Ghimpu, Mihai (Moldova)
Mihai Ghimpu was appointed acting president in Sept. 2009 by the newly-installed pro-Western coalition government. A leading figure in the former Soviet Republic’s independence movement, he once supported unification with Romania.
Mihai Ghimpu was born in Coloniţa, Chişinău county, in the Moldavian SSR on 19 Nov. 1951. He attended secondary school in Chişinău, followed by military service in the Soviet army. He graduated in law in 1978 from Moldova State University and became a legal adviser to various state enterprises. In the era of glasnost (‘openness’) Ghimpu became a leading figure in the democratic movement. He co-founded the Popular Front of Moldova (FPM) in May 1989 with a manifesto calling for independence and for Moldovan (with a Romanized script) to be the official language.
In 1990 Ghimpu won a seat for the FPM in Moldova’s Supreme Soviet. With 27% of elected members the party broke the Communist monopoly. Independence followed on 27 Aug. 1991. The FPM subsequently suffered from internal disputes and support for a proposed union with Romania dwindled. Ghimpu switched allegiance to the Congress of Intellectuals ahead of Moldova’s first multiparty elections in Feb. 1994, winning a seat in parliament. However, he failed to be returned at the 1998 election, when he stood for the Party of Reform.
Ghimpu subsequently rebranded the Party of Reform as the Liberal Party (PL) and became its chairman. In 2007 he was elected to the Chişinău city council, where his nephew was mayor. He played a key role in opposing the ruling Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) in the run-up to the April 2009 parliamentary election and was re-elected to parliament, where the Communists held a narrow majority. Accusations of electoral fraud led to clashes between demonstrators and police in Chişinău, leaving three dead and 300 injured. In a re-run election on 29 July 2009 a four-party pro-Western coalition (including the PL) won 53 of the 101 available seats. Ghimpu was elected speaker in Aug. 2009 and, following the resignation of the PCRM-backed President Voronin on 11 Sept., he was appointed as his acting successor.
Ghimpu’s caretaker tenure stretched into 2010 following the governing coalition’s failure to secure the three-fifths majority required to elect a successor to Voronin. In Oct. 2009 Ghimpu said that EU accession was a long-term goal but that his priority was to rescue the ailing economy. He blamed mismanagement and corruption by the Communist Party for the deficit of €500 m. A ‘substantial assistance package’ was promised by the European Commission once an agreement had been signed with the IMF.
Ghimpu called for new parliamentary elections in Nov. 2010 but when no party won sufficient support to elect a new president, he left office.