Moldova votes for new parliament, president to go

CHISINAU  – Moldovans went to the polls on Sunday to vote for a new parliament that will choose a replacement for President Vladimir Voronin, the only communist leader in Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Voronin, in office since 2001, cannot stand for a third consecutive term but has made it plain he wants to remain close to power by taking another senior post in the manner of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s former president turned prime minister.

Ex-Soviet Moldova, wedged between Ukraine and European Union member Romania, is Europe’s poorest country and has been beset by a rebellion in its Transdniestrian region.

Voronin’s Communists, who hold 56 of the 101 seats in the outgoing parliament, are far ahead in a field of 15 parties, with support of 36 percent, according to latest opinion polls.

Three opposition parties, broadly favouring closer ties with Romania and the EU, lie far behind.

Voronin has overseen stability and economic growth since 2001 but has been unable to solve the Transdniestrian issue, one of several “frozen conflicts” in the former Soviet Union.

With little mineral resources, Moldova’s economy depends on agriculture, including wine production, and remittances from the hundreds of thousands who left the country to work in EU states.

The Communists gain much of their support from the older generations and civil servants.

“I have been a party member for 45 years and I am not about to leave it,” said Vasile Sadovschi, a 70-year-old pensioner voting at a station on the outskirts of Chisinau. “I will vote Communist until I die.”


Opposition parties, including the Liberal Democratic Party, the Liberal Party of Chisinau Mayor Dorin Chirtoaca and Our Moldova, tend to attract younger and urban voters. The opposition accuses Voronin of “usurping power.”

“I voted for complete and total change in Moldova. I think the Republic of Moldova deserves much better than it has had,” said Grigore Rotanu, a construction worker in his 30s.

Voronin himself has said he wants to become a “Moldovan Deng Xiaoping” — the veteran Chinese leader of the 1990s and that the party will choose what job he could take on. Analysts say he could be speaker of parliament or head of its largest faction.

He initially aligned himself with Moscow in 2001 but later accused it of abetting Russian-speaking separatists in Transdniestria before moving closer to the Kremlin again.

In the run up to the election, Voronin met separatist leader Igor Smirnov and held talks in Moscow with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev but there are no signs of a breakthrough. He praised Moscow’s role in helping end the long-running dispute.

Voronin promotes integration with Europe but has cooled to the idea of closer ties with Romania, with which Moldova shares a historic, cultural and linguistic heritage.

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