Just two weeks after being elected parliament speaker, Liberal Party (PL) leader Mihai Ghimpu became also acting president of Moldova on September 11th 2009. He succeeded Vladimir Voronin, who resigned the same day after an eight-year tenure as president, citing his Communist Party's (PCRM) defeat in the July 29th early general elections.
Born on November 19th 1951, in the village of Colonita, east of Chisinau, Ghimpu graduated from the Faculty of Law at the Moldova State University in 1978.
Until 1990, he worked in various posts, including as head of the legal department of different state enterprises in Chisinau and as a judge at a district court in the capital.
Meanwhile, he became a co-founder and chairman of the executive committee of a democratic movement, called Popular Front of Moldova, in 1988.
Ghimpu served as a member of parliament from 1990 to 1998. He was part of the legislature's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation from 1993 to 1994. During his second four-year mandate, he was a member of the Moldovan parliamentary delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
In 1993, Ghimpu became one of the co-founders of the Congress of Intellectuals and its deputy chairman and executive secretary.
He helped in the process of forming the PL, which he has been leading since 1998.
Ghimpu was elected to the Chisinau municipal council in 2007 and headed it until 2008.
The ruling PCRM won the April 5th 2009 parliamentary elections with strong support from countryside voters. Voronin's communists took nearly 50% of the vote, entitling it to 60 of the 101 seats in the national unicameral legislature. The remaining seats were shared among three other groups -- Ghimpu's PL, the Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM) and the Our Moldova Alliance (AMN) -- that also surpassed the 4% threshold to enter the assembly. The election was marred by allegations of fraud that prompted violent protests by young urban voters contesting its outcome.
Eventually, the communists failed to secure the 61 votes in parliament required for their candidate, Zinaida Greceanu, to be elected president and succeed Voronin, who was not allowed to seek a third consecutive term.
As a result, the assembly was dissolved in June and early elections were held on July 29th 2009, in which the PCRM won just 48 parliamentary seats. The four opposition parties that gained control of the remaining 53 seats -- the PLDM, PL, the Democratic Party (PD) and the AMN -- agreed in August to form a non-communist government coalition, called the Alliance for European Integration (AIE).
Often described as one of the "leading lights" within the pro-European bloc, Ghimpu was elected parliament speaker on August 28th 2009, when he announced the AIE's decision to give the presidential post to the PD and that of prime minister to the PLDM.
In early September the same year, Ghimpu denied speculations that he would push for a Moldova-Romania union, despite his personal conviction that the two should be one country. He said he would mainly focus on efforts aimed at bringing Moldova closer to the EU and at convincing Russia to pull its forces out of his country's separatist Transdniester region.
In line with the Moldovan Constitution, Ghimpu took over Voronin's duties following his resignation on September 11th 2009. Under law, the speaker fills that post until a new president is elected.
The AIE's candidate for the post, PD leader Marian Lupu, however was backed only by the ruling Alliance's 53 lawmakers in the two voting rounds in November and December 2009. The communists boycotted both rounds.
In a bid to end the political stalemate, the four-way pro-Western coalition then initiated a referendum on September 5th 2010 asking whether the president of Moldova should be elected by popular vote instead of by parliament. The move failed due to low turnout.
In late September, Ghimpu dissolved the assembly, scheduling early parliamentary elections for November 28th 2010.
Ghimpu speaks Russian and Romanian. He is married.