Moldova Had Two Governments. One Has Finally Resigned.

Moldova Had Two Governments. One Has Finally Resigned.

CHISINAU, Moldova — Diplomats from Russia, the United States and Europe have rarely agreed about international issues lately. But on Friday their united efforts helped resolve a constitutional crisis in an unlikely location: the Republic of Moldova, a small landlocked state between Romania and Ukraine in southeast Europe.

For nearly a week, a new coalition government had been prevented from taking office in Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, after the outgoing administration refused to leave.

The impasse ended on Friday afternoon, when the former prime minister, Pavel Filip, grudgingly resigned in response to the prospect of mass protests over the weekend. He also faced increasing international pressure from Moscow and several European capitals, and a private visit from the American ambassador, Dereck J. Hogan, according to two people involved in the negotiations.

The new government was formed from a coalition of two groups, the pro-Russian Socialist party and the pro-Western Now Platform party. Maia Sandu, a former World Bank official who leads the Now Platform party, was named prime minister.

The two parties began discussing the formation of a coalition in February, following national parliamentary elections in which neither won a clear majority of seats. Because of deep disagreements over foreign policy, they did not reach an agreement until early June — a single day past the legal deadline for the formation of the government, according to Moldova’s Constitutional Court.

The court then temporarily suspended the pro-Russian president, Igor Dodon, replacing him with Mr. Filip, who used his new power as temporary head of state to disband the coalition government and call for snap elections.

But Ms. Sandu refused to back down, arguing that the Constitutional Court, like much of Moldova’s judiciary, was acting under the influence of Vladimir Plahotniuc, a powerful oligarch who leads Mr. Filip’s Democratic party.

Ms. Sandu’s alliance won the public support of several European governments, including France, Germany and Britain, as well as Russia, which is a longtime supporter of Mr. Dodon’s Socialist party, the largest in the coalition.

At first, the public response from the United States was more cautious. The Democratic party tried several last-gasp efforts to placate American officials, including dispatching a key lieutenant to Washington and announcing plans to move Moldova’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a decision intended to impress President Trump.

But those efforts seemed to fail, and Mr. Filip chose to resign hours after a Democratic party delegation met with Mr. Hogan on Friday.

Officials from the new government said their entry into office was an opportunity for Moldova’s judiciary and civil service to regain their independence following years of control by Mr. Plahotniuc and his allies.

Mr. Plahotniuc’s critics say he has gained too much influence over Moldova’s police force, media industry and court system, in particular the Constitutional Court, whose staff includes several of his longtime associates. Well before this week’s crisis, the court often suspended Mr. Dodon for a few hours at a time, to prevent him from blocking the Democratic party’s agenda.

A lower court also threw out the results of the mayoral election in the capital last year after one of Mr. Plahotniuc’s rivals emerged as the victor.

“We look forward with a lot of hope and dedication to return the country to a normal course and have the state institutions work for the benefit of society and not the interests of a narrow oligarchic group,” Natalia Gavrilita, the country’s new finance minister and a member of Ms. Sandu’s Now Platform party, said in a telephone interview.

Despite the end to this week’s standoff, Moldovan politics will likely remain turbulent.

A territorial dispute in a breakaway state — Transnistria, which occupies an eastern sliver of the country — remains unresolved nearly three decades after rebels, backed by more than 1,000 Russian troops stationed there, unilaterally declared independence.

The new national government itself is fragile.

Even though the Democratic party has agreed to leave power, its officials made clear that their successors did not have their blessing, and they continued to question the new government’s legitimacy.

“It has been declared unconstitutional,” Vladimir Cebotari, a Democratic party vice president, said in a telephone interview. “Every decision of this government will not be legal and legitimate until there are new elections.”

The ideological differences between the coalition’s two parties have also led to questions about its long-term prospects, particularly speculation that the Russian-backed Socialists will eventually try to disrupt the agenda of their pro-European colleagues.

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Dodon denied that his party took orders from Russia and said the coalition should be perceived as pro-Western.

“We offered all the portfolios, with some exceptions, to the pro-Western party,” he said. That decision “confirms that we want the European path to be followed.”

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