CHISINAU (AFP) – Pro-European parties edged out those backing closer ties with Russia in weekend parliamentary elections in ex-Soviet Moldova, which took place against the backdrop of the bloody conflict in neighbouring Ukraine.
With more than 87.7 per cent of the votes counted, three parties backing integration with the European Union won about 44 per cent of the vote, while pro-Russian groups had about 40 per cent.
The narrow victory means parties will face tough negotiations to form a government in the impoverished country that has a breakaway pro-Kremlin region where Russia has stationed troops, analysts said.
Sunday’s parliamentary vote came as Russia and the European Union are locked in a tug-of-war over the fate of ex-Soviet Moldova as well as against the deadly backdrop of a Moscow-backed separatist movement in the east of strongly pro-Western Ukraine.
Moscow does not want to part ways with Moldova, a former Soviet satellite where it has troops stationed in the Russian-speaking separatist region of Transdniestr, while the EU is keen to make Moldova a symbol of its own soft power strength.
In June, Chisinau signed a landmark association treaty with the EU in the face of bitter Russian opposition.
Moscow retaliated with an embargo on imports of many Moldovan foods. Russia in October vowed to protect its citizens in Transdniestr, warning “those who don’t think like us” not to meddle in the pro-Moscow breakaway region.