In Depth

Moldova and the Russia-EU tug of war explained

Political crisis in former Soviet republic as president is removed from office

Moldova is in political turmoil as diplomatic tensions between Russia and the EU are played out in the former Soviet republic’s domestic politics. 

On Sunday, pro-Russian President Igor Dodon was stripped of his duties by the country’s courts and replaced by a pro-EU interim president, who immediately called snap elections. The crisis comes months after a general election that produced no clear victor.

So what is going on in Moldova – and why are Russia and the EU at odds over the tiny state?

What has just happened?

The BBC reports that the outgoing prime minister, Pavel Filip, has been appointed interim president by the Constitutional Court, after Dodon refused to dissolve parliament so that a second election could be held.

Filip has announced the dissolution of parliament but some lawmakers have refused to accept his order, saying the country’s state institutions have been seized. The row has fuelled fears of street violence as political tensions grow.

When were the first elections?

February. No clear winner emerged and rival parties have been manoeuvring since then to try to come up with a viable coalition. On Saturday, the pro-EU bloc Acum and the pro-Russian Socialists, headed by Dodon, struck a deal – but opponents, including Filip, said that a constitutional deadline for the formation of a new government had expired a day earlier. Both Acum and the Socialists dispute this claim.

What is the big split in Moldovan politics?

Essentially, Russia vs. the EU. Molodova is geographically situated between Ukraine and Romania, near the front line of EU influence, with Russia looking to consolidate power in the region, not long after its annexation of Crimea. Moldovan political parties are divided on who to support in this East-West split. With a population of just 3.5 million, Moldova is one of the poorest states on the continent, so both superpowers are in a position to buy influence through investment.

What lay behind the proposed coalition?

According to The New York Times, the unlikely alliance between the Socialists and the rival Acum bloc was a contrivance by the Socialists “intended to keep the Democratic Party of Moldova” out of power. Filip is a member of the Democrats.

What do the pro-Russia side say?

Unsurprisingly, they say the decision to remove Dodon from office and appoint the pro-EU Filip is unconstitutional. They also claim that corrupt oligarchs have taken control of Moldovan politics: Filip’s Democrats are backed by tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc.

What will happen next?

Filip has called snap elections for September. In the meantime, there are growing signs of unrest. Supporters of the Democrats have been out on the streets of capital Chisinau in recent weeks, while Dogon is calling on his supporters to mount “an unprecedented mobilisation and peaceful protests”.

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