Moldova holds historic parliamentary polls

Moldova holds historic parliamentary polls

Sun Nov 30, 2014 8:5AM GMT

Moldovans go to the polls in parliamentary elections that are seen as a contest between the pro-EU campaign and parties backing closer ties with Russia.

Polling stations are open from 7:00 a.m. local time to 9:00 p.m. Sunday.

Voters are casting their ballots to choose lawmakers to a 101-seat parliament for a four-year term.

Opinion polls show a neck-and-neck competition. While nearly 40 percent of Moldovans support pro-European parties, around the same percentage support opposition pro-Russian parties.

No party is expected to gain an outright majority, as parties must win at least six percent of the vote to get a seat.

The vote in one of the poorest European nations comes as Russia and the European Union remain locked in a tug of war for more influence in the region, with the crisis in Ukraine being the major bone of contention between the two sides.

While Russia does not want to part ways with the former Soviet satellite, the EU wants the country of 3.6 million to be on its side.

At present, Moldova is run by a pro-European coalition led by Prime Minister Iurie Leanca which favors more integration with Europe.

In June, Moldova signed a historic association accord with the EU, which allows visa-free travel for Moldovan citizens, provides access to a free trade zone and hundreds of millions of euros in funding.

In response, Russia imposed retaliatory embargoes on imports of many Moldovan foods.

The opposition Communist party and Party of Socialists seek closer ties with Russia and its allies and to revoke the EU agreement.

Three days before the polls, another pro-Russian party Patria (Motherland) was prohibited from continuing the election campaign over alleged illegal financing from abroad. Later, the party’s leader fled to Russia.

On Friday, the Russian foreign ministry condemned the ban on Patria, saying the move cast “serious doubts about the democratic nature” of the polls and warned the vote could be “exceptionally dirty.”

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