Kremlin favourite thrashed in Moldova rebel vote: official

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The Kremlin's favoured candidate to lead the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniestr on Monday suffered a humiliating defeat in run-off polls against an alternative figure.

Anatoly Kaminsky, who was openly supported by the Kremlin, won only 19.67 percent of votes in Sunday's polls for "president". He was easily beaten by his opponent Yevgeny Shevchuk with 73.88 percent, the election commission said.

Some 4.45 percent voted against both candidates, the official Olviya press news agency reported.

This is the second time in a month that the Kremlin has failed to place the right bets in a disputed region's election after its candidate lost elections in Georgia's rebel region of South Ossetia.

Shevchuk, a former speaker of parliament, will take over from Igor Smirnov who held it in a virtual Soviet time warp for two decades and who failed to reach the run-off after coming third in December 11's first round.

"People are tired and are waiting for concrete actions," Shevchuk said after his election was confirmed. "People are expecting and gave us their confidence," he said.

"We are going to encourage good neighbourly relations with Moldova as well as Ukraine and strenghten cooperation with Russia in all sectors," Shevchuk said, quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Incumbent parliament speaker Kaminsky had enjoyed support from the Russian ruling party United Russia and the Kremlin's powerful pointman for Moldova, Sergei Naryshkin who last week was elected the head of Russia's parliament.

Russia's Kommersant daily said that in a sign of the Kremlin's support, Kaminsky's Renewal party had just before the polls announced it had reached agreements with Russia on a financial aid package.

Shevchuk's election slogan was "We need changes!". Russia's Vedomosti daily descrived him as an "independent" candidate who in 2009 had quit Kaminsky's Renewal Party to go his own way.

But a Russian foreign ministry source told Kommersant that Moscow was not overly worried which candidate won, so long as Smirnov was no longer in power.

"The main task has already been decided. Smirnov will no longer be president," the source said.

Shevchuk inherits an impoverished region which calls itself the Pridnestrovian Moldavan Republic (PMR) but whose independence has not been recognised, even by Russia.

Russian peacekeepers are still deployed in Transdniestr, it is reliant on Moscow for economic aid and is a notorious hub for organised crime

The Russian-speaking region with a population of over 555,000 wedged between the Dniestr river and the border with Ukraine declared independence from Romanian-speaking Moldova in 1990 after a brief civil war.

Under Smirnov, a former trade unionist who bears more than a passing resemblance to Lenin, Transdniestr retained state symbols and insignia barely changed since the fall of the Soviet Union.

© 2011 AFP

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