Moldova Appears Poised to Turn West

Times Staff Writer

Moldova’s ruling Communists, who came to power four years ago on a pro-Moscow platform but now favor stronger ties with Europe, won a majority of seats in a parliamentary election, according to official results Monday.

The Communist Party tally of 46% in Sunday’s 15-party race was projected to give it 56 of 101 parliamentary seats, enough to form the government in Europe’s poorest country.

Though the party fell short of winning the 61 seats needed to elect a president, who is chosen by Parliament, the results appeared to put President Vladimir Voronin in a strong position to win reelection.


The outcome leaves Moldova poised to become the next former Soviet republic -- after Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine last year -- to make a decisive turn away from Russia and toward closer links with the European Union and the United States. But this time it is the ruling party, rather than opposition forces, leading the way.

“The main thing is the elections were recognized as democratic. Our country has passed its most important examination: meeting European standards,” Voronin told a news conference Monday in Chisinau, the Moldovan capital. “Of course, there were certain shortcomings, but we will work to mend them.”

Voronin, who previously suggested that his party might change its name, on Monday said the Communists would reorganize along the lines of European parties.

“A special-task commission is already working on this issue,” he said.

“As of today we’re starting our policy to integrate into Europe,” he said. “Now Moldova has the right to consider itself a European country.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe released a statement praising the election as “generally in compliance” with international standards, although it said it “fell short of some key commitments, particularly regarding campaign conditions and media access.”

“The people of Moldova have shown they want to be a part of a democratic Europe,” Marianne Mikko, head of a group of election observers sent by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, said in the statement. “It is the clear wish of the European Parliament to build on this desire and assist Moldovans in the future development of their democracy.”


Moldova, with a population of 4.4 million, is sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. The Moldovan language can be considered a dialect of Romanian, and there is no real distinction between ethnic Moldovans and ethnic Romanians, who together make up 65% of the country’s population. Ukrainians and Russians are the next largest ethnic groups, at 14% and 13% of the population, respectively.

The balloting did little to resolve the problem of the separatist Trans-Dniester region, a border territory east of the Dniester River that has a majority ethnic Russian and Ukrainian population.

Slavic separatists in Trans-Dniester launched their battle for independence in 1992, fearing that the central government would merge Moldova into Romania. A peace accord was signed in Moscow in 1997, and Russia has had troops in the breakaway region ever since. Moscow views those troops, now numbering about 1,200, as peacekeepers. But Voronin has demanded their withdrawal.

“It is unfair for Russia to support separatism in Moldova while it tries to defeat separatism in Chechnya,” Voronin said at Monday’s news conference, referring to the southern Russian region where Moscow’s forces are fighting Chechen rebels.

To win reelection, Voronin would need to attract support from at least one of the other two parties in Parliament.

The centrist Democratic Moldova bloc, which campaigned in favor of improved ties with both Moscow and the West, won 28% of the votes and was projected to take 34 seats.


The center-right Popular Christian Democratic Party, which backs closer alignment with Romania, won 9% for the remaining 11 seats.

Leaders of both opposition parties said Monday that they intended to boycott Parliament’s presidential vote in a bid to force a new election, the Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported. It was unclear, however, whether their statements were simply a negotiating tactic.

“Voronin will not be supported by my bloc,” Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean, leader of Democratic Moldova, said at a news conference.

Iurie Rosca, leader of the Christian Democrats, argued that “conditions were unequal” in the election, Itar-Tass reported. But both leaders said they had dropped plans for postelection street protests, the news agency said.

In Romania, Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu said his government was still waiting “to see what the future political configuration will be.”

“I hope with all my heart that Moldova’s choices will be clearly pro-European,” Tariceanu said. “In this way, I can tell you that not only will Romania be happy, but we can give a helping hand to Moldovans to fulfill their European aspirations.”