In Europe - East

By Alexander Mercouris, Russia Insider, Oct 30, 2015

Corruption scandal appears to pave way for return to power of pro-Moscow parties

Back in May Russia Insider wrote about how the political pendulum in Moldova is swinging from pro-EU parties back to pro-Russian parties. That swing may be about to go further still following the Moldovan parliament’s decision to vote out Moldova’s pro-EU government.

Anti-corruption, anti-government protest in Chisinau, Moldova on Sept 6, 2015

Anti-corruption, anti-government protest in Chisinau, Moldova on Sept 6, 2015

The vote took place following weeks of protests after a corruption scandal implicated some of Moldova’s leading pro-EU politicians. Most dramatically, one of Moldova’s leading pro-EU politicians, former prime minister Vlad Filat, was actually arrested by police a few weeks ago insider the Moldovan parliament building.

As news of the corruption scandals spread, protests grew. Initially, they seem to have been led by pro-EU groups. However, in recent weeks they appear to been taken over by Moldova’s large, pro-Russian Socialist party, which came first in the elections at the beginning of this year.

The collapse of the government was signalled by the decision of the former governing Communist party to withdraw support. It appears that it is now shifting towards an alliance with the Socialists.

It seems that other other independent deputies are in the process of switching support as well.

The outcome of this latest crisis cannot be foreseen. It is possible that the pro-EU parties will try to prevent elections by putting another government together. However, without the support of the Communists, it is difficult to see how such a government could win a majority in the parliament.

The alternative would presumably be elections. As the article from the Financial Times we publish below says, there is a strong possibility that such an election would be won by the pro-Russian parties.

The article in the Financial Times makes the alarm this would cause in Brussels – and Washington – all too obvious.

Moldova government collapses amid scandal

By Henry Foy, Financial Times, Oct 29, 2015

Moldova’s government collapsed on Thursday as the fallout from a $1bn theft from the country’s banks dragged Europe’s poorest nation deeper into political crisis.

The country’s lawmakers strongly backed a no-confidence motion against the pro-EU government amid public outrage at its role in the missing $1bn, heralding weeks of political instability and weakening the country’s EU integration efforts.

The vote came a fortnight after the arrest of the country’s former prime minister, who was alleged to have been part of a fraud in which 13.5bn Moldovan lei, equivalent to almost one-fifth of the country’s GDP, was stolen from three of the country’s banks.

The fraud, which investigators say involved a complex system of contracts and transactions linked to one of Moldova’s richest men, heightened already widespread disgust for the government, sparking protests in the country’s capital against what many see as a group of oligarchs running Moldova’s politics.

Wedged between Romania and Ukraine, the former Soviet state has long been torn between integration with the EU and the pull of Moscow. A string of weak, pro-EU coalitions has so far failed to crack down on endemic corruption.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Joseph Daul, president of the European People’s Party (EPP), the largest political group in the European parliament, said the government’s collapse “would diminish the country’s European prospects and would drive it into unprecedented economic and social chaos”.

The EPP had urged Moldova to “abandon political games” for the sake of “reform, development and modernisation”. Moldova signed an accession agreement with the EU in 2014, prompting a slew of import bans by an irate Russia.

Balazs Jarabik, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a foreign affairs think-tank, has described the fallout from the theft as “a political earthquake”.

The no-confidence motion was proposed by opposition parties advocating stronger ties with Moscow, and saw at least 15 members of the ruling coalition vote against their own government.

Western officials fear that pro-Russian parties could benefit from any fresh elections that would be called if a new government cannot be cobbled together in the coming weeks.

Vlad Filat, the former prime minister arrested in parliament this month and accused of accepting bribes worth $260m to facilitate the fraud, is still being questioned by investigators.

Leaders of the country’s pro-European parties in parliament said after the vote that they hoped to form a new government without a fresh ballot.


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