Moldova awaits election results
Moldova is divided. Source: IHA
Moldova has gone to the polls in its first proper presidential election since the 1990s, seen as a contest between supporters of closer relations with Russia and those looking towards the EU.
The country of 3.5 million between Ukraine and Romania is the poorest in Europe and has struggled with a series of corruption scandals which have overshadowed the election. In 2015 it was revealed that US$1 billion had disappeared from the country’s banks. Street protests erupted and the International Monetary Fund and the EU froze aid.
Former prime minister Vlad Filat, who is one of five premiers in three years, was implicated, handcuffed live on TV in parliament and jailed. But many voters believe other members of the pro-EU elite were involved in the scandal.
“More than ever Moldova needs a president who represents all and doesn’t divide citizens of the country into supporters and opponents of integration in the European Union,” said Alexandra Sveichina, 64. “The new president should reject geopolitics completely and focus on improving the lives of simple people.”
It is a familiar opinion.
“We can’t be without Russia, that’s our export market,” said Igor Lopukhov, 66, a Russian-speaking pensioner who voted for the Socialist Party’s Igor Dodon, ahead in the opinion polls and who wants to restore cooperation with Russia.
Dodon’s main rival is former education minister Maya Sandu, who is supported by younger Moldovans.
“We have to build Europe at home,” said Ion Lupusor, 27, who studied elsewhere in Europe.
“If we don’t vote, pensioners will decide the country’s development, and they vote for going ‘back to USSR’.”
More than two-fifths of the population live on less than US$5 a day while the monthly average salary is US$240, according to the World Bank with many families dependent on remittances. Remittances make up nearly 25 per cent of GDP. “My daughter sends me money from Italy,” said Zinovia Ilonel, 70, who voted for Dodon. “She’s never coming home.”
Moldova elected a president with a popular vote in 1996 but then MPs chose the head of state due to a constitutional amendment in 2000. The constitutional court reversed the decision earlier this year.
The Moldovan election commission said the process was being observed by 3,200 monitors and around 560 international observers.
“We have to admit that the project called Republic of Moldova is bankrupt,” said Vasile Prodan, who is campaigning for Mihai Ghimpu of the Liberal Party, who calls for joining Romania.
“After 25 years of independence, what have we achieved? Corruption, poverty, theft of a billion euros,” he added.