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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Opposition Scores Narrow Win in Moldova

CHISINAU, Moldova — Moldova's pro-Western parties scrambled to forge a governing alliance Thursday after beating Europe's last communist-run government in parliamentary elections.

Near final results put four center-right opposition parties ahead of the Communist Party, which has ruled the impoverished country since 2001.

"The Communist Party lost the elections after an exhausting campaign, where there were enormous pressures not just on the political parties, but also on the ordinary people," said Alexandru Tanase, deputy chairman of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

He said his party was negotiating with the Liberal Party, Democratic Party and Our Moldova Alliance — raising the likelihood that the nation would move out of Russia's orbit and closer to the European Union and NATO.

Other significant changes could be in the works for Moldova, one of Europe's poorest and most clannish countries. During the campaign, opposition parties also pledged more free market reforms, an independent justice system and greater press freedoms.

Moldova has been in political paralysis since April parliamentary elections sparked violent protests that left three people dead and hundreds arrested, with the opposition claiming that vote was rigged.

Wednesday's elections were called after the parliament failed to elect a successor to outgoing President Vladimir Voronin, the leader of the Communists who has served the maximum two terms in office.

With 98 percent of the vote counted, the four opposition parties had 50.9 percent to the Communists' 45.1 percent.

The opposition will likely get another boost from three parties whose votes will be redistributed because they did not reach the 5 percent minimum to enter the parliament.

"We will find a favorable solution to develop democracy in Moldova," Our Moldova Alliance leader Serafim Urechean said after the vote.

The election was overshadowed by economic woes. Moldova's average monthly wage is only $350, and the International Monetary Fund warned its gross domestic product would tumble 9 percent this year.

The opposition fell short, however, of taking enough seats in the 101-member assembly to elect a new president without having to negotiate with the Communists.

Moldova's president wields considerable power as head of the armed forces and border police, and can also fire ministers, though he needs parliament's approval to dismiss a prime minister.

The pro-Europe victory likely also will help Moldova repair relations with Romania. Moldova imposed visa requirements on Romanians after Voronin accused the neighboring country of trying to overthrow his government during the April 7 riots. Moldova was part of Romania until 1940, and gained its independence after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

Voronin said the "most important achievement" in Wednesday's vote was that "we were able to organize civilized and democratic elections."

There was no sign of unrest after Wednesday's vote, which was monitored by more than 3,000 foreign and Moldovan observers. Official turnout was just under 59 percent.

A member of Our Moldova Alliance was shot in the leg near Chisinau by a man accompanied by two Communist Party politicians after an argument over allegations that the Communists were breaking election rules, party spokesman Leonid Bujor said.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Ala Meleca said police were investigating. The Communist Party declined comment.