Protests in Moldova after court voids pro-Europe mayor's win

June 20, 2018 - 12:53 pm

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Thousands of protesters gathered in the Moldovan capital Wednesday after a court invalidated the election victory of a pro-European candidate to the post of mayor of Chisinau without providing a reason.

The development prompted concerns by the U.S. Embassy in Moldova and some members of the European Parliament.

The Chisinau Court ruled late Tuesday that Andrei Nastase was not the winner of the June 3 vote, but did not say why. On Wednesday Nastase submitted an appeal, claiming the ruling was "arbitrary" and politically motivated.

Demonstrators assembled later outside the city hall, yelling, "Nastase is mayor!"

Some held a banner saying "Our vote is not your whim."

The U.S. Embassy in Chisinau weighed in on the dispute, saying "the unexpected and non-transparent invalidation of the elections for Chisinau mayor, in which there was a clear winner, is a worrying development," adding it would erode public trust in democracy.

European Parliament member Cristian Preda of Romania said the parliament's foreign affairs committee would discuss the issue Thursday. Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu also criticized the development. Moldova was part of Romania until 1940 and the countries have close ties.

Nastase, a prosecutor who opposes local oligarchs and pro-Russian policies in this former Soviet republic, won 52.5 percent of votes, defeating Socialist Ion Ceban, who called for closer relations with Moscow.

Analysts speculated Nastase may have broken election rules by addressing voters after the end of the permitted campaigning period.

Election official Iurie Ciocan said no new elections would be held before the scheduled term in 2019 if the court ruling was upheld.

The election was called after Dorin Chirtoaca, mayor for the past 10 years, stepped down after being probed for influence trafficking in a city parking contract. He says the case is politically motivated.

Ciocan said Silvia Radu, who has been acting mayor since Chirtoaca stepped down, would hold the position until 2019 elections.

Nastase, 42, was one of the organizers of large-scale anti-corruption protests in 2015 after the disappearance of 1 billion dollars from the Moldovan banking system.


Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania, contributed to this report.

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