Rival governments vie for power in Moldova political crisis

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Moldova’s rival governments accused each other of usurping power Tuesday amid an escalating political crisis in the impoverished ex-Soviet nation.

After months of deadlock following February’s elections in which no party won a majority, the pro-Russian Socialist Party of President Igor Dodon made a surprise announcement over the weekend that it was forming a coalition government with ACUM, Prime Minister Maia Sandu’s pro-Europe party.

But the former ruling Democratic Party, controlled by powerful oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, refused to concede defeat. One of the country’s richest men, Plahotniuc is widely seen as Moldova’s de facto leader.

On Sunday, the Constitutional Court — regarded as under the control of Plahotniuc — dismissed Dodon as president, and appointed outgoing Prime Minister Pavel Filip as his replacement. Filip immediately called for parliament to be dissolved and re-elected in snap elections, a move Dodon called unlawful.

Both the new coalition partners and Plahotniuc accuse the other side of usurping power.

Sandu said Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party was attempting a coup and illegally blocking state institutions.

Civil servants should “ignore all illegal instructions of the outgoing regime,” Sandu said.

In an unusual show of unity, Russia and the West — which have been vying for influence over Moldova for decades — both backed Sandu’s government. France, Germany, Poland, Sweden and the U.K. backed the new ACUM and the Socialists’ ruling coalition in a statement Monday.

Plahotniuc’s party, in its turn, threatened to expand protests by its supporters.

“The ruling of the Constitutional Court must be implemented,” the Democratic Party’s deputy chairman, Vladimir Chebotar, said. “Parliament is dissolved and the only government is Pavel Filip’s government.”

Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest nations, has been beset by political turmoil and has been an arena of rivalry between the West and Russia since it won independence after the 1991 collapse of Soviet Union.

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Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade and Vadim Ghirda in Bucharest contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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