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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pro-Russia Parties Expected To Dominate Moldova Vote

CHISINAU, Moldova — Voters going to the polls Sunday in Moldova were choosing between parties advocating closer ties with Russia and others who want Moldova to remain on a more neutral path.

The Communist Party and other pro-Russian groups were forecast to do best in the parliamentary elections. While the Communists claim to support market and democratic reforms, they want closer ties with Moscow.

The parliamentary ballot was called by outgoing President Petru Lucinschi after the legislature failed four times in December to elect a new president, ending up in deadlocks in the choice between an independent and a Communist candidate, Vladimir Voronin.

Lucinschi has suggested that one of the new parliament's priorities should be a new law that allows the president to be chosen directly by the electorate instead of the legislature.

Some 2.4 million people were eligible to vote. Partial results were to be published Monday, with final results expected Wednesday.

By mid-afternoon, 51 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballot, making the elections valid.

The Communist Party, headed by Voronin, currently controls 40 percent of the seats in the 101-seat parliament, more than any other party. It is expected to retain most of them. Voronin came two votes short of being elected president in December and remains one of the most powerful politicians in Moldova.

Seeking to calm fears that he would take Moldova back into the Communist era, Voronin, 59, said he supports democracy and private ownership. He admires President Vladimir Putin.

"The next government will be democratic and reformist — it is most likely the next prime minister will not be Communist," said Voronin, after casting his ballot in downtown Chisinau.

But Mircea Snegur, Moldova's president from 1992 to 1996 claimed: "This a choice between East and West. If the parliament is 'red' then we can expect to be part of a Russia-Belarus union."