Thousands of protesters rallied in the Moldovan capital Sunday (6 December) to demand the government’s resignation and snap parliamentary elections.
Moldova last month elected pro-European Maia Sandu to the presidency, earning her a surprise victory over pro-Russian incumbent Igor Dodon.
But Moldovan lawmakers this week passed a bill transferring control of the country’s intelligence agency from the president to parliament, and Sandu called for her supporters to rally against it.
She and supporters say the legislation’s goal is to undermine the presidency before Sandu takes office and to boost parliament, where Dodon’s supporters outnumber the opposition.
More than 5,000 people rallied on Thursday against the move.
On Sunday, more than 50,000 protesters gathered in front of the parliament building, according to organisers.
AFP journalists at the scene said that at least 20,000 protesters had turned out.
The opposition said many more could not make it to the rally, and accused police of having blocked entry to Chisinau to those coming from outside, including farmers who had arrived in tractors.
During the protest, demonstrators chanted “Down with Dodon!” and “We will not give in!” Hundreds of police cordoned off the parliament building, but did not interfere with the rally.
Protesters also called for Sandu to be inaugurated on 10 December, the day the constitutional court is expected to officially confirm her victory. Her inauguration is currently scheduled for two weeks later.
“We cannot wait for the inauguration of the president on 24 December,” said opposition lawmaker and deputy speaker of parliament Alexandru Slusari.
“Igor Dodon will plunder the whole country in these two or three weeks.”
Speaking at Sunday’s rally, Sandu reiterated her call for the government to resign and for early parliamentary elections.
“Igor Dodon does not want to admit defeat,” she told the crowd. “He wants now to set fire to the country, provoke chaos, drive Moldova into international isolation!”
At the last parliamentary election in 2019, Dodon’s party secured a third of the seats.
During his four years in power, he received strong backing from Moscow and supported closer ties with Russia.
Sandu promised during her campaign to battle corruption in the former Soviet country of 3.5 million people, which is one of the poorest in Europe.
Wedged between Ukraine and NATO member Romania, with which it shares a common language, Moldova has long been divided over closer ties with the European Union or maintaining traditional ties with Moscow.