Moldovan Communists beaten in knife-edge polls

31st July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The opposition parties are pushing for closer ties with the European Union whereas the Communists are far more enthusiastic about keeping friendly links to Russia, Moldova's former Soviet patron.

Chisinau -- Moldova's pro-West opposition were Thursday working to form a coalition after unexpectedly defeating the ruling Communist Party in tight legislative elections crucial for Europe's poorest country.

The opposition parties are pushing for closer ties with the European Union whereas the Communists are far more enthusiastic about keeping friendly links to Russia, Moldova's former Soviet patron.

The Communist Party, led by strongman President Vladimir Voronin, received by far the most votes in Wednesday's polls, but its share of 45.07 percent of the vote was exceeded by the tally of four main opposition parties combined.

This gives the Communists only 48 seats in the new parliament and its opponents 53 seats, the central election commission announced after counting 98.3 percent of ballots.

A humbled Voronin said however the Communists were ready to work with the opposition parties, signalling a desire for reconciliation after he previously accused pro-Western politicians of destabilising Moldova.

"The Communist Party of Moldova is ready for committed and principled dialogue with all political forces represented in the new parliament," he said.

Meanwhile liberal parties were triumphant.

"The Communist Party will have to join the ranks of the opposition and must not disturb Moldova on its path towards European integration," said Dorin Chirtoaca, deputy head of the opposition Liberal Party.

Vlad Filat, head of the Liberal Democrats, said he believed that opposition leaders could put together a coalition.

"After eight years of authoritarianism, democratic development is possible in this country," Filat told reporters.

The new parliament must also choose a successor to Voronin, who has served out the maximum permitted two four-year terms.

However the opposition will have to find some Communist support if it is to choose the next president, as a three-fifths majority in parliament is required to choose the head of state.

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana welcomed the conduct of the election and urged Moldovan leaders to form a coalition.

"I welcome the conduct of the repeated parliamentary elections in the republic of Moldova which met many of the international standards, albeit some negative aspects persisted," Solana said in a statement.

Wednesday's elections took place less than four months after the last polls, which were marred by deadly post-election violence after the opposition accused the Communists of vote rigging.

In the April 5 election, the Communists won about 50 percent of the vote but were accused of fraud, prompting huge street protests that culminated in the sacking and burning of the parliament building in Chisinau.

Voronin blamed the violence on neighbouring Romania, an EU member country which shares a common language with Moldova.

Since the previous election, Moldova's political landscape was transformed by the defection of former Communist parliament speaker Marian Lupu to lead the small Democratic Party.

The three traditionally largest parties of the anti-Communist opposition -- the Liberal Democrats, the Liberal Party and the Our Moldova coalition -- together were set to win 40 seats, the election commission said.

But the Democratic Party was to garner 13 seats, giving the opposition a total of 53.

Moldova has Europe's lowest per capita income with an average monthly wage of just over 250 dollars (185 euros), and 25 percent of the active working population is employed abroad.

Election observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) expressed broad satisfaction with the vote but said there were still shortcomings in the process.


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