Moldovans were voting yesterday in parliamentary elections that could shift the former Soviet republic’s focus away from Russia and toward the EU.
One-third or so of Moldova’s 2.5 million registered voters were still undecided last month between the governing Communist Party and center-right opposition parties that seek closer ties with the West.
“If the communists win, the country will fall even more under Russian influence,” political analyst Vitalie Cazacu said on Friday. “If the opposition manages to come to power, the democratic institutions will be strengthened and it will be closer to NATO and the EU.”
Located between Ukraine and Romania, Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest nations with an average monthly salary of 260 euros (US$350). About 600,000 Moldovans work elsewhere in Europe — mainly in Russia, Italy, Spain and Ireland. Last year Moldovans abroad sent US$1.6 billion home — roughly the same amount as the state budget.
There has been some economic growth during the Communist Party’s eight years in power, but international groups have criticized Moldova’s slow progress toward full democracy and a lack of media freedom. Some 3,000 observers were monitoring the vote.
Two-thirds of the country’s population of 4.3 million is ethnic Romanian and thousands hold Romanian passports. Moldova was part of Romania in 1940, but has maintained strong ties with Russia since the Soviet era.
The communists went into the elections with 36 percent support, while the opposition Liberal and Liberal Democratic Parties had 22 percent, the only pre-election poll conducted by the Institute for Public Politics from Feb. 28 to March 14 showed.
The institute gave a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points for the poll.
Most analysts predicted, however, that the large number of undecided voters would vote for the center-right.