- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

CHISINAU, Moldova — Moldova’s ruling Communist Party, once allied with Russia but now favoring closer ties to the European Union, won a parliamentary majority in national elections, according to results announced yesterday.

Sunday’s elections have raised tensions with Russia, which maintains peacekeepers in a separatist Slavic enclave in Moldova, and dealt another blow to Moscow’s waning influence in the former Soviet republics after the election of pro-Western leaders in Georgia and Ukraine last year.

Moldova’s Communist Party fell out with Moscow in 2003 over the future of the Russian-speaking Trans-Dniester region, a sliver of land along Moldova’s border with Ukraine.

In final results released yesterday, President Vladimir Voronin’s Communist Party had 46 percent of the vote, down from the 50 percent the party polled in 2001 elections, the Central Electoral Commission said.

The centrist Democratic Moldova bloc won 29 percent of the vote, more than doubling the 14 percent won by bloc member Braghis Alliance in the previous election.

The center-right Popular Christian Democratic Party won nearly 10 percent of the vote, slightly more than it got in 2001.

Only these three parties, out of 15 vying for seats, cleared the 6 percent threshold required by law for parties to enter parliament. The 101 seats in the chamber will be divided among them.

The Communists won 55 seats, enough to form a government. However, they fell six seats short of the minimum 61, or three-fifths majority, needed to choose the president. Parliament has 45 days to choose the president, after which it must hold new parliamentary elections.

“I voted for the Communists because they look after the old people and they doubled my pension,” said Ana Vasentciuc, 70, whose monthly income is $35.

Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu in neighboring Romania also greeted the results, saying he hoped the country would move toward closer integration with Western Europe.

“We are waiting to see what the future political configuration will be, what the fundamental choices will be. I hope with all my heart that Moldova’s choices will be clearly pro-European,” Mr. Tariceanu said.

The Communists have led Moldova, a majority Romanian-speaking former Soviet republic between Romania and Ukraine, through four years of economic growth, but the country remains Europe’s poorest.

Formerly pro-Russian, the Communists have made a complete turnaround and now support closer ties to the European Union, which 65 percent of Moldovans favor.

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