Several thousand people from a Russia-friendly party protested in front of Moldova’s parliament building on Thursday to demand the resignation of the pro-Western government.
The rally by the Revival Party against the governing Party of Action and Solidarity called for early elections and for President Maia Sandu to step down. Moldova is to hold presidential elections later this year and parliamentary elections in 2025.
The Revival Party currently holds four seats in Moldova’s 101-seat legislature in the country of about 2.5 million people.
The demonstration is the latest in a series of anti-government protests held over the past 18 months, mostly by the Moscow-friendly Shor Party, which was declared unconstitutional last June by the Constitutional Court. Authorities accused the Shor Party — which held six seats in Parliament — of trying to destabilize the country.
Some senior members of the outlawed Shor Party took part in Thursday’s protest. Moldovan oligarch Ilan Shor, the head of the Shor Party who resides in exile in Israel and was sentenced in absentia last year to 15 years in jail on fraud charges, also shared a video of the protest on his Facebook page.
The rally comes after Moldova’s Intelligence and Security Service, SIS, warned last month of fresh “disinformation and manipulation” campaigns to try to destabilize Moldova and undermine its relations with neighboring Ukraine and the European Union.
In June 2022 after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, former Soviet republic Moldova was granted official candidate status for EU membership. Those aspirations were further buoyed last December when Brussels said it would open accession negotiations for Moldova to the 27-nation bloc, alongside Ukraine.
“The frequency and extent of such demonstrations will increase during the years 2024-2025, targeting the reform processes, the electoral processes … but especially the process of negotiations for EU accession,” SIS said in a statement last month.
Scores of people responded to the Revival Party’s protest on Thursday by holding a counter rally in Chisinau, where many waved EU flags and expressed support for Sandu.
Days before local elections last year, Moldovan authorities banned another pro-Russia party, the Chance Party, from taking part, which removed about 600 candidates from the ballot — a decision that was later overturned. Days before the election, SIS alleged that the party had received Russian money that was channeled by Shor and used to destabilize the country and “buy” voters.
Since the war in Ukraine started on Feb. 24, 2022, Moldova has faced a long string of problems including a severe energy crisis after Moscow dramatically reduced gas supplies, skyrocketing inflation, and several incidents of missile debris found on its territory from the war next door.
In February last year, President Sandu spoke publicly about an alleged plot by Moscow to overthrow Moldova’s government with the aim of putting the nation “at the disposal of Russia” and to derail it from joining the EU. Russia denied the accusations.