An electoral victory for Moldova’s opposition parties over the ruling Communists soured on Thursday as doubts emerged that the fragmented opposition could band together to appoint a new president.
The vote in Europe’s poorest country was a re-run of an election three months ago, which ended in violence after the opposition denounced the poll as fraudulent. That spurred international concern about the stability of a nation that is a point of tension between Russia and the west.
With almost all votes counted, the Communist party, which has been in power for the past eight years, is set to win 47 or 48 of the 101 seats in parliament, the forum for electing a new president. The four opposition parties are due to win 53 or 54 seats, with the votes of Moldovans living abroad yet to be counted.
Three west-leaning liberal parties, supported primarily by speakers of Moldovan, a variant of Romanian, hope to join forces with the Democratic party of Marian Lupu. Mr Lupu was the leading member of the broadly pro-Russian Communist party’s modernising wing until he left the party two months ago after falling out with Vladimir Voronin, the incumbent president.
Corina Fusu, vice-president of the Liberal party, which came third and is regarded as the most pro-Romanian of the parties, said the liberal parties were ready to negotiate with Mr Lupu to form an anti-Communist bloc in parliament.
But even if that succeeded, the four parties would fall short of the 61 votes needed to appoint a president. The parties hope Mr Lupu can tempt seven or eight Communist MPs to cross the floor in support of their candidate. Many analysts think this unlikely, since the Communist party is regarded as well-disciplined and its electoral list was hand-picked by Mr Voronin and his close allies.
Mr Lupu has ruled out going into a two-party coalition with the Communists. “We want real influence, which we couldn’t get as an adjunct, and parties that have joined up with the Communists on their own have been punished by voters in the past,” he told the Financial Times last month.
One option under discussion is to leave Mr Voronin and the existing cabinet in place as acting president and government respectively, while the opposition parties use their parliamentary majority to legislate in the face of that government. The country will need a government soon if it is to seek International Monetary Fund support to paper over a €1bn ($1.4bn, £850m) budget shortfall.