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Political Shift in Moldova

Political Shift in Moldova

Opposition parties in the ex-Soviet nation of Moldova won enough votes to defeat the ruling Communists in elections Wednesday, according to exit polls, in a major potential upset that could have lasting effects in a country torn between East and West.

The four opposition parties won 53.9% of the vote, according to an exit poll of Moldova's Institute for Public Politics, against 41.7% for the Communist Party. If the mainly pro-European opposition can unite to form a government, that should give it some 56 seats in the Moldovan parliament, against 45 for the Communists.

"This would be a major change" from elections in April, in which the Communists won 60 seats, said Vlad Lupan, a political analyst in the capital, Chisinau, and a former Moldovan diplomat. April's elections were followed by allegations of ballot fraud, rioting and a government crackdown on the opposition.

Mr. Lupan cautioned, however, that there were again widespread reports of ballot fraud, indicating that the final results might not be as favorable to the opposition as the exit polls. The election is being monitored by some 3,000 observers. The exit poll had a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

In addition, one of the opposition parties, the Democrat party, was formed by a senior Communist party member who defected after the April elections. Marian Lupu was the Communists' top reformer, and it is unclear which side his party might join to form a coalition.

Wednesday's repeat of the April election was forced not by the protests, but by the fact that the Communists failed to muster the 61 votes needed to elect a president. No matter which side Mr. Lupu joins, it appears unlikely they will be able to reach the 61-vote threshold.

If the exit-poll results are confirmed, Mr. Lupu, who says he wants partnership with both the European Union and Russia, looks set to have considerable influence in the choice of the next government. If neither side can elect a new president, the new government would rule while outgoing Communist President Vladimir Voronin remains in power until January, the earliest when a further election might be held.

Still, Mr. Lupan said the exit-poll data itself reflect a significant change in Moldovan society. In the months since April, he said, the Communists have lost the argument over who was to blame for the rioting and ensuing police crackdown in April, when two people were killed. (Wall Street Journal )


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