CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Thousands of Moldovans protested Sunday outside the national parliament building in the capital demanding the resignation of the country’s Russia-backed government and a new election.
The protesters gathered in response to a call issued by the newly elected pro-Western president, Maia Sandu, after lawmakers loyal to her predecessor, Igor Dodon, voted last week to strip her of control over the powerful state security service.
Addressing the protesters on Sunday, Sandu — who is due to take office on Dec. 24 — said that “an early (legislative) election is inevitable and the shortest way to achieve that is through the resignation of the government.”
“Today’s protest is not about ideological or political party differences, but rather a protest by citizens who have had enough of corruption and want a better life,” added the former World Bank economist who favors close ties with the European Union.
The move to strip Sandu of a key power was approved last week in the 101-seat parliament by 51 lawmakers of the Socialist party, which Dodon led before becoming president.
The narrow vote reflected deep political divisions between the pro-Russia and pro-West camps in the ex-Soviet nation of 3.5 million people sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine.
In the presidential election held on Nov. 16, Sandu decisively defeated Dodon, who Russian President Vladimir Putin had openly endorsed.
She called last week for an end to Russia’s peacekeeping mission in Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova with a majority of Russian speakers. Moldova was part of Romania before it was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 and its primary language is Romanian.
It is one of the poorest countries in Europe with nearly 1.2 million of its people estimated to be living abroad. It relies heavily on remittances, and closer ties with the EU are generally seen as more likely than those with Moscow to lead to a long-elusive political stability and economic recovery.