AP NEWS

Moldova parliamentary ballot: what’s at stake?

February 23, 2019
1 of 12
A woman pushes a baby stroller by electoral posters advertising the candidates of the Socialists' Party, in Chisinau, Moldova, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, ahead of parliamentary elections taking place on Feb. 24. Moldova's president says the former Soviet republic needs good relations with Russia, amid uncertainty about the future of the European Union. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — More than three million Moldovans are eligible to vote in parliamentary elections Sunday in this former Soviet republic wedged between Romania and Ukraine. They will choose representatives for the next four-year term of the 101-seat legislature. No outright winner is expected and the ballot will likely deepen a rift between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces, amid concerns about endemic corruption and crumbling democracy.

REJIGGED VOTING SYSTEM

The voting system has been changed in what critics say is a ploy to help the two main parties — the broadly pro-Russian Socialists and the nominally pro-European Democratic Party — carve up influence. Democratic leader Vladimir Plahotniuc, one of the country’s wealthiest men, is the country’s de-facto leader as the Democrats are the main party in the ruling coalition. Voters will directly pick 51 lawmakers, while the remaining 50 lawmakers will be elected via party lists, a method which favors the two bigger parties. Another factor to consider is that there are up to one million voters— almost a third of the electorate— working and living abroad, mainly in the EU and Russia.

___

WHO’S RUNNING?

There are three main parties: The Democratic Party, which heads the ruling coalition together with its junior partner the Popular European Party, the Socialists, who favor closer ties to Russia, and the pro-European ACUM which opposes both major parties and signed a pledge Thursday not to enter into a coalition with them if no party wins an outright majority. Parties need to win six percent of the overall vote to enter Parliament.

___

POTENTIAL FOR CRISIS

In an interview this week with The Associated Press, Moldovan President Igor Dodon warned of unrest if elections are rigged. While no major fraud is expected on polling day, with 340 international observers from 38 countries monitoring the ballot, there are concerns the elections may be less than free or fair. Facebook recently dismantled 168 fake accounts and 28 pages allegedly attempting to influence voters.

Pro-European leader Maia Sandu told the AP that the elections were “the most undemocratic in the history of Moldova,” and that warned voters may stage demonstrations to “defend our vote.”

Moreover, the election threatens to keep the country stuck in limbo between the West and Russia, at a time when allegations of government corruption and concerns over erosion of democracy have strained relations with the EU. Moldova signed an association agreement with the EU in 2014, a move seen as a step toward joining the bloc.

Last year, the European Parliament called Moldova “a state captured by oligarchic interests.” The EU also froze aid to Moldova after a local court invalidated the 2018 Chisinau mayoral election on a technicality, a move seen as a bid to thwart the apparent victory of a pro-European candidate.

___

WHAT ELSE?

ACUM leaders Sandu and Andrei Nastase have accused the Democratic Party leadership of corruption and claimed they had been poisoned. The Democratic Party strenuously denied the allegations.

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press.All rights reserved.