Socialists take most seats in Moldovan election

Moldova’s Socialist Party took the most seats in the country’s parliamentary elections, held on February 24, but failed to secure a majority needed to form a government.

The party won 34 seats in the 101-member parliament, taking just over 31 per cent of the vote. The current ruling Democratic Party won 31 seats and will be the second-largest in parliament.

The ACUM alliance, which ran on an anti-corruption ticket, took 26 per cent of the vote – slightly more than the Democrats – but won five fewer seats. One other party will also have seats in parliament, the Șor Party of Ilan Șor, a former mayor of the city of Orhei, who is currently under house arrest awaiting trial on fraud charges. The party will have seven seats despite taking less than nine per cent of the vote. Three seats will be occupied by independents.

Moldova’s new electoral system – which combines proportional representation and first-past-the-post constituencies – has been heavily criticised, by ACUM’s leaders in particular.

Speaking after polls closed, one leading ACUM figure, Maia Sandu, said the elections were “neither free, nor fair, nor democratic.”

“These were the least democratic elections in the history of Moldova,” she added.

Turnout was just over 49 per cent.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said that the election was competitive but criticised “strong indications of vote buying”.

The OSCE said the vote was “tainted by allegations of pressure on public employees” and “the misuse of state resources”.

“Control and ownership of the media by political actors limited the range of viewpoints presented to voters,” the OSCE added.

The inconclusive result, and the presence in parliament of just four parties, means that there will now be a tense period of coalition negotiations. Relations between the Socialists and Democrats – who have collaborated, often unofficially, in the past – are currently at a low ebb, making a coalition between the two parties unlikely. If no government can be formed within 45 days the country’s president, Igor Dodon, who backs the Socialists, will have the option to call another general election.

Moldova has had three governments since 2015, following the disappearance of some one billion US dollars – about 12 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product – from the banking system, which plunged it into a political and economic crisis.