CHISINAU, Moldova, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Despite street demonstrations involving more than 20,000 people over the weekend, Moldova's new prime minster said he would not step down.
Pavel Filip was sworn in as prime minister Wednesday, the third leader of of the impoverished eastern European country in a year. Anti-corruption protesters representing pro-European Union and pro-Russian sides filled the streets of the capital of Chisinau on Sunday, calling for new elections.
Filip's promotion from technology minister was seen as a compromise to hold together a divided Parliament, but demonstrators object to his close affiliation with oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, a powerful businessman representative of Moldova's problems with corruption.
The small country, wedged between Ukraine and Romania and a former member of the Soviet Union, was rocked by the 2014 disappearance of about $1 billion, or one-eighth of Moldova's gross domestic product, from three banks. While former Moldovan Prime Minister Vladimir Filat was detained in October and suspected of fraud and theft in connection with the missing funds, charges he denies, the economic crisis lowered the value of the leu, the country's currency, and caused hardship for workers and pensioners. Anger and resentment with the government has reached a boiling point with a public furious that little is being done to untangle the suspected fraud.
"In one or two months, Moldova won't be able to meet its budget payments, including state salaries and pensions," said Arcadie Barbarosie of the Chisinau-based of the Institute for Public Policy "Pro-European parties came to power in 2009 and didn't diminish the level of corruption. Worse than that, they just redirected the flows of money into their own pockets. Moldova badly needs a functioning government, to negotiate with the country's foreign partners and plug the budget gaps to stop a social implosion."
Filip said resigning the prime minister's position now would harm the country, and that he has no plans to step down.