Thousands of people Friday took to the streets of the Moldovan capital of Chisinau for the third consecutive day demanding early elections and an end to massive corruption, the Associated Press reported. Protests began Wednesday when lawmakers secretly approved a new government headed by former Technology Minister Pavel Filip.
“I want Moldova to be a free country that doesn’t depend on oligarchs. We’ve had enough of corruption. We want people to have decent salaries and jobs so they don't have to go abroad to work,” Alexandru Balaban, a protester who spoke with the AP, said.
Although Filip has been described as pro-European, he has close links to business interests, raising concerns of further corruption in a country that has been riddled with political scandals. Protesters marched on the Moldova 1 television station Friday accusing the broadcaster of having a pro-government bias.
Moldova was rocked with a massive corruption scandal in 2014 when it was revealed $1 billion was taken out of the country’s banking system. Vlad Filat, the country’s former prime minister, who was in office 2009-13, was arrested in October and accused of having taken approximately $260 million in bribes to control one of the banks involved in the scandal, the New York Times reported. Allegations have also been levied against politician and oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, who has been accused of helping to instigate the current political situation.
Located between Ukraine and Romania, Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries, with a monthly average salary of $240 and a large part of its population working in other countries to send home remittances that amount to more than 25 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the World Bank.
The small country of less than 4 million people signed an association agreement with the EU in 2014 but has also been strongly courted by the Kremlin, with President Vladimir Putin discussing the current situation in Moldova with his security council Friday. Russia has long kept a close watch over Moldova, with the breakaway region of Transnistria declaring its independence in 1990 and later pledging to join Russia. There are approximately 1,000 Russian peacekeeper troops present in the territory.