Pro-Russian party leads in Moldova vote but without majority

CHISINAU (AFP) – Moldova’s pro-Russian Socialist party edged out its pro-European rival to take the most votes in a parliamentary election, results showed yesterday, but without the majority needed to avoid a hung parliament.

Sunday’s vote was being watched for signs of whether ex-Soviet Moldova would seek to strengthen ties with Moscow or move closer Europe.

The inconclusive results, and widespread accusations of fraud, will make coalition talks difficult and could lead to protests or even another election within weeks.

With nearly all votes counted, the Socialist party close to President Igor Dodon was in the lead with 31 per cent, the election commission said.

Dodon, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has pushed for Moldova to join the Moscow-dominated Eurasian Economic Union.

The pro-European ACUM bloc, which wants Moldova to seek closer ties with the European Union (EU), came second with 26 per cent.

The ruling pro-Western Democratic Party was third with 24 per cent, despite accusations from its rivals that it had organised massive election fraud.

The Socialists and ACUM accused the Democratic Party, led by powerful oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, of bussing in people from Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria and telling them how to vote.

The election campaign was chaotic, with ACUM leaders at one point claiming they were poisoned and Russian authorities accusing Plahotniuc of running a vast money-laundering scheme in 2013-14.

Horse-trading to form a government will be especially complicated as the vote was held under a new electoral system that divides the 101-seat parliament into seats elected by party lists and by individual constituencies.

Wedged between Ukraine and Romania, Moldova has struggled to find its place since gaining independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.