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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moldovan President Unseated in Poll

CHISINAU, Moldova -- Petru Lucinschi, Moldova's top Communist official in Soviet times, has unseated the incumbent in a runoff election and captured the country's presidency, results showed Monday.


Lucinschi, the speaker of parliament, had campaigned on pledges to reverse Moldova's economic decline. He topped incumbent Mircea Snegur by 53 percent to 47 percent, Itar-Tass said, citing the Central Election Commission.


Voters were concerned primarily with the faltering economy, although the campaign also focused on maintaining peace in the breakaway region of Transdnester and historical ties to neighboring Romania.


"We are entering the winter season with very small reserves,'' Lucinschi said in an interview with Russia's Interfax. "The population expects the president to take fast and efficient measures to ensure improvements in their living conditions.''


Lucinschi, 56, will be sworn in on Jan. 15.


In the first round of Moldovan voting two weeks ago, Snegur garnered 39 percent of the vote, Lucinschi took 28 percent and other candidates split the rest. In Sunday's head-to-head contest, Lucinschi picked up most of the support that had gone to other candidates in the first round.


Snegur favored economic reforms and increased integration with the rest of Europe. He accused parliament of blocking his efforts and trying to maintain a Soviet-style economy in the country of 4.3 million people.


But Lucinschi blamed him for the economic problems since the Soviet breakup.


The candidates blamed each other for delays in paying wages and pensions, and for plunging production and rising unemployment.


Some feared that a Snegur victory could upset a fragile peace in Transdnester, along Moldova's eastern border with Ukraine. The region has been tense since a bloody 1992 conflict between ethnic Slav separatists and government troops.


Lucinschi has been more conciliatory on the Transdnester issue, and vowed to grant the region more autonomy.


"The conclusion of a memorandum on the normalization of relations with the Transdnester region will be the first step towards a settlement of the problem,'' Lucinschi said Monday.