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Moldovan president’s pro-EU party wins local elections, loses in big cities

8 months ago 29

The Moldovan president’s pro-European party came first in hundreds of local elections, but failed to win mayoral seats in major cities during a weekend vote that monitors said was marred by foreign meddling and the barring of a pro-Russian party.

The elections on Sunday (5 November) to pick 12,000 local officials, including the mayor of Chisinau, the capital, were seen as a test of President Maia Sandu’s pro-European course and took place under a cloud of allegations of Russian interference. Moscow denies interfering in the elections.

Sandu’s ruling Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) won more than 40% of the votes cast for mayors, city councillors and district and village councils.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a preliminary report that campaigning had been distorted by an “influx of illicit and foreign funds and the monetary incentives used to influence voters’ choice”.

In the buildup to the vote, Moldovan authorities accused Russia of “buying” votes by funnelling $5 million to “criminal groups” led by fugitive businessman Ilan Shor who was convicted in absentia of being involved in bank fraud in Moldova.

Just two days before the vote, authorities barred the Chance party linked to Shor on security grounds, a decision the OSCE said had “limited voters’ choice and resulted in uncontested races in some smaller localities.”

“The blanket exclusion of candidates without a possibility for effective legal remedy is contrary to OSCE commitments and international standards,” it said.

The speaker of Moldova’s parliament, Igor Grosu, hailed the ruling party’s performance in the face of what he said was a Kremlin bid to “throw all its forces into interfering in this election.

“Despite the unprecedented interference by a foreign state, the PAS and pro-European candidates managed to achieve the best result in the country,” Grosu said in a press conference.

Sandu’s party won mayoral seats in the first round of voting in 244 of 898 villages, towns and cities. Those victories were mostly in rural areas, and its candidates failed to win control of the big cities and Chișinău.

In the capital, incumbent mayor Ion Ceban said on Monday he had defeated Lilian Carp of PAS, narrowly avoiding a run-off with 50.62% of the vote, according to preliminary results.

In other cities, the mayoral race in Bălți went to a second round after the PAS party contender crashed out; in Cahul, the mayor’s seat was won by an independent candidate; in Orhei, an independent candidate linked to Shor won in the first round.

Infrastructure Minister Andrei Spinu, vice chairman of PAS, said the main takeaway of the election was that Moldova’s “pro-European choice has won confidently across the whole country”.

This is Moldova’s last national vote before a presidential election due in November 2024, as the small ex-Soviet state bordering Romania tries to advance its bid to join the European Union and leave Russia’s orbit.

Sandu has denounced Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine and accused Moscow of plotting to oust her in a coup.

According to various media reports, the European Commission will recommend the opening of accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova on Wednesday.

(Edited by Georgi Gotev)

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