Moldovan president defies Constitutional Court by refusing to appoint minister

Moldovan president defies Constitutional Court by refusing to appoint minister
By bne IntelliNews January 25, 2017

Moldova’s pro-Russian President Igor Dodon has refused to appoint a minister of defence nominated by the ruling majority, ignoring a Constitutional Court decision. Dodon said the ministry should be headed by “a professional and a patriot” and turned down the nomination of former Environment Minister Valeriu Munteanu. 

Refusing the nomination again would be a clear breach of the constitution, as indirectly admitted by Dodon, but he apparently wants to capitalise on voters’ sentiment against the country’s slide towards to closer ties with Nato. Dodon has also announced plans to amend the constitution by a public referendum, to give more power to the president, particularly to dissolve the parliament.

“I am not going to sign [the appointment decree] and will wait to see what they want to do”, Dodon said quoted by unimedia.md. He admitted that the ruling majority has the necessary two-thirds plus one (67 of 101) seats in parliament to dismiss him and in fact invited the ruling coalition to do this if they wish. This is a risky move though, since Dodon won the presidential elections at the end of last year with a thin margin amid disappointment with pro-EU candidates and previous corrupt pro-EU governments. 

Shortly after his election, Dodon demanded that Moldova’s former Defence Minister Anatol Salaru be dismissed. But whereas Salaru had taken steps towards tighter ties with Nato, there are no grounds to believe that Munteanu shares his views. 

It is rather Munteanu's graduate education in Romania and postgraduate education in Strasbourg that make him undesirable to Dodon. Munteanu (36) went to high school in Romania and later studied law at a university in Târgoviște near Bucharest. However, this is not uncommon among Moldovan students.

In a ruling issued on January 24, the Constitutional Court said that President can only once reject, with motivation, the nomination of a minister but afterwards he must appoint the candidate even if the ruling coalition nominates the same person.

Nonetheless, in terms of public perception, Dodon can make the dispute look like he defending country’s slide toward Nato. This would help him gain some support from a significant group of voters that, albeit in favour of country’s European integration, oppose Nato membership and want their country to stay neutral. This increased popularity would help him gain more constitutional power for the presidency.

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