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article imageMoldova faces turmoil with no parliamentary majority after vote

By Anatol Golea (AFP)     Feb 25, 2019 in World

Torn between the EU and Russia, ex-Soviet Moldova elected a parliament with no clear majority, results showed Monday, potentially throwing the impoverished country into political turmoil.

The inconclusive result will make coalition talks difficult and could lead to protests or even another election within weeks.

After a chaotic weekend poll marked by accusations of fraud, the pro-Russian Socialist Party close to President Igor Dodon won the largest share of the vote.

With more than 99 percent of the votes counted, the Socialists had taken 35 out of 101 parliamentary seats with 31.2 percent of the vote, the central election commission said.

The Democratic party -- which is led by powerful oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc and previously had a parliamentary majority -- took 30 seats.

In third place was the pro-European ACUM alliance with 26 seats.

A party led by a businessman convicted of billion-dollar fraud, Ilan Shor, won some eight percent of the vote -- taking seven seats in parliament.

Dodon said there could be fresh elections following the results of any coalition talks and potential regroupings.

"If there is to be one party with defectors from another side, then it's better to hold early elections straight away," he said in a briefing on Monday.

- New elections 'possible' -

Only Plahotniuc's Democratic Party, which seeks ties with both Moscow and Brussels, has said it is ready to enter coalition talks.

Plahotniuc on Monday called on negotiations to start "to form a functioning government and parliamentary majority for the people."

Dodon's Socialists and the pro-European opposition have ruled out working with other parties.

On Sunday, pro-Brussels alliance leader Andrei Nastase said his party will only enter a coalition "with the people of Moldova" and that his supporters were "ready to defend their rights on the street".

Pro-EU opposition leader Andrei Nastase said his alliance would only enter a coalition "with th...
Pro-EU opposition leader Andrei Nastase said his alliance would only enter a coalition "with the people of Moldova" and that his supporters were "ready to defend their rights on the street"

Both Dodon and Nastase accused the Democratic Party of massive electoral fraud that involved bringing in people from Moldova's breakaway region of Transnistria and telling them how to vote.

Nastase alleged that "they (the ruling party) are bussing in vulnerable people ripe for corruption" and called the polls "falsified."

The Democratic Party in turn said the socialists offered bribes to residents of Transnistria to back their candidates.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which sent observers to the polls, on Monday criticised "strong indications of vote buying".

It also said the election was "tainted by allegations of pressure on public employees" and "the misuse of state resources".

Authorities put the turnout at 49.22 percent -- the lowest in Moldovan history.

- Between Moscow and Brussels -

The vote reflected the deep divisions that for years affected the former Soviet republic nestled between Ukraine and Romania.

While many among the 3.5 million population want to maintain close ties with Moscow, others seek to follow the example of Romania -- with which Moldova shares a language and long history -- and look west to the European Union.

But relations with the EU have worsened in recent years. In November, the EU reduced aid to Chisinau citing a "deterioration of the rule of law" -- a reference mainly to the struggle against corruption.

Russia, meanwhile, has rallied around Dodon -- a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

As well as seeking to keep Chisinau in its sphere of influence, Moscow has long backed separatists in Transnistria -- a region that broke away from Moldova after the fall of the USSR.

Moldova has struggled to find its place since gaining independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

The economy is propped up by remittances from workers abroad, which has caused the working-age population to fall sharply.

Moldova last year ranked 117 out of 180 nations in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.

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