Nato and the EU have called for “calm and restraint” in Moldova after its supreme court suspended the president and declared the government illegal, throwing the country into political chaos.
The government has so far refused to accept the court’s decision claiming Moldova’s state institutions, including the supreme court, have been captured by an oligarchy linked to the Democratic Party, which had formed the previous government.
The small ex-Soviet state, also Europe’s poorest country, now faces the prospect of a protracted period of instability as it wrestles with a damaging crisis that has raised questions as to just who is in control.
Moldova had been without a government since inconclusive elections in February but last week the pro-EU Acum bloc and the pro-Moscow Socialists decided to put aside their significant differences and form a government, in an apparent move aimed at fighting corruption and bringing down an alleged oligarchy led by Vladimir Plahotniuc, the leader of the Democratic Party.
Turmoil broke out over the weekend when the court ruled the newly formed coalition government was illegal because its formation had apparently failed to meet a deadline after which new elections would have to be called.
The court then stripped Igor Dodon, the Moldovan president, of his power on Sunday following his refusal to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections, and replaced him with Pavel Filip, a former Democratic Party prime minister.
Mr Filip then called for snap elections set for September 6, and dissolved parliament.
The EU appeared to throw its weight behind the government led by Maia Sandu, a former World Bank executive and education minister, stating that it “stands ready to work with the democratically legitimate government.”
In a statement mirroring one issued by Nato the EU also called for “calm and restraint”, adding that “dialogue between democratically elected representatives must remain the key to finding a solution to the current political crisis.”
Despite presiding over what to some in her country is a still-born government, Ms Sandu struck a defiant tone, calling for her opponents to leave.
“This situation in the country will continue as long as the Moldovan oligarch Plahotniuc, who has captured all state institutions, is in Moldova,” she said. “We don’t want to aggravate the situation. I hope that those who are trying to usurp power are aware of their position and will leave voluntarily.”
Meanwhile Mr Filip urged state institutions to continue to function normally. “Citizens should not suffer because of the political crisis,” he told assembled ministers and government agencies.
With neither side yet backing down Moldova appears locked in a dangerous stand-off. Vlad Kulminski, an expert in Moldovan politics, told The Telegraph that it would take significant external and internal pressure to force the Democratic Party to concede defeat and let the government stand.
But he warned that as it has control over the law enforcement agencies in Moldova it could resist attempts by the public to unseat it.
“The situation is very uncertain,” he said. “If it manages to hold onto office then we could face the situation of having something like a military junta in Europe.”