Moldovan PM Strelet loses no-confidence vote

Moldovan PM Strelet loses no-confidence vote
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest October 29, 2015

Moldova’s parliament voted to dismiss Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet and his cabinet on October 29. Strelet lost the no-confidence vote when the Democratic Party (PD), part of the ruling coalition, voted with the opposition.

This is the second Moldovan government to collapse since the November 2014 general election. Previous indications were that the PD and its pro-European coalition partners, the Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM) and Liberal Party (PL), would form a new government with a different leader. However, as tensions within the ruling coalition have reached a new high, the outcome of negotiations on yet another new government are uncertain.

Given the worsening relations among the three pro-EU parties, the most natural alliance within the five-party parliament, prolonged negotiations are expected and Moldova could be heading for early elections. Under the Moldovan constitution, this could happen no sooner than next spring, should lawmakers fail to nominate a new president.

If the parliament fails to endorse a new prime minister within three months, the president can dissolve the legislative body and call early elections. Early elections could also be called after 45 days if two successive nominations are rejected.

However, under another constitutional provision, early elections can not be called 6 months prior to the presidential elections. Because dissolving the parliament within three months [or 45 days] is not imperative, the only option for Moldova, if the parties fail to form a new majority and a new cabinet, is to operate with an interim cabinet.

Strelet lost the vote with 65 of Moldova’s 101 MPs - from the PD, the Socialist Party (PSRM) and the Communist Party (PCRM) - voting against him.

The motion was submitted by MPs from the PSRM and PCRM on October 22. The two parties accused Strelet of involvement, through his company, in the corruption scandal related to $1bn frauds at three Moldovan banks - Banca de Economii, Banca Sociala and Unibank. They claim that Strelet’s firm had dealings with Caravita, a company allegedly controlled by former Prime Minister Vlad Filat and involved in the frauds at Banca de Economii, as well a contracting loans from the bank.

With 42 MPs between them, the two pro-Russian opposition parties needed the support of only nine other MPs to oust the government. The result was expected, after PD leader Marian Lupu said his party would vote against the government unless Strelet agreed to stand down.

The fragile pro-EU coalition started to fracture when Filat, leader of the senior ruling PLDM, was arrested on October 15 in connection to a massive banking fraud that saw $1bn siphoned off from three Moldovan banks.

Eight days later another high-profile politician, Renato Usatii, the popular mayor of Moldova’s second city Balti, was detained by police after publishing a taped conversation between Filat and businessman Ilan Shor, a key suspect in the banking scandal, on his Facebook page.

The collapse of the latest government plunges Moldova back into political uncertainty. It took almost three months to form a government after the November 2014 election. The government formed under Chiril Gaburici lasted just four months, when the prime minister was forced to resign over allegations he had forged his school diploma. Strelet’s government, formed on July 30, has had an even shorter lifespan.

The protracted periods of uncertainty and constant political infighting have prevented successive governments from moving forward with much needed reforms, in particular on judicial reform and tackling corruption.

This autumn, Moldovans have increasingly expressed their frustration with the authorities by taking to the streets. Up to 40,000 people joined a demonstration organised by the Dignity and Truth (DA) civic platform on September 6, while around 20,000 turned out for a rally organised by left-wing groups on September 27. The two groups have set up rival tent cities in Chisinau - outside the main government offices and the parliament respectively.