Former Speaker and Acting President
Liberal Party Chairman
Mihai Ghimpu is the leader of the recently fractured Liberal Party, which once controlled 12 seats of parliament. After the split, Ghimpu now has just 5.
Born 19 November 1951, Ghimpu studied law at Moldova State University from 1974 to 1978. After working as a lawyer for a decade, Ghimpu cofounded the Popular Front of Moldova in 1988, a well-organized coalition movement that advocated for Moldova to reunite with Romania. The Popular Front would become one of the strongest voices for the nationalist policies that sparked the Transnistrian War.
Ghimpu was elected to parliament as an independent candidate because, in the 1990 elections, the USSR allowed only the Communist Party and independents to register. However, Popular Front members took 27% of the seats and, joining with other independents and moderate Communists, formed a majority in parliament that year, pushing the Communists into the opposition. Ghimpu was one of the politicians to vote for Molodva’s successful 1991 Declaration of Independence.
The Front lost most of the credibility it had, however, after it was publically blamed for the disastrous Transnistrian War. The coalition also proved fractured and unable to govern effectively. It broke up in 1993.
Ghimpu then joined the Bloc of Intellectuals in 1994 and then, after they broke up, the Reform Party in 1997. However, since the Reform Party failed to pass the seven percent threshold, Ghimpu did not return to parliament after the 1998 elections.
The Reform Party elected Ghimpu chairman in 1998. The party—which was renamed the Liberal Party in 2005—did not receive enough votes to win seats in parliament until July 2009. Then, after his party garnered over 14 percent of the vote (resulting in 15 seats), Ghimpu joined Vlad Filat and Marian Lupu in the AEI coalition. Together they made Filat the Prime Minister, Lupu the President, and Ghimpu Speaker of Parliament.
However, with the Communists boycotting votes to elect Lupu, Ghimpu assumed the office of interim President. Serving in that capacity until late 2010, Ghimpu focused on moving Moldova towards EU membership. Some expected him to push for Moldova’s reunification with Romania—since he had strongly supported that step since he took up politics. Ghimpu, however, decided not to pursue that initiative, believing that he did not have the proper mandate to do so. He did, however, take many initiatives that further infuriated the Communists – such as setting up a government commission to “study the crimes of the Soviet regime in Moldova,” instituting Soviet Occupation Day (a national holiday to remember those crimes), and unveiling the Monument to the Victims of the Soviet Occupation, unveiled in central Chisinau where the main statue of Lenin used to stand.
In May 2013, the Liberal Party suffered an internal power struggle between Ghimpu and Ion Hadarca, former president of Moldovan Popular Front. Seven Liberal Party deputies split with the party to join the Pro-European Coalition as The Liberal Reform Party.
This drastically reduced Ghimpu’s political influence. He has since tried to demonstrate the illegality of the current ruling coalition—arguing that deputies are not permitted to form new parties in the middle of a parliamentary session—but to little effect. The 2014 parliamentary elections could revive his party and wither the offshoot. For now, his future as a major figure in Moldova remains in a very tenuous position.