agreed on a framework for political cooperation and approved a new government led by Maia Sandu, an ACUM co-chair.

The Constitutional Court ignored the agreement and suspended Dodon, then appointed Filip as interim president.

Filip announced September 6 as the date for new elections and said Dodon had been suspended because he refused to sign off on parliament's dissolution. The Socialists and ACUM have accused the court of being controlled by Plahotniuc.

The Foreign Ministry of Russia, which still has more than 1,000 troops stationed in Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester, came out in support of the new coalition on June 10.

"Moscow welcomes the formation of a ruling coalition and government in the Republic of Moldova," the ministry said on its website, adding that it looked forward to working "jointly with the democratically elected bodies of power in Moldova."

Also on June 10, five EU member states -- France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and Great Britain -- issued a joint statement saying that Moldova's parliament was the "best place to discuss all political issues."

"We call for calm and restraint. All the sides bear responsibility for the resolution of this constitutional crisis by peaceful means," the statement said.

Earlier, on June 9, the United States, the EU, and NATO issued carefully worded statements urging both sides to show restraint.

Neighboring Romania's president, Klaus Iohannis, called for a "responsible dialogue of all political forces."

However, Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu said on June 10 that the only solution to the crisis was "going back to the voters."

Melescanu appeared to suggest that Romania -- which shares a common language, culture, and history with Moldova -- favors early elections rather than the recognition of the new alliance.

PDM supporters sit outside government headquarters in Chisinau on June 10.
PDM supporters sit outside government headquarters in Chisinau on June 10.

The two rival governments on June 10 held concurrent meetings, with Sandu's cabinet convening in parliament.

Filip's ministers gathered in the government building, which was blocked off by riot police and PDM supporters. Some 10,000 PDM supporters were bused in to Chisinau.

"This situation in the country will continue as long as the Moldovan oligarch Plahotniuc, who has captured all state institutions, is in Moldova," Sandu said.

Filip, meanwhile, urged state institutions to continue to function normally. "Citizens should not suffer because of the political crisis," he said.

Moldova has been dogged by political instability and corruption ever since it declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and hundreds of thousands of Moldovans have left the country.

The disappearance in 2014 of some $1 billion, or about one-eighth of Moldova's gross domestic product, from its banking system sparked a wave of public outrage that led to the creation of an anticorruption civic movement called the Dignity and Truth Platform (DA).

The DA, now part of the pro-EU ACUM alliance, has long claimed that Plahotniuc was involved in what came to be known as "the theft of the century."

Meanwhile, many PDM supporters put up tents in front of ministries and other government buildings, and some threw live turkeys into the yard outside the presidential palace.

Some PDM supporters chanted, "We are the people, Dodon is the traitor," after Dodon called for help from "the international community," a statement which some protesters appeared to interpret as a call for Russian help.

Plahotniuc, who controls a media empire as well as businesses in Moldova and Russia, said Dodon was "not worthy" of occupying the post of president. "We will go to the elections set for September 6 and win the trust of the public."

Meanwhile, Dodon told journalists in Chisinau on June 10 that although he believed Plahotniuc was "ready to eliminate" him physically, he would not leave power.

"I am aware that you're ready to do anything; you are ready to resort to eliminating the president. But I'm not going to give up, don't count on that!" Dodon said.

Dodon later said on his Facebook page that he had called an emergency meeting of the Supreme Security Council on June 11 to discuss the crisis.

Dodon also said that he appointed several new members to the council, including Sandu and other top members of the ACUM bloc. It was not immediately clear if other members of the council would heed Dodon's call and attend the meeting.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Moldovan Service, Unimedia.md, G4media.ro, Reuters, and AFP
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