According to results derived from 97 percents of the votes counted from the local elections in Moldova, the incumbent pro-European mayor of Chisinau, Dorin Chirtoaca, is set to win the mayoral race with the 37 percent of vote, ahead of his pro-Russian candidate from the Party of Socialists, Zinaida Greceanai, who stands on 36 percent.
Moldovan media correctly predicted that the two candidates will compete again in a second round of voting on June 28, in which Chirtoaca is expected to sail to a clear victory.
Sunday’s elections were seen as a choice for Moldovans, who have been torn apart by conflicting loyalties to European integration and strong relations with Russia.
Although government officials expected 2.8 million Moldovans to vote, only 1,360,000 eligible voters participated in the election.
Uncertainty in Moldovan politics
Moldova’s local elections came two days after pro-European Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici’s resignation over his forgery of high school and university diplomas.
The 38-year-old Liberal Democratic Party member Gaburici was appointed as prime minister only four months ago on Feb.18 after his Liberal Democratic Party managed to form a coalition with pro-European parties after the Nov. 2014 elections.
Another figure in the lost billions probe, Israeli-born businessman Ilan Shor, won the local elections with 61.8 percent of the votes in the eastern town of Orhei.
Gaburici was questioned after he accused the state prosecutor of neglecting the investigation over the disappearance of $1 billion from three major banks - Unibank, Banca Sociala and Banca de Economii.
Party of Socialists deputy chairman Ion Ceban said that his party will not seek a coalition with the Liberals after the resignation of the prime minister.
Ceban said that “we will never form a coalition with those who stole billions of lei from banks. The probability that we will win the Chisinau City Hall and will gain a majority of seats in the Municipal Council by the first round is rather high.”
Liberal Party deputy head Valeriu Munteanu, also brushed off rumours of an alliance saying “I don’t know with whom they discussed the formation of a collation... We will not form a coalition until those to blame for the theft of billions of lei are punished, the stolen money is restored and a person from outside the country is named as prosecutor general.”
Moldova, a former Soviet republic home to 3.5 million people, lies between Ukraine and Romania and is one of Europe’s poorest countries today.
Almost 600,000 Moldovan nationals migrated to work in EU member states after the 28-nation bloc lifted the Schengen visa for Moldovans in April last year.
Moldova's trade with the EU has increased to 54.5 percent as its economy becomes more and more dependent on the EU, while transaction costs have been declining with Russia.
Russia, however, maintains its influence over Chisinau through the breakaway enclave of Transnistria, an unrecognised state wedged between war-torn Ukraine and EU member state Romania which declared its independence from Chisinau after a war in 1992.
Moldova and other eastern European countries have been concerned over Russia’s increasing influence in the wake of last year's annexation of Crimea and the separatist war in eastern Ukraine launched by pro-Russian rebels.
The EU is pushing for countries in the region to take part in a neighbourhood policy by signing an association agreement that empowers cooperation and coordination between the EU and non-EU members.