Early results: No party secures majority in Moldova ballot
CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Near-final results from Sunday's parliamentary elections in Moldova showed no party secured a majority, a result that could leave the former Soviet republic in limbo between pro-Western and pro-Russia forces.
With 97 percent of the votes counted early Monday, the broadly pro-Russia opposition Socialists had 31.5 percent, while the pro-European group ACUM had 25.9 percent. The incumbent Democratic Party was trailing in third place with 24.1 percent.
The election comes as the Democratic Party's governing alliance has lost support over rampant corruption, falling living standards and the erosion of democracy in Moldova, a small landlocked nation between Romania and Ukraine.
President Igor Dodon forecast another election in the coming months. "We have a major risk of early elections," he said after casting his ballot. An inconclusive outcome could lead to instability, and Dodon and pro-Europe leader Maia Sandu have warned of demonstrations if elections are found to be marred by fraud.
If lawmakers fail to form a governing coalition within 45 days of the election result, the president will dissolve the legislature and call a new vote. More than 3 million voters were eligible to choose representatives for the next four years to the 101-seat legislature. Parties needed to win a minimum of 6 percent of the ballots to enter Parliament.
Election authorities said voter turnout was just over 49 percent when polls closed. ACUM party leader Maia Sandu told The Associated Press that the election was "the most undemocratic in the history of Moldova."
"A gang of thieves ... has captured the state institutions" and are "scaring ... threatening and impoverishing us," Sandu said Sunday as she urged Moldovans to vote. One voter, Svetlana Druta, said she had voted to change the judicial system.
"We need to start from the top and then (change) elementary schools and kindergartens, and then we need a good health" system, she said. Last year, the European Parliament called Moldova "a state captured by oligarchic interests." The European Union also froze aid to Moldova after a local court invalidated the 2018 Chisinau mayoral election on a technicality, a move to thwart the apparent victory of a pro-Europe candidate.
But Vladimir Plahotniuc, the Democratic Party chief and the country's de facto leader, insisted Sunday that the ruling party had brought "order and discipline" through its economic policies. Despite that claim, an estimated 1 million Moldovans have moved abroad to find jobs, mainly in the EU and Russia.
Moldova's voting system has been changed in what critics say is a ploy to help the two main parties — the Socialists and the Democrats — carve up influence. About 340 international observers from 38 countries monitored the ballot.
Associated Press writers Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania, and Corneliu Rusnac in Chisinau, Moldova, contributed to this report.