EU says Moldova MPs' vote to sack judge is an attack on constitution

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Saturday urged Moldovian lawmakers to respect the country's constitutional court, a day after they voted to remove its head judge for supporting President Maia Sandu's call for a snap election.

The issue underlines the tension between Sandu, who came to office in November on a pro-EU ticket, and a parliament dominated by lawmakers aligned with her pro-Russian predecessor.

Sandu wants an election to get more of her supporters into parliament to fight corruption and overcome what she calls obstruction by the existing assembly.

The non-binding vote on Friday to remove the judge, Domnica Manole, needs to be agreed by the court itself.

Borrell said Moldova had committed to the independence of the Constitutional Court to ensure the rule of law and democratic mechanisms in the EU–Moldova Association Agreement

"Parliament and the executive power must, therefore, respect the role of the Constitutional Court as the gatekeeper of the Constitution, even when they are dissatisfied with its decisions," he said in a statement.

"Friday's votes and declarations, therefore, constitute a blatant attack on the constitutional order of the Republic of Moldova and are an attempt to undermine the rule of law."

The tiny landlocked country, bordered by Ukraine and EU-member Romania, has ambitions to join the European Union but concerns over corruption and democracy have soured its relations with the bloc.

Under its constitution, the president has the right to ask for the dissolution of the legislature and organize snap elections if certain conditions are met.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Clelia Oziel)

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