Moldovan lawmakers approved a new government yesterday (20 January), headed by a pro-European premier, amid chaotic scenes, as angry protesters entered parliament and opposition legislators tried to block the vote.
Seeking to end a prolonged stalemate, a majority of deputies backed former IT minister Pavel Filip as the new prime minister.
Filip pledged his priority would be to ensure closer ties between the impoverished ex-Soviet state and the 28-nation European Union.
The vote itself took place in turmoil, with opposition politicians blocking access to the speaker’s podium to try to disrupt the process.
The decision to choose Filip was met by a rally outside parliament that saw some five thousand protesters opposed to the vote gather to demand snap elections.
Several dozen managed to break through police lines and into the parliament building after the government was chosen, while police threw smoke grenades and used batons to try to disperse the demonstrators.
The EU called for “calm and restraint” and said that it would look to help the competing sides find a way out of the current crisis.
“We encourage all stakeholders in the country to engage in a dialogue and find, together, a way forward for the Republic of Moldova,” the EU said in a statement.
Moldova has been locked in political crisis over a $1-billion (€910 million) corruption scandal that triggered mass demonstrations and the arrest of Vlad Filat, who served as prime minister from 2009 to 2013.
The last government, which was also pro-EU, lost a parliamentary confidence vote in October, and was dismissed. Since then, the parliament has been deadlocked over its replacement.
The new executive still needs to be technically sworn in by the Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti.
Moldova, a country of 3.5 million people wedged between Ukraine and Romania, is one of Europe’s poorest countries.
In 2014, the government signed a historic EU association agreement despite bitter opposition from Russia.
EurActiv Romania is running a live blog on developments in Moldova.
Moldova is a former Soviet republic, and was part of Romania before being annexed by the Soviet Union in World War II. It is landlocked between Romania and Ukraine. Moldovans speak Romanian, although the country's constitution calls it the 'Moldovan language'. Russian is also widely spoken.
Moldova has signed its EU Association Agreement on 27 June 2014 and has ratified it only five days later. Russia doesn't approve this pro-EU move and tries to keep Moldova in its orbit.
Transnistria, a Moldovan region east of the Dniester River, has been considered a 'frozen conflict' area since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It has ethnic Russian and Ukrainian populations. Although internationally Transnistria is part of Moldova, de facto its authorities do not exercise any power there.