The Moldovan Constitutional Court ruled on October 17 that the president of the country can be suspended for his refusal to appoint the defence minister proposed by the government.
There is speculation that Moldova’s ruling coalition will use the court’s ruling to appoint its leader, oligarch and Democratic Party chief Vlad Plahotnuic, as prime minister without the need for President Igor Dodon’s approval. Analysts and rival politicians say Plahotnic has already seized control over most state institutions in Moldova, which is increasingly a "captured state".
Pro-Russian Dodon has repeatedly said that he will not endorse or accept the government’s nominee for minister of defence, Eugen Sturza, irrespective of the will of government or the parliamentary majority, on the grounds that he is not a professional military officer. The government asked last month for the Constitutional Court’s mediation after Dodon had rejected Sturza's appointment twice.
The Constitutional Court said in its motivation that Moldova’s president has the right to check if the candidate proposed by the prime minister suits the post, but he cannot veto the PM’s proposal.
The court noted that the institutional deadlock was caused by “the president’s deliberate action”.
“The court noted that the presidency’s inaction, by failing to perform its duties, either for objective or subjective reasons, by deliberately refusing to exercise power, has identical consequences, i.e. blocking other institutions,” the court said.
“In this context, considering that in the case of deliberate refusal to exercise powers, the consequences are identical to those which arise in the case of impossibility to exercise powers due to objective reasons, the court considered that the settlement of these situations should be identical, i.e. the interim,” the court added.
According to the court, if Dodon is suspended, the interim position will be taken over by the parliament speaker or the prime minister. Speaker Andrian Candu is a close ally of Plahotnuic’s — the oligarch is his marriage godfather — while Prime Minister Pavel Filip has been a member of the Democratic Party since 2010.
Meanwhile, the relationship between Plahotnic and Dodon has been the subject of intense speculation in Moldova. The two are ostensibly on opposite sides in the ongoing debate over whether Moldova should orient itself towards Russia or the West. However, Plahotnic is understood to have covertly favoured Dodon in the 2016 presidential election over his main rival Maia Sandu of the pro-EU opposition Party for Action and Solidarity (PAS).
Dodon slammed the court decision in a statement on his Facebook page, saying it would result in the deeply unpopular Plahotnuic becoming prime minister.
“The Constitutional Court’s decision confirms what I have previously said, that Moldova will have another Prime Minister, V. Plahotniuc. And this is not all, through the court’s decision, Dodon does not have to give any explanations and is covered in front of the Kremlin and his electorate because not the party man from Condrita [reference to Dodon] will sign the decree, but [parliament speaker] A. Candu,” the leader of the opposition Liberal Party, Mihai Ghimpu, wrote on Facebook.
Dodon reacted harshly to the court’s ruling calling the judges accomplices of the government and parliamentary majority which “has made a new step towards total usurpation of power.” He also threatened to change the judges of the Constitutional Court once a new parliament is elected.
“One of the priorities of the new court will be the full revision of some rulings which have an anti state character and undermine the authority of the state institutions,” Dodon wrote on Facebook.
He pleaded again for early elections and for Moldova to be turned into a presidential republic.