Moldova's new Defence Minister Eugen Sturza was sworn in on October 24, amid rising conflict between President Igor Dodon, who is temporary suspended, and the pro-EU government. The decree was signed by parliament speaker and interim president of Moldova, Andrian Candu, the government said in a statement.
Pro-Russian Dodon refused repeatedly to nominate Sturza for the post, on the grounds that he is not a professional military officer. On October 17, the Constitutional Court ruled that the president of the country can be suspended for his refusal to appoint the defence minister proposed by the government. The court noted that the institutional deadlock was caused by “the president’s deliberate action”.
The government asked last month for the Constitutional Court’s mediation after Dodon had rejected Sturza's appointment twice. The court ruled on October 20 that the president is temporarily incapacity to exercise his duty to endorse the defence minister and that the parliament speaker or the prime minister should sign, as interim president, the appointment decree.
The new defence minister said his priorities will include the modernisation of the army and training the military.
“My position is that Moldova is a neutral country. At the same time, neutrality does not mean isolation. We should continue to offer our military the possibility to be well trained and we should have a professional and well organised army,” Sturza said.
“I am happy that an end was put to an incertitude which lasted too much in Moldova and that the Defence Minister has a head today. My stance is that Moldova is a neutral country. At the same time, the neutrality does not mean isolation. In continuation, we should give our servicemen possibility to be well-trained and to have a professional and well-organized army,” Prime Minister Pavel Filip said at the swearing in ceremony.
Dodon reacted on Facebook calling the appointment of the new minister an act “beyond the limit of political legitimacy,” adding that “early elections, a Socialist parliamentary majority and the presidential state remain the only solution to save Moldova.”
Dodon is expected to be reinstated as president now that the new defence minister has been appointed, however, Stratfor analysts write that “Though the conflict over the defense minister has been settled, it won't settle the broader standoff between Dodon and parliament.”
“[T]he temporary suspension of Dodon will potentially widen the rift between the president and Parliament. Dodon had earlier threatened to call his supporters onto the streets over the appointment of Sturza,” Stratfor said in an October 24 comment.
“In upcoming parliamentary elections, Dodon's Socialist party is likely to perform well, which may provide the president with the additional support he needs to move the country away from the West and closer to Russia. But until then, the tug-of-war between Moldova's rival factions and their competing foreign policy visions is likely to continue.”