Moldovans head to polls, opt between Moscow and West

Published 02-24-2019

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CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) - Moldovans voted Sunday in a parliamentary election that could deepen the split between pro-Western and pro-Russia forces in the former Soviet republic.

The election in Moldova, a small landlocked nation between Romania and Ukraine, comes as the Democratic Party's ruling alliance has lost support over rampant corruption, falling living standards and the erosion of democracy.

The vote is a three-way contest between the broadly pro-Russia opposition Socialists, whose former leader Igor Dodon became Moldova's president in 2016, the Democrats and a pro-European group, ACUM.

More than 3 million voters can choose representatives for the next four years to the 101-seat legislature. No party is expected to win an outright majority and parties need to win 6 percent of the ballot to enter Parliament.

Election authorities put voter turnout at 46.5 percent after 11 ½ hours of voting, slightly lower than for the 2014 parliamentary election.

Dodon on Sunday forecast another election in the coming months.

"We have a major risk of early elections," he said after casting his vote.

If lawmakers fail to form a coalition 45 days after the election result, the president dissolves the legislature and calls a new vote.

ACUM party leader Maia Sandu told The Associated Press that the election was "the most undemocratic in the history of Moldova."

"A gang of thieves ... has captured the state institutions" and are "scaring ... threatening and impoverishing us," Sandu said Sunday as she urged Moldovans to vote.

Last year, the European Parliament called Moldova "a state captured by oligarchic interests." The European Union also froze aid to Moldova after a local court invalidated the 2018 Chisinau mayoral election on a technicality, a move to thwart the apparent victory of a pro-European candidate.

But Vladimir Plahotni

"We have a major risk of early elections," he said after casting his vote.

If lawmakers fail to form a coalition 45 days after the election result, the president dissolves the legislature and calls a new vote.

ACUM party leader Maia Sandu told The Associated Press that the election was "the most undemocratic in the history of Moldova."

"A gang of thieves ... has captured the state institutions" and are "scaring ... threatening and impoverishing us," Sandu said Sunday as she urged Moldovans to vote.

Last year, the European Parliament called Moldova "a state captured by oligarchic interests." The European Union also froze aid to Moldova after a local court invalidated the 2018 Chisinau mayoral election on a technicality, a move to thwart the apparent victory of a pro-European candidate.

But Vladimir Plahotniuc, the Democratic Party chief and the country's de-facto leader, on Sunday insisted the ruling party had brought "order and discipline" through its economic policies.

Despite that claim, an estimated 1 million Moldovans have moved abroad to find jobs, mainly in the European Union and Russia.

Moldova's voting system has been changed in what critics say is a ploy to help the two main parties - the Socialists and the Democrats

ACUM party leader Maia Sandu told The Associated Press that the election was "the most undemocratic in the history of Moldova."

"A gang of thieves ... has captured the state institutions" and are "scaring ... threatening and impoverishing us," Sandu said Sunday as she urged Moldovans to vote.

Last year, the European Parliament called Moldova "a state captured by oligarchic interests." The European Union also froze aid to Moldova after a local court invalidated the 2018 Chisinau mayoral election on a technicality, a move to thwart the apparent victory of a pro-European candidate.

But Vladimir Plahotniuc, the Democratic Party chief and the country's de-facto leader, on Sunday insisted the ruling party had brought "order and discipline" through its economic policies.

Despite that claim, an estimated 1 million Moldovans have moved abroad to find jobs, mainly in the European Union and Russia.

Moldova's voting system has been changed in what critics say is a ploy to help the two main parties - the Socialists and the Democrats - carve up influence.

About 340 international observers from 38 countries are monitoring the ballot.

___

Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania, and Corneliu Rusnac in Chisinau, contributed to this report.

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A man holds a European Union flag as people stand by shoes of Moldovan citizens working abroad are placed on the pavement in Chisinau, Moldova, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Moldovans who have relatives working abroad staged a protest by blaming the corruption and poor economic situation in the country for the massive numbers of people leaving the country in search of a better life. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


Seen through the mesh covering an electoral advertising point of the Socialits' Party, people walk in Chisinau, Moldova, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, a day before the country holds parliamentary elections. Moldova's President Igor Dodon expressed, in an interview with the Associated Press, concern of "massive protests" in case of suspicions of fraud in the upcoming parliamentary elections. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


A man holds an European Union flag as people stand by shoes of Moldovan citizens working abroad are placed on the pavement in Chisinau, Moldova, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Moldovans who have relatives working abroad staged a protest by blaming the corruption and poor economic situation in the country for the massive numbers of people leaving the country in search of a better life. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


Supporters of Moldova's Democratic Party, led by Vladimir Plahotniuc prepare to march in Chisinau, Moldova, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, a day before the country holds parliamentary elections. More than three million Moldovans will vote in a parliamentary elections Sunday in this former Soviet republic wedged between Romania and Ukraine choosing representatives for the 101-seat legislature for a four-year term. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


Supporters of Moldova's Democratic Party, led by Vladimir Plahotniuc prepare to march in Chisinau, Moldova, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, a day before the country holds parliamentary elections. More than three million Moldovans will vote in a parliamentary elections Sunday in this former Soviet republic wedged between Romania and Ukraine choosing representatives for the 101-seat legislature for a four-year term. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


The slippers of 34 year-old Adela, a citizen of Moldova working in Sweden, are powdered with snow after her mother placed them on the pavement in Chisinau, Moldova, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Moldovans who have relatives working abroad staged a protest by blaming the corruption and poor economic situation in the country for the massive numbers of people leaving the country in search of a better life. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


Women pick up leaflets advertising the Socialits' Party, in Chisinau, Moldova, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, a day before the country holds parliamentary elections. More than three million Moldovans will vote in a parliamentary elections Sunday in this former Soviet republic wedged between Romania and Ukraine choosing representatives for the 101-seat legislature for a four-year term. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


A youngster carries a billboard advertising the Socialits' Party, which reads "I will vote for the Socialists" as people walk by in Chisinau, Moldova, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, a day before the country holds parliamentary elections. More than three million Moldovans will vote in a parliamentary elections Sunday in this former Soviet republic wedged between Romania and Ukraine choosing representatives for the 101-seat legislature for a four-year term. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


A man carrying a billboard of the Socialits' Party, which reads "I will vote for the Socialists", speaks to a woman in Chisinau, Moldova, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, a day before the country holds parliamentary elections. More than three million Moldovans will vote in a parliamentary elections Sunday in this former Soviet republic wedged between Romania and Ukraine choosing representatives for the 101-seat legislature for a four-year term. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


A poster depicting, from left, Moldova's Prime Minister Pavel Filip, President Igor Dodon and Israeli born Modovan businessman and politician Ilan Shor, which reads "Don't Vote for the Oligarchs" is placed on a light pole in Chisinau, Moldova, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, a day before the country holds parliamentary elections. More than three million Moldovans will vote in a parliamentary elections Sunday in this former Soviet republic wedged between Romania and Ukraine choosing representatives for the 101-seat legislature for a four-year term. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


A child walks by a poster depicting, from left, Moldova's Prime Minister Pavel Filip, President Igor Dodon and Israeli born Modovan businessman and politician Ilan Shor, which reads "Don't Vote for the Oligarchs" in Chisinau, Moldova, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, a day before the country holds parliamentary elections. More than three million Moldovans will vote in a parliamentary elections Sunday in this former Soviet republic wedged between Romania and Ukraine choosing representatives for the 101-seat legislature for a four-year term. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


Maia Sandu, leader of the ACUM opposition alliance, exits a voting cabin in Chisinau, Moldova, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Moldovans voted Sunday in a parliamentary election that could deepen the split between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces in the former Soviet republic. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru) - The Associated Press


Moldova's President Igor Dodon speaks to the media after casting his vote in the country's parliamentary elections in Chisinau, Moldova, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Moldovans voted Sunday in a parliamentary election that could deepen the split between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces in the former Soviet republic. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


A child peers from behind a voting stand in Chisinau, Moldova, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Moldovans voted Sunday in a parliamentary election that could deepen the split between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces in the former Soviet republic. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


An elderly woman casts her vote in Chisinau, Moldova, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Moldovans voted Sunday in a parliamentary election that could deepen the split between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces in the former Soviet republic. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


A woman holds a child as she casts her vote in Chisinau, Moldova, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Moldovans voted Sunday in a parliamentary election that could deepen the split between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces in the former Soviet republic. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


An elderly woman exits a voting cabin in Chisinau, Moldova, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Moldovans voted Sunday in a parliamentary election that could deepen the split between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces in the former Soviet republic. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


Moldova's President Igor Dodon smiles after casting his vote in the country's parliamentary elections in Chisinau, Moldova, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Moldovans voted Sunday in a parliamentary election that could deepen the split between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces in the former Soviet republic. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


A woman holds a child as she casts her vote in Chisinau, Moldova, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Moldovans voted Sunday in a parliamentary election that could deepen the split between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces in the former Soviet republic. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


Moldova's President Igor Dodon speaks to the media after casting his vote in the country's parliamentary elections in Chisinau, Moldova, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Moldovans voted Sunday in a parliamentary election that could deepen the split between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces in the former Soviet republic. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press