Moldova Communists take lead in new elections

30th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The ruling Communist Party garnered 41.7 percent of the votes, giving it 45 of the 101 seats in parliament, according to the polling done by the independent Institute of Public Policy.

Chisinau -- Moldova's Communists took the lead over their pro-Western liberal rivals in Wednesday's rerun of legislative elections, seen as crucial for the future of Europe's poorest country, exit polls showed.

The ruling Communist Party garnered 41.7 percent of the votes, giving it 45 of the 101 seats in parliament, according to the polling done by the independent Institute of Public Policy.

Exit polls showed that four opposition parties won seats in the legislature with the Liberal Democrat Party in second place with 17.4 percent of votes, giving it 19 seats.

Its allies the Liberal Party and Our Moldova Alliance won 16 percent of votes for 16 seats, and eight percent for eight seats, respectively.

The Democratic Party of Marian Lupu, a former communist leader, was in third place with 12.5 percent for 13 seats.

It was the second time in four months that voters in the former Soviet republic wedged between Romania and Ukraine elected a parliament. The previous poll in April was denounced by the opposition as rigged and led to mass street protests and rioting.

Liberal opponents seeking closer ties with the European Union and new EU member Romania mounted a tough campaign against the party of Communist strongman Vladimir Voronin, who has been president since 2001.

The new parliament will select Moldova's next president since Voronin must step down after serving the maximum two terms.

If official results confirm the exit polls, a broad coalition will be needed in parliament to elect a new president as no one party holds the necessary majority of 61 votes.

The official preliminary results are expected to be announced during the night by the electoral commission.

"I hope that after this election we will leave the crisis and we can work to fight against the economic crisis. We cannot have elections all the time," said Voronin after casting his ballot.

Moldova's election commission said turnout stood at 49.2 percent two hours before polls closed at 9:00 pm (1800 GMT), exceeding the 33 percent required for the election to be deemed valid.

At least one violent incident was reported when a Communist Party member shot and wounded an opposition activist in the leg during a dispute at a polling station in a suburb of the capital Chisinau, the opposition and an interior ministry spokeswoman said.

Voronin had issued a stern warning against any repeat of April's post-election violence, which erupted after opposition activists gathered en masse in response to calls on Internet websites like Twitter and Facebook.

The Communists won about 50 percent of the vote in those polls but the accusations of fraud prompted huge street protests and the sacking of the parliament building in Chisinau by young rioters.

Voronin called new elections in June after parliament failed to elect his candidate Zinaida Greceanii as president due to a boycott by the opposition.

Russia is anxiously watching the new elections, keen that another ex-Soviet state does not repeat the Georgian and Ukrainian moves of choosing a pro-Western government that limits Moscow's influence.

In a fresh controversy underlining the lingering tensions, an election monitoring group pulled all its 140 observers out of Moldova after a dozen Georgian monitors were refused entry and 87 not accredited.

The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) is made up of non-governmental organisations from eastern European and ex-Soviet countries and is backed by the United States.

"The fact that the country is not free and is ruled by a dictatorial communist regime is shown by the situation with the observers," fumed Vlad Filat, head of the Liberal Democratic party.

Commentators have warned that the elections may not be enough to break the country's political deadlock.

Voronin has expressed readiness for a coalition with the opposition, after previously accusing them of plotting a coup.

But the three main liberal opposition parties have so far ruled out all dialogue with the Communists.

"I am for the Communists; they create a certain stability. We can't continue like this, with demonstrations and repeat elections," said Sasha, 19, a student who voted in central Chisinau.

Pavel, 26, a mechanic countered: "We have to get rid of the Communists, it's enough. They organised the burning of parliament as it suited them."


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