The government of Moldovan prime minister Vlad Filat fell to a motion of no confidence in parliament on March 5, with one of the junior partners in the ruling coalition voting in favour of the motion.
The motion, filed last week by the opposition communists on grounds of poor economic growth and allegations of corruption against the government, passed with 54 votes in the 101-seat legislature.
This was the culmination of two months of infighting inside the ruling coalition, dubbed the Alliance for European Integration, which saw relations between the three parties in the coalition sour to a breaking point. The cabinet’s downfall comes at a time when Moldova is in the final stages of implementing EU-mandated measures meant to culminate in the signing an Association Agreement with the block and a visa-free travel agreement at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius at the end of the year.
There was a personal aspect to the vote, with the Democratic Party voting against the cabinet – in which it has four ministers – in apparent retaliation for Filat’s party, the Liberal-Democrats, joining the communists last month to sack Democratic Party’s deputy speaker, Vlad Plahotniuc.
Filat and Plahotniuc, both businessmen with extensive business interests prior to entering politics, have always had a tense relationship at best, which only worsened over the years. (The duo reportedly almost came to blows last month during a meeting, according to reports in local media.)
Over the past two months, the conflict between the two has escalated, their parties exchanging accusations of corruption, involving state institutions controlled by the two parties.
In his first remarks after the vote, Filat blamed Plahotniuc’s sacking for the fall of his cabinet, saying that it had nothing to do with the cabinet’s alleged failure to implement its government programme.
Mihai Ghimpu, the leader of the third party in the ruling coalition, the Liberals, also criticised Filat extensively from parliament’s pulpit, but said his party would vote against the motion in order to keep Moldova on its course for closer relations with the EU. However, Ghimpu called on Filat to resign as prime minister.
Despite the infighting in the ruling coalition, the fall of the cabinet did not automatically trigger snap elections; regular elections are due at the end of 2014.
Democratic Party leader and parliament speaker Marian Lupu has said that his party was open to re-negotiating the terms of the coalition agreement. In recent days, speculation among local analysts pointed towards Liberal-Democrat Iurie Leanca, foreign affairs and European integration minister, as a potential prime minister nomination that could keep the coalition going.
Filat did not say right away whether his party would participate in any talks concerning the future of the ruling coalition or favour snap polls.
According to Moldova’s constitution, Filat has to submit his resignation to the country’s president within three days.
(Vlad Filat, left, shakes hands with European Council president Herman van Rompuy before the European Council meeting in Brussels in December 2011. Photo: President of the European Council/flickr.com)