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Moldovan political parties poised for coalition talks as vote split



Moscow, Feb. 26, 2019 (dpa/NNN) Popular political parties in Moldova’s parliamentary elections were poised for coalition talks as the final vote count came in on Tuesday with a roughly three-way split.

According to the final tally by the former Soviet republic’s electoral authority, the voting was a test of pro-Russian President Igor Dodon’s Party of Socialists, which managed to lead with 31 per cent.

According to the Central Electoral Commission, two pro-EU forces closely followed: the broadly pro-European ACUM group, with 26 per cent, and the legislature’s previously dominant Democratic Party, with 23 per cent.

“If the election results are approved, I, as the president of the Republic of Moldova, am ready to provide a negotiation platform to the party leaders for the creation of a coalition,’’ Dodon said in a statement on Monday.

The Democratic Party also said it was ready for coalition talks.

“It is important to leave past resentments behind and look ahead, towards the needs and aspirations of citizens,’’ Democratic leader Vlad Plahotniuc said in comments published by his party.

According to a statement, the second-place ACUM group called the elections “neither free nor fair”.

“We will fight to defend our vote and defend democracy,’’ ACUM group said.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which monitored the voting, said that Sunday’s elections were “generally well run” and “fundamental rights were respected.”

The organisation did, however, express concern about several issues, including allegations of vote-buying. (dpa/NNN)

Edited by Abiodun Oluleye/Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu


As rivals dig in, Moldova president pushes back against snap election



Moldovan President Igor Dodon on Tuesday scrapped a decree for a snap parliamentary election that was hastily issued by his rivals through a high court maneuver.

The leaders of the pro-EU ACUM bloc and Dodon’s Russian-backed Socialists broke months of post-election deadlock by agreeing to form a government aimed at fighting corruption and keeping a party run by tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc out of power.

However, Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party does not recognise the new government and insists Pavel Filip, the prime minister who led the government until February’s vote, is still in charge.

The Democrats persuaded the Constitutional Court to briefly suspend Dodon on Sunday, install Filip as president for enough time to allow him to issue a decree calling a new election.

Dodon and ACUM say the court is under Plahotniuc’s control, while both sides accuse the other of trying to usurp power.

The crisis threatens more instability for one of Europe’s poorest and most politically tumultuous nations of 3.5 million people, where the West and Russia vie for influence.

“The decree signed by Mr Filip on the dissolution of parliament and the declaration of early parliamentary elections on Sept. 6 does not comply with constitutional norms,” Dodon said.

The U.S., European Union and NATO have urged both sides to show restraint.

Russia welcomed the formation of the new government and hoped matters would stabilise soon.

On Sunday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Washington “calls on all Moldovan parties to show restraint and to agree on a path forward through political dialogue”.

Filip’s government said it had decided to relocate the Moldovan Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in a move which could bring more support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.

In 2017, Trump decided to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing decades of U.S. policy and angering Palestinians who want the city’s Eastern part for the capital of a future state.

The EU did not explicitly endorse the new government but took “good note” of the formation of a coalition, adding in a statement that it stood “ready to work with the democratically legitimate government”.

The agreement between ACUM leader Maia Sandu, a former World Bank adviser and education minister, and the Socialists broke the impasse after February’s election produced a hung parliament.

Sandu was made prime minister.

However, the Constitutional Court ruled that Sandu’s side had missed the deadline to form a government and that the country should hold a snap election.

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European court rules Moldova must compensate teachers deported to Turkey



The Moldovan government should pay the five men, who are currently in custody in Turkey 28,000 dollars each, the court said, for their “forcible transfer’’ which “lacked a sufficient legal basis.’’

The five were secondary-school teachers at the Orizont chain of schools.

The Turkish ambassador claimed the schools were tied to a movement that Ankara blames for a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey and accused the teachers of terrorism.

Fearing reprisals in their home country, the men had applied for asylum in Moldova in April 2018, the ECHR statement said.

They were arrested in September in a joint Moldovan-Turkish operation and flown out of Chisinau in a private chartered plane.

The ECHR said Moldova “had not only failed to give the applicants a choice of jurisdiction to be expelled to, but had deliberately transferred them directly into the hands of the Turkish authorities’’.

It said the operation was organised in a “manner as to take the applicants by surprise so that they would have no time or possibility to defend themselves.’’

Turkey accuses Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen of masterminding a coup attempt by a faction of the military.

In March, Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said 107 suspected Gulen supporters have been brought to Turkey, following extradition requests to 91 countries for 504 people, state news agency Anadolu reported then.

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Moldova set for coalition talks after inconclusive election



Moldova set for coalition talks after inconclusive election



Chisinau, (Moldova) Feb. 25, 2019 (Reuters/NNN) An election in Moldova has produced a hung parliament, with the vote split between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces at a time when the ex-Soviet republic’s relations with the European Union have soured.

The outcome of Sunday’s contest sets the stage for coalition talks or possibly new elections, just as the country has recovered from a political and economic crisis following a 1 billion dollars banking scandal in 2014 and 2015.

Adding to the uncertainty, opposition leaders threatened street protests after raising suspicions of vote-buying.

The opposition Socialists, who favoured closer ties to Moscow, emerged as the largest party with 35 out of 101 seats on a revised estimate, with recounts possible in some constituencies.

The ruling Democratic Party, which wants closer integration with the EU, came second with 30 seats while an opposition bloc called ACUM, campaigning to fight corruption, was third with 26 seats.

Democratic leader Vladimir Plahotniuc said his party was “ready for negotiations on forming a majority and approving a new government’’ adding, “I hope that such negotiations take place as soon as possible’’.

Corruption scandals and worries over the health of democracy in Moldova, which is squeezed between Ukraine and EU member Romania and is one of Europe’s poorest countries, have tarnished the country’s image and weakened the appeal of the pro-Western political class.

The Socialist Party said its lawyers were studying reported election violations and declared it may not recognise the results.

ACUM leader Maia Sandu said her bloc did not recognise the elections as free and democratic.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said the elections were “generally well-run’’ but “tainted by allegations of pressure on public employees, strong indications of vote buying and the misuse of state resources’’.

President Igor Dodon, formerly head of the Socialist Party, said it would become clear only in the coming weeks whether the election was above board.

He raised the prospect of calling a new election in June if the vote was declared illegitimate or no party managed to form a coalition.

Dodon on Saturday had called the campaign “one of the dirtiest in our entire history”.

Plahotniuc, an oil-to-hotels tycoon, could repeat a feat he achieved at a previous election in 2014, of cobbling together a coalition despite not winning a majority.

He may woo a smaller party led by Ilan Shor, who just two years ago was convicted of fraud and money-laundering for his part in a scam to pilfer 1 billion dollars out of three banks.

This is an equivalent of an eighth of Moldova’s national output in what Moldovans call the “theft of the century’’.

Shor denied wrongdoing and said he was made a scapegoat.

After time spent under house arrest, he became mayor of the central town of Orhei while his appeal was heard.

The election campaign was dogged by controversy. (Reuters/NNN)


Edited by Abigael Joshua/Julius Toba-Jegede

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General news

Del Potro knocked out in Delray Beach quarter-finals, to miss Mexican Open



Delray Beach (U.S.), Feb. 23, 2019 (Reuters/NNN) Top seed Juan Martin del Potro’s comeback from injury ended in the quarter-finals of the Delray Beach Open following a 6-4 3-6 7-6(5) defeat by American Mackenzie McDonald.

Del Potro, playing his first tournament since he injured his knee at the Shanghai Masters in October last year, played with a heavily strapped knee on Friday.

He also pulled out of next week’s Mexican Open in Acapulco, a tournament he won last year.

“I wanted to do a big effort tonight. I fought until the last ball and had many opportunities, but it’s hard to win matches when you can’t move at 100 percent,” Del Potro, whose career has been blighted with injuries, told reporters.

“The doctors say I need time if I want to be 100 percent, but I don’t want to be home watching the tournaments on TV. I’ve done that before and it was really bad for me.

“I played three matches after four months away and that’s the best thing for me. I know how good I can be when I’m ready, but I’m not in the physical condition to play at this level yet.”

Del Potro fired 16 aces in the match but could not outlast the 23-year-old McDonald with his injured knee visibly slowing him down.

The Argentine managed to defend two match points in the third set tiebreak before eventually bowing out.

It was McDonald’s biggest win of his career and the first over a player ranked in the top five.

He moved into his first ever ATP Tour semi-final where he will take on Moldovan Radu Albot.(Reuters/NNN)

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European court condemns Moldova for sentencing man over obscene sculptures



An European court on Tuesday condemned Moldova for imposing a suspended two-year prison sentence on a man who mounted a protest at the Prosecutor-General’s Office using obscene sculptures.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said Moldovan authorities might have been justified in taking action over the protest, in which the man installed wooden sculptures of a two-metre-high erect penis and a vulva on the stairs of the prosecutor’s office.

The first sculpture had a picture of the face of a high-ranking politician attached to its head, while the second had pictures of several high-ranking prosecutors placed on it.

However, the ECHR ruled that imposing a prison sentence was disproportionate and could discourage other persons from exercising their freedom of expression.

The Moldovan Government had argued that the sculptures were morally offensive.

It stressed since they had been placed close to a busy road in an area where there were schools and kindergartens, members of the public including children could have seen them.



Edited by: Abiodun Oluleye/Julius Toba Jegede

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23 detained after German police raids target drug pushers in Bonn



Police nabbed 23 suspects in coordinated raids targeting a gang of drug dealers in and around the western German cities of Bonn and Cologne on Tuesday.

More than 300 officers were involved in the operation and 35 flats searched, police in Bonn said.

Twelve people were formally arrested and 11 others detained.

Two brothers from Bonn are suspected of running the narcotics gang.

Police say they focused on dealing cocaine while other members sold marijuana.

A helicopter circled over Bonn during the police operation in order to pinpoint suspects as they fled.

Officers confiscated one kilogramme of marijuana and hash and 75 grammes of cocaine as well as anabolic agents, cash and several mobile phones.

Earlier, police officers raided flats and offices in Northern and Central Germany in a major operation against suspected human traffickers, police said.

The officers acted on 21 search warrants in Hamburg, Bremen and other parts of Northern and Central Germany from late Monday into Tuesday, a police spokesman said.

Several suspects allegedly trafficked people mainly of Moldovan nationality into Germany for illegal labour.

Many of those suspects are thought to have links to Germany’s Reichsbuerger movement, which claims that the modern German federal republic is illegitimate.

The spokesman said three men, aged between 30 and 43, were detained in the port city of Hamburg on Monday.

Two of them were German and the other Russian.

Edited by: Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Hundreds of police raid suspected human trafficking sites in Germany



Around 800 police officers have raided flats and offices in northern and central Germany in a major operation against suspected human traffickers, police said.

A police spokesman said the officers acted on 21 search warrants in Hamburg, Bremen and other parts of northern and central Germany from late Monday into Tuesday.

Several suspects allegedly trafficked people mainly of Moldovan nationality into Germany for illegal labour.

Many of those suspects are thought to have links to Germany’s Reichsbuerger movement, which claims that the modern German federal republic is illegitimate.

The spokesman said three men aged between 30 and 43 were detained in the port city of Hamburg on Monday.

Two of them were German and the other Russian.

Officials will decide on Tuesday whether to formally arrest them.

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Russia poised to force journalists to register as foreign agents



Russia’s lower house of parliament on Friday approved a bill to enable authorities to force journalists to register individually as a “foreign agent.”

The legislation would better position Russia for responding to pressure on Russian media abroad, Vice Speaker Pyotr Tolstoi said in comments published on the legislature’s website.

In December 2017, Russia imposed restrictions on U.S. state-funded news outlets Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, calling each of them “foreign agent,” after the U.S. imposed similar measures on Russian state-funded broadcaster RT.

U.S. officials have alleged that Russia Today (RT), used its English-language service to influence the 2016 presidential election in favour of Republican candidate Donald Trump, who had expressed intentions to rebuild the countries’ frayed relations.

This week, Russia threatened retaliation against Moldova over recently passed legislation that could be used to clamp down on Russian media influence in that former Soviet republic.

Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, has long been politically torn between integration with the European Union and loyalties to its former Soviet ruler, Moscow.

“The Moldovan law represents “explicit discrimination against Russian media,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in comments carried by Russian state news agency TASS.

Edited by: Celine-Damilola Oyewole/Abdullahi Yusuf


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Russia in retaliation expels several diplomats from Moldova, Estonia



Russia has expelled five diplomats from Moldova and two from Estonia in retaliation for analogous measures by the fellow former Soviet countries in recent days, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Moldova and Estonia have not disclosed official reasons for their earlier expulsions of equal numbers of Russian diplomats.

Relations between Russia and neighbouring Estonia, a Baltic EU and NATO member state in which a large Russian minority lives, have been strained in recent years as the countries support opposing sides in the Ukraine conflict.

The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned Estonia for initiating the tit-for-tat expulsions, saying “all responsibility for the consequences of this policy lies on the Estonian side.”

However, a separate statement directed at Moldova was not as damning, as the ministry expressed “hope that Chisinau recognizes that its unfriendly actions are counterproductive.”

Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, has been torn between integration with the European Union and loyalties to its former Soviet ruler, Moscow.

Speculation has swirled that Moldova expelled the Russian diplomats amid a spat between pro-EU officials and Moldova’s pro-Russian president, Igor Dodon, who was inaugurated in December.

Dodon has condemned the expulsions and said he would discuss them during a visit to the Russian city of St Petersburg this week.

“I found out about this decision from the Moldovan ambassador to the Russian Federation,” Dodon said earlier this week in comments carried by Moldovan state news agency Moldpres.

Edited by: Fatima Sule/Felix Ajide


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