The local elections are widely seen as a referendum on Moldova's pro-European stance.
By Alina Radu for Southeast European Times in Chisinau -- 21/06/11
Moldovans elected new mayors of towns and villages, ending the second round of local elections on Sunday (June 19th). [Reuters]
Moldova concluded its second round of local elections Sunday (June 19th) for 898 mayors of towns and villages.
The Chisinau mayoral race was emblematic of the country's larger competition between democracy and Soviet-era communism, as well as between what analysts term European versus Russian influence.
The Liberal Party's Dorin Chirtoaca was re-elected as Chisinau mayor by a razor thin margin -- 50.6% to 49.4% -- against the Communist Party candidate Igor Dodon, suggesting deep internal divisions in the country.
That Liberal Party victory in Chisinau is a victory for the Alliance for European Integration in Moldova (AEI), a tripartite coalition of the Liberals, Democrats, and Liberal-Democrats formed after the 2009 parliamentary elections.
Dodon, however, issued a statement Monday (June 20th) thanking his supporters and refusing to acknowledge defeat.
"The difference of one percentage point can't be considered a defeat, even more so when most in Chisinau understand that the election results of June 5th and June 19th were falsified by the present government through various methods," Dodon said.
At the beginning of the campaign, all three AEI parties fielded candidates, but at the end of the first round the Liberal-Democrats withdrew their candidate while the Democrats candidate gathered only 2.5% of the vote among 13 candidates. During the second round, however, the AEI leaders announced they would jointly support Chirtoaca against the Communist candidate.
"During the second round of elections, political parties showed they are consolidated and faithful to the electorate. All three AEI partners supported the same candidate in Chisinau -- Dorin Chirtoaca -- and the result can be seen," political analyst Mihai Cernenco told SETimes.
AEI is now hoping for another victory in the Chisinau local council, elected during the first round of voting on June 5th. The Communists won 26 seats and the AEI 25, but the Alliance contested the results due to what it termed a large number of irregularities. A recount is currently under way.
"There were too many invalid votes, more than usual, as well as other irregularities. We hope that re-counting will confirm a pro-European council in Chisinau, and that we'll continue what we started four years ago: projects to make Chisinau a modern and citizen-friendly capital," Chirtoaca told SETimes.
Moldova's Central Elections Commission declared the elections valid, and international observers from the OSCE and the ODIHR confirmed that the elections were free and fair.
The results suggest that the power of the Communists may be on the decline. During the 2007 local elections, they won over 300 mayoral offices, but only managed to gain 100 this time.
Viitorul Institute for Development and Social Initiatives (IDSI) analyst Corneliu Ciurea argues that all participants made mistakes and did not show enough financial transparency, alluding to the phenomenon of vote buying.
"There are a number of known cases in which people were given a kilo of rice, a bottle of sunflower oil, or even a kilo of salt to vote for a certain person. This situation should be discussed by society," Ciurea said.
Experts say the AEI has to quickly create alliances in local councils. "We were already approached by communists at the local level to co-operate, but I think we should work together with the Alliance members in local councils," Liberal Party vice-president Corina Fusu told SETimes.
"We already have all support to create pro-European alliances in local councils in 27 regions," said Liberal-Democrat parliamentary group leader Valeriu Strelet.
"We should create strong alliances at all political levels and start to work. Moldovans had to vote every half year from 2009 on. It is too much. Moldovan citizens deserve our efforts now," Democrat parliamentary group member Oleg Tulea told SETimes.