U.S. says Moldova vote to remove judge an attack on democratic norms

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Moldova's national flags are seen in central Chisinau

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said on Monday the Moldovan parliament's vote to sack the head of the constitutional court was a "blatant attack on Moldova’s democratic norms and its constitutional order."

Friday's vote came after the tribunal backed a call for a snap election by President Maia Sandu, who came to office in November on a pro-European Union ticket and is likely to complicate a standoff between the president and a parliament still dominated by lawmakers aligned with her pro-Russian predecessor.

In a statement, the State Department also said it was of particular concern that the parliament was targeting the constitutional court "which only recently asserted its independence after years of state capture."

"We urge Moldova’s leaders and representatives to respect the rule of law, safeguard its democratic institutions, and work together to resolve the challenges facing the country, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," the statement said.

The EU earlier said the vote was an attack on Moldova's constitutional order.

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

(Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Stephen Coates)