Members of the Liberal Party (PL), including the environment and education ministers, have announced they are resigning from the government.
The PL’s decision is not expected to result in an immediate collapse of the government. The ruling Democratic Party (PD) said on May 26 that the coalition is still functional and has all “the political support to continue the implementation of reforms and political programme”. However, the departure of the 13 Liberal MPs is likely to create an opening for President Igor Dodon to intensify his push for early elections.
The decision came after the PL decided on May 26 to withdraw from the ruling coalition, after its vice president, Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoaca, was detained in a corruption case. The party claimed the arrest was politically motivated.
On May 29, Environment Minister Valeriu Munteanu and his deputies Igor Talmazan and Victor Morgoci, and Education Minister Corina Fusu and deputies Cristina Boaghi and Elena Cernei submitted their resignations, according to deschide.md.
The PL’s withdrawal from the ruling coalition was announced by PL leader Marian Ghimpu the day after Chirtoaca was detained by anti-corruption prosecutors on suspicion of influence peddling in a case related to the contract for a new parking system for the capital. Last month, another liberal politician, Transport Minister Iurie Chirinciuc, was also detained on suspicion of corruption.
Party officials have claimed this is part of a campaign against the PL, which has resisted attempts by the PD and President Igor Dodon’s Socialists to reform the electoral system - a move expected to benefit the larger parties.
The PL is strongly against Russian influence in Moldova, which along with Ukraine is one of the states on the fault line between the western and Russian spheres of influence. Ghimpu is one of the few high-profile Moldovan politicians to support Moldova’s unification with Romania.
Speaking on May 26, he claimed that the PL had done what it could to prevent early elections - an option favoured by Dodon since his party has led recent polls - “but unfortunately … we were not appreciated either by citizens or our colleagues in the parliamentary majority,” he added. “This coalition cost us a lot, including the loss of my political image and that of my colleagues.”
In a recent TV show, Ghimpu suggested that Chirtoaca’s arrest was ordered by Dodon saying that “all attacks against PL started when Dodon became president,” agora.md reported.
“It is reportedly a fight against corruption, but in fact it is a fight with the Liberal Party which has assumed some ideals and Moldova’s reunion with Romania,” Ghimpu said, according to a party statement, adding that “this policy regarding PL has become more and more active after the coming of your president. It means this decision comes from Moscow”.
“Moscow made the decision that the mayor should be detained. Now we will see who he wants to take Dorin Chirtoaca’s place,” Ghimpu added. The Moldovan president has been pushing to strengthen relations with Moscow since taking office.
Moldova’s parliamentary majority was formed in January last year by the PD with the support of the PL, as well as MPs that had defected from the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, and one independent MP.
Recently, a new parliamentary group supporting the ruling coalition was formed, strengthening its position in the parliament. In April, former Prime Minister and leader of the European Popular Party Iurie Leanca and MP Valeriu Ghiletchi announced the foundation of their new parliamentary group with the “aim of consolidating the political right wing,” according to a previous report by jurnal.md.
Despite the PD’s attempt to assure citizens that the coalition is still functional, the PL’s departure may create an opportunity for Dodon to push ahead with his plans to organise early elections.
Dodon, who won the presidential elections in 2016, has repeatedly called for early elections, including in his first interview given to Rossia24 back just hours after he won the presidential elections. Dodon said he wants early parliamentary elections in 2017 to create a government that will support his plans.
Dodon’s party is the largest in parliament and a recent poll has shown that it is close to obtaining a parliamentary majority. According to a poll carried out by the Public Opinion Fund (FOP) for Timpul daily in March, if elections had been held at the time his party would have taken 48.4% of the vote. The ruling PD is highly unpopular, and would have only got 3.9%.
Dodon has already issued a decree initiating a referendum in which he hopes to gain the power to dissolve the parliament and call early elections. If it goes ahead, the referendum will be held on September 24, and Dodon has said he expects to dissolve the parliament in October or November.
Meanwhile, Dodon has agreed with PD’s plans to reform the government by reducing the number of ministries. PD leader Vlad Plahotniuc announced earlier in May that the government will be restructured and will be made up of only nine ministries, compared to the current 16, in order “to reduce costs and more the government’s activity more efficient”, according to Publika.md. Plahotniuc admitted at the time that even though the coalition agreed to a restructuring of the government, there had been differing opinions on certain topics.
“A reform of the government is necessary, the number of ministries should be reduced, and these ministers should be dismissed. They should be dismissed even outside the reform,” Dodon wrote on Facebook.