In a blow to Russia’s ambitions, Moldova’s pro-Europe parties appeared certain of being able to form a new coalition to press on with a drive towards the European mainstream after elections even though the pro-Moscow Socialist Party took first place.
With almost all votes counted from Sunday’s poll, election authorities said the Liberal Democrats, the Liberals and the Democratic Party had secured a combined vote of 44 per cent, enough to win a simple majority in the 101-seat parliament and form a new government team. But the strong showing by the socialists, who campaigned in favour of joining a Russia-led economic bloc rather than moving towards the European Union, took the edge off any jubilation by the pro-Europe lobby.
Socialist leader Igor Dodon said his party would form an opposition that would make “the European integrationists shake with fear”. The socialists’ first-place position, with a vote of 21.5 per cent, showed that many in one of Europe’s smallest and poorest countries favour preserving traditional close ties with Russia. “The main good news is that Moldova will continue its course towards Europe,” the former parliament speaker Marian Lupu, leader of the Democratic Party and a main figure in a three-party coalition that has governed since 2009, said. “The wish of the people to live in peace and integrate with the EU is a basic fundamental for negotiations for a new coalition.”
Election monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the poll had been well-run but criticised a ban on a party run by Russian businessman Renato Usatii on the grounds that it had been funded from abroad.
In July Moldova ratified a political and trade agreement with the EU – a move that means turning away from a future in a Russia-led Customs Union as advocated by the socialists.
Moldovans went into the election aware of the separatist war in Ukraine which was triggered by Kiev embarking on similar pro-Europe policies, setting it on a collision course with Moscow. Though Moscow has so far showed no readiness to intervene, it has shown its displeasure by banning imports of wines, vegetables and meat from Moldova.
Vlad Filat, who leads the coalition’s Liberal Democrats, dismissed the socialists’ strong performance as a “stage‑directed spectacle... the result of Vladimir Putin”.
The next weeks will be dominated by bargaining among the parties, almost certainly involving the Communists, who finished third, to hammer out a working arrangement. A government may not emerge until the new year.
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