- West, Russia vie for influence in impoverished ex-Soviet state
- Pro-Western president hopes to win majority to tackle graft
- Accuses outgoing parliament of blocking economic reforms
- Ex-president Dodon’s allies say pro-West camp threaten state
CHISINAU, July 11 (Reuters) – Pro-Western Moldovan President Maya Sandu’s PAS party was leading snap parliamentary elections on Sunday, data from the central election commission showed, on a platform of fighting corruption and carrying out reforms.
Sandu hopes to win a majority in the 101-seat chamber to implement reforms she says were blocked by allies of her pro-Russian predecessor, Igor Dodon.
After the counting 37.16% of ballots, PAS had 42.34% of the vote, while its main rival, Dodon’s Socialists and Communists bloc, had 33.86%, the data showed.
Preliminary results are likely to be announced on Monday.
The West and Russia vie for influence in the tiny ex-Soviet republic of 3.5 million people, which is one of Europe’s poorest nations and has suffered a sharp economic downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sandu, a former World Bank economist who favours closer ties with the European Union, defeated Dodon last year but was forced to share power with the parliament elected in 2019 and the government run by lawmakers aligned with Dodon.
In April, Sandu dissolved parliament, in which PAS had 15 lawmakers while Dodon’s Socialists had 37 and together with allies he controlled a majority of 54 deputies.
“I’ve voted for a new parliament with honest people who will allow us to get rid of those who have robbed Moldova all these years,” Sandu said after the vote.
“I urge citizens to vote and take another step towards cleaning Moldova of thieves and the corrupt,” said Sandu, who wants to overhaul the judicial system, increase salaries and amend the constitution to make it easier to punish graft.
Moldova, sandwiched between Ukraine and EU member Romania, has been dogged by instability and corruption scandals in recent years, including the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system.
Dodon, a regular guest in Moscow, has formed an electoral bloc with the communists who have accused Sandu of pursuing a pro-Western policy that would lead to the collapse of the state.
“It depends on our voice today who will rule Moldova tomorrow. I urge you to vote for professionals, patriots of Moldova, and not those who will put Moldova under external control,” Dodon said after the vote.
Writing by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Gareth Jones, William Mallard and Raissa Kasolowsky
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.