(Vatican Radio) Moldova's embattled ruling coalition says it will soon call for a referendum on direct presidential elections following large anti-government protests. It is a moderate concession as the prime minister has refused to resign and pledged to crackdown on violent protests amid a public outcry over the disappearance of at least 1 billion dollars from the impoverished nation's banking system and high level corruption.
Listen to Stefan Bos' report:
Moldova's Parliament speaker Andrian Candu confirmed that lawmakers would discuss the referendum as soon as the legislature reconvenes on Monday. But the coalition rejected a more central demand from protesters for early parliamentary elections in the former Soviet nation.
Moldova's president has been elected by Parliament since 2001, a decade after it emerged as an independent nation following the Soviet Union's collapse.
Moldovans and politicians across the spectrum have voiced frustration with the slow and complicated procedure, which has repeatedly brought political life to a standstill.
Protesters accuse Prime Minister Pavel Filip's new government and the parliamentary majority, which favors closer integration with Europe, of being deeply corrupt.
Moldova has been wracked by political crisis after $1 billion dollars was found to be missing from Moldovan banks last year. That's the equivalent to an eighth of the ex-Soviet republic's entire Gross Domestic Product.
Yet despite the pressure Filip refused to step down. "If I were to resign, then Parliament would have three months to form a government," he said. "So for four months the politicians would be occupied with their pre-election campaign. And even worse, we could find ourselves in a deep economic and social crisis. It's possible that Moldova wouldn't be able to pay salaries and pensions for four months."
However he also warned that he would crack down on any violent protests. Earlier this month, protesters stormed Parliament in the capital Chisinau, just shortly after Filip's government was sworn in there.
Romania, Moldova's closest ally, has offered emergency economic aid and a loan of some $65 million in hopes of preventing economic collapse and keeping Europe's poorest nation on a pro-European Union course.
But Romania says to get the money, Moldova will have to reform its justice system, fight corruption, and sign a draft agreement for a loan from the International Monetary Fund, and appoint a new central bank governor.