Pro-Western party wins Moldova election, preliminary data shows

People queue to receive ballots during a vote at a snap parliamentary election, in Chisinau, Moldova

Pro-Western Moldovan President Maia Sandu’s PAS party won the country’s snap parliamentary elections, data from the central election commission showed on Monday, on a platform of fighting corruption and carrying out reforms.

Sandu hopes to win a majority in the 101-seat chamber to implement reforms she says were blocked by allies of her pro-Russian predecessor, Igor Dodon.

After the counting of 99.63% of ballots, only three political forces will be represented in the new chamber, the data showed. PAS had 52.60% of the vote, while its main rival, Dodon’s Socialists and Communists bloc, had 27.32%.

The party of Ilan Shor, a businessman convicted of fraud and money-laundering in connection with a $1 billion bank scandal, received 5.77% of the vote. Shor denies wrongdoing.

The West and Russia vie for influence in the tiny ex-Soviet republic of 3.5 million people, which is one of Europe’s poorest nations and has suffered a sharp economic downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sandu, a former World Bank economist who favours closer ties with the European Union, defeated Dodon last year but was forced to share power with the parliament elected in 2019 and the government run by lawmakers aligned with Dodon.

In April, Sandu dissolved parliament, in which PAS had 15 lawmakers while Dodon’s Socialists had 37. Together with allies he controlled a majority of 54 deputies.

“I hope that Moldova will end today a difficult era, the era of the rule of thieves in Moldova. Our citizens must feel and experience the benefits of a clean parliament and government that cares about people’s problems,” Sandu said on Facebook.

She said that after the final count of votes she intended to form a new government as soon as possible.

The distribution of seats in parliament is not yet clear, as the votes cast for the parties that did not win enough votes to enter parliament will be distributed among the winners.

Moldova, sandwiched between Ukraine and EU member Romania, has been dogged by instability and corruption scandals in recent years, including the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system.

Dodon, a regular guest in Moscow, has formed an electoral bloc with the communists who have accused Sandu of pursuing a pro-Western policy that would lead to the collapse of the state.

“I appeal to the future deputies of the new parliament: we must not allow a new political crisis in Moldova. It would be nice to have a period of political stability,” Dodon said after the election.

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