CHISINAU (Reuters) - Moldova’s ruling Communists have won a parliamentary election, preliminary results showed on Monday, but it was uncertain if they had secured enough seats for their candidate to replace President Vladimir Voronin.
The president in the ex-Soviet state is chosen by the 101-seat assembly, not by popular vote. Voronin, in power since 2001 and the only Communist leader in Europe, will have to step down as he cannot stand for a third consecutive term.
Voronin has overseen stability and growth in Europe’s poorest nation in his 8-year tenure, but has been unable to solve the “frozen conflict” of Transdniestria — a sliver of land populated by Russian-speakers that broke away in 1990.
He has made it clear he wants to remain close to power by taking on another senior post in the manner of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister and former president.
Results posted on the Central Election Commission’s Web site showed the Communists scored 50 percent with 95 percent of the vote counted. That result brings them close to the 61 seats they need to ensure victory for their presidential candidate.
Exit polls on Sunday gave the Communists 45 percent.
Opposition parties raised the specter of a new poll by saying they would not join a coalition with the Communists. If the Communists fall short of 61 seats and no president is elected in three ballots, another parliamentary election must be called.
OPPOSITION PRO-EUROPEAN, FREE MARKET
Three opposition parties passed the 6 percent barrier to enter parliament. All three are broadly in favor of closer ties with the European Union, free market policies and do not object to membership of the NATO alliance.
The Liberal Party received almost 13 percent of the vote, the Liberal Democrats 12 percent of the vote and Our Moldova almost 10 percent of the vote.
The opposition threatened to protest on Monday if there were any irregularities in the vote. Moldova’s previous election was judged to be broadly fair by international observers though they noted the dominance of the Communists in media coverage.
“If there has been any falsification of the election — and we can prove it — then we will go to the streets,” Vlad Filat, leader of the Liberal Democratic party, told PRO-TV.
Sandwiched between fellow former Soviet republic Ukraine and European Union member Romania, Moldova has wavered between close ties with Russia or the EU.
Moldovans share linguistic and historical heritage with Romania, but its Transdniestrian region broke away in Soviet times because it feared Moldova would unite with Romania. Most of Moldova was once part of its western neighbor.
Voronin promotes integration with Europe but has cooled to the idea of closer ties with Romania. Initially close to Moscow, he then accused the Kremlin of abetting the separatists in Transdniestria, but has since moved closer to Russia again.
Voronin has said he wants to become a “Moldovan Deng Xiaoping” — the late Chinese reformist leader — and that his party will choose what job he could take on. Analysts say he could be speaker of parliament or head of its largest faction.
Editing by Angus MacSwan