Moldovans were to vote on Wednesday to determine who succeeds Communist strongman Vladimir Voronin as president. The first poll in April led to anti-Communist riots and lawmakers failed to select a new president in the ensuing standoff.
AFP - Moldovans were to vote Wednesday in their second parliamentary elections in less than four months after the previous polls led to violent anti-Communist riots and a bitter political standoff.
The results will determine who succeeds Communist strongman Vladimir Voronin as president of Europe's poorest country and how tiny Moldova steers its foreign policy between the twin demands of the European Union and Moscow.
Voronin reluctantly called new elections in June after lawmakers failed to elect a new president due to a boycott by liberal opposition parties which accused his ruling Communist Party of stealing the April election.
Now around 2.5 million voters are set to choose a new parliament in the small nation wedged between Ukraine and Romania.
The parliament is then supposed to select a successor to Voronin, who must step down after serving the maximum two four-year terms permitted by the constitution.
Besides the ruling Communist Party, four opposition parties are tipped to have a chance of passing the five percent barrier needed to win seats.
Political analysts and opinion polls predict the Communist Party will take first place, but will not win the 60 percent of seats needed for the party to fully control the selection of the next president.
In the April 5 election, the Communist Party won about 50 percent of the vote but was accused of fraud, prompting huge street protests and the sacking of the parliament building in Chisinau by young rioters.
While new riots seem unlikely, there is a strong likelihood that Moldova's impasse will continue given that the population is split between pro-opposition urban youth and older rural voters loyal to the Communists, analysts say.
Fuelling the divide is Moldova's poverty, which leads numerous working-age adults to seek employment abroad, leaving behind the young and the elderly.
Many believe that a coalition is the solution to the deadlock, and last week Voronin announced that the Communist Party was open to a coalition with its opponents, after previously accusing them of plotting a coup.
His move came after the Communists were weakened by the defection of former parliamentary speaker Marian Lupu, seen as a reformer within the party.
However the three main liberal opposition parties have so far ruled out all dialogue with the Communists or with Lupu, who is running in Wednesday's election as head of the small Democratic Party.
The diplomatic stakes are also high -- while all major parties favour bringing Moldova into the EU, the Communists have pursued an increasingly pro-Russian line in recent months.
Voronin's government has accused neighbouring Romania, an EU member country which shares a common language and deep historical ties with Moldova, of fomenting the April riots.
Romania denies the charges, but it has raised questions about the Moldovan government's handling of the disputed election. Around 200 observers from the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe will monitor the vote.
Date created : 2009-07-29