July 24, 2015 / 2:59 PM / 2 years ago

Moldova PM nominee pushes tough demands for taking top job

CHISINAU (Reuters) - Moldova’s education minister is pressing for the dismissal of the national bank chief and the state prosecutor as the price for agreeing to become prime minister, political sources said on Friday.

Maia Sandu, a 43-year-old former World Bank economist and education minister for the past three years, was nominated on Thursday by the ruling pro-Europe coalition to lead a new government towards integrating with Europe.

The ex-Soviet state of 3.5 million, sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, has been in turmoil since $1 billion disappeared from the banking system and Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici resigned in June after just over 100 days in office.

Political sources said Sandu unexpectedly told leaders of the three-party coalition that state prosecutor Corneliu Gurin and national bank head Dorin Dragutanu would have to go.

“Sandu’s conditions were discussed unsuccessfully for four hours on Friday by the three leaders,” one source said, adding she wanted a U.S. citizen to take over the national bank.

Her conditions seemed likely to open up divisions within the pro-European Union coalition composed of the Liberal Democratic party of former prime minister Vlad Filat, the Democratic Party and the Liberal Party.

Political instability has held up agreement on a new program with the International Monetary Fund, which has in turn blocked disbursement of vital European Union budgetary support to help Moldova out of acute financial crisis.

With only 52 seats in the 101-seat parliament, the three pro-EU parties have only a slender majority in a country where a considerable part of the 3.5 million population is Russian-speaking, many of whom favor closer economic ties with Moscow.

Moldova embarked on a pro-Europe course in 2009, despite its reliance on Russian energy supplies and the presence of a pro-Russian self-proclaimed statelet called Transdniestria within its borders.

But economic turbulence in Russia, Moldova’s main trading partner, has hit the pace of Moldova’s growth. Russian involvement in the separatist conflict in Ukraine has caused further concern for its pro-EU leaders.

Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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