Moldova’s president-elect says incumbent wants to ‘set country ablaze’

Maia Sandu condemns corruption and record of Russian-backed president Igor Dodon

President-elect  of Moldova Maia Sandu:  Former World Bank economist who wants Moldova to join the EU is set to be sworn in as the country’s first female president. Photograph: Dumitru Doru

President-elect of Moldova Maia Sandu: Former World Bank economist who wants Moldova to join the EU is set to be sworn in as the country’s first female president. Photograph: Dumitru Doru

 

Thousands of Moldovans have rallied to demand snap parliamentary elections and to denounce allies of the country’s outgoing Russian-backed president Igor Dodon for stripping powers from his pro-western successor, Maia Sandu.

In a chaotic session of parliament last Thursday, the ruling Socialists and the party of Ilan Shor, a wealthy businessman fighting a fraud conviction, voted to transfer control of Moldova’s intelligence service from the president to deputies, in what Ms Sandu called a bid to stop her fulfilling her pledge to crush corruption.

Ms Sandu, a former World Bank economist who wants Moldova to join the European Union, is set to be sworn in as the country’s first female president this month, after winning November’s run-off against the Kremlin-endorsed Mr Dodon.

“Dodon, upset that he did not manage to fool people again, is trying to set the country ablaze. He wants to cause chaos, deepen the crisis, keep us in international isolation, make life harder for people and punish them for not voting for him,” Ms Sandu told protesters on Sunday in the centre of Moldova’s capital, Chisinau.

‘Deadly threat’

“Dear compatriots, corruption is a deadly threat to us all . . . The country is suffocating,” she added. “We want Moldova to move confidently forward into the future and become a strong state, in which thieves get what they deserve and people live in peace and harmony.”

Demonstrators waved banners and chanted slogans demanding snap elections, and opposition leader Andrei Nastase said Ms Sandu should take power immediately after the election results were officially confirmed on Thursday, rather than waiting for her scheduled inauguration two weeks later.

He announced that on Thursday his party plans to hold “a large-scale protest or even general strike, along with rallies outside the presidential and government administrations, demanding the resignation of Dodon and prime minister (Ion) Chicu”.

Russian language

Wedged between Ukraine and Romania, Moldova is blighted by poverty and deep-seated corruption; those factors drive many Moldovans to seek work in the EU or Russia, and the former Soviet state of 3.5 million has been pulled between east and west since gaining independence in 1991.

The Socialists, whose support base is Moldova’s large Russian-speaking community, also voted last Thursday to push through next year’s national budget without debate, lift restrictions on the broadcast of Russian television channels and to give preliminary approval to a Bill granting special status to the Russian language.

The EU condemned the vote as “hasty and non-transparent” and said it was “supported by people identified as having been involved in corruption . . . This also carries the risk that the legislation might serve vested interests.”

The Kremlin has recognised Ms Sandu’s victory but warned her not to push for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transdniestria, a breakaway region of Moldova run by Moscow-backed separatists since a war in the early 1990s.