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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moldovan Vote Rerun Gets Higher Turnout

ReutersA Moldovan casting his vote Wednesday in a mobile ballot box in Dorotchaia, near the border with Transdnestr.
CHISINAU, Moldova — Moldovans chose on Wednesday between the ruling pro-Russian Communists and West-leaning liberals in a vote that also exposed a rift between the urban youth and rural and ethnic minority voters.

The Communists won 41.7 percent of the vote, according to an exit poll.

The Institute of Public Politics, a grouping of think tanks and pollsters, said the Communists would win 45 seats in the 101-member legislature, too few to allow them to elect a new president.

At least 61 votes are needed to elect a new president. The opposition Liberal Democrats were in second place with 17.4 percent of the vote, according to the exit poll.

Outgoing President Vladimir Voronin had said his Communists, in power for eight years, would again come out as winners in the second parliamentary election in less than four months after a vote in April prompted violent protests. He said Russia was Moldova’s “most sincere friend.”

The president’s liberal rivals also predicted victory. One leader called for an alliance with a rejuvenated centrist party to end the Communist administration of Europe’s poorest country.

Wednesday’s turnout was higher than in April and had reached the required 33 percent by early afternoon. Ten parties are taking part, with 2,000 polling stations open until 9 p.m.

Gleb Garanich / Reuters
Servicemen lining up to vote at a polling station in the capital, Chisinau.

Analyst Bogdan Tirdea said a high turnout could mean change was in the air. “There is probably reason to believe a united opposition coalition will win more votes than the Communists,” he said. “The Communists always had a stable, reliable electorate. Now, you could also say this about the middle class, academics and young people.”

The Communists want closer ties with Europe but see Moscow as a “strategic partner.” Russia keeps troops in the state’s separatist Transdnestr region and supplies over 90 percent of the nation’s energy. It has promised $500 million in loans to help the country in the global crisis.

The Communists won nearly 50 percent of the vote in April, which gave them 60 of the 101 seats against the opposition’s 41.

The campaign exposed a gap between Voronin’s voters — in impoverished villages and among ethnic minorities — and the mostly young, urban electorate of his opponents who want integration with Europe, where vast numbers of Moldovan migrants work.

Also at stake are ties with Romania, which shares a common language and history with Molodva. Relations sank to an unprecedented low under Voronin.

Voronin cast his ballot at a Chisinau school, where voting was brisk in the summer sunshine.

“Absolutely!” he said, when asked whether the Communists would win.

“I believe that Russia, in these difficult days that our country has had to live through, acted as the most sincere, most devoted friend,” he said. “We should never forget this.”

Vlad Filat, leader of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, was also confident. “Tomorrow, Moldova will wake up a free and democratic country, it will be the end for the Communists.”

Voronin said Romania, whose President Traian Basescu backs the opposition, was partly responsible for their poor ties. Most of Moldova was once part of Romania, and 800,000 residents have applied for or secured Romanian citizenship.

Romania, the president said, “needs again and again to renounce its historical past and other aspects linked to nationalism and ideas of unification.”

Polls this time give the Communists 30 percent of the vote or slightly more. The opposition Liberals and Liberal Democrats are forecast to win a combined 20 percent.