Moldova’s veteran Communist president on Wednesday suffered a big blow to his authority when cracks appeared in his party’s ranks as parliament rejected his bid to secure the appointment of a hand-picked successor in a vote that seems certain to trigger early parliamentary elections.
Vladimir Voronin, who is obliged to stand down after serving two terms, failed on Wednesday in a second attempt to persuade parliament to approve the appointment of Zinaida Greceanii, the prime minister, as the new president. Meanwhile, Marian Lupu, a leading reformist Communist MP, threatened to quit the party saying – in a thinly disguised attack on Mr Voronin – that it needed to be “more democratic”.
Wednesday’s developments leave Moldova, Europe’s poorest country, moving deeper into political uncertainty that began in April when the ruling Communist party claimed a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. Opposition leaders condemned the polls as fraudulent and their supporters denounced the results during violent street demonstrations in Chisinau, the capital.
In an exact rerun of an earlier vote two weeks ago, Ms Greceanii received unanimous backing from parliament’s 60 Communist members but failed to collect the one extra vote needed for the qualified majority she required in the 101-member parliament. To the surprise of many observers, not a single opposition member broke ranks as the anti-Communist parties stuck firmly to a collective boycott. Mr Voronin, who is now both acting president and parliamentary speaker pending a constitutional court ruling on whether the roles can be combined, reappointed Ms Greceanii as prime minister on a temporary basis.
The constitution requires that after a failure to appoint a new president, parliament must be dissolved and fresh elections held within 45 days, though the economic crisis means the country cannot afford to remain rudderless for long.
A budget drawn up late last year, before a 40 per cent decline in remittances from the 400,000 Moldovans working abroad wrecked the government’s revenue assumptions, now faces a €1bn ($1.4bn) shortfall. An International Monetary Fund assessment team is currently in Chisinau.
Mr Lupu, Mr Voronin’s predecessor as speaker, told the FT the acting government would have limited financial room for manoeuvre and the IMF would be cautious about negotiating with it. Mr Lupu criticised the Communist leadership saying: “There need to be a number of changes to the party, in its behaviour and values. It needs to become more democratic.” He said he has not yet decided whether to quit the party.
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