In Europe - East

Two news articles enclosed.

Pro-Europe, pro-Russia camps split vote in Moldova’s local elections

By Alexander Tanas, Reuters, June 15, 2015

CHISINAU–Moldova’s pro-European and pro-Russian parties took roughly equal shares of the vote in local elections, results showed on Monday, upsetting forecasts of a big win for the pro-Moscow camp.

Voting poll in Moldova on June 14, 2015 (Deutsche Welle)

Voting poll in Moldova on June 14, 2015 (Deutsche Welle)

A businessman linked to the disappearance of $1 billion in a banking scandal that plunged the country into political turmoil served up a further surprise by winning a mayoral ballot.

Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries. It is trying to reorient its economy towards the European Union after economic turbulence in Russia, its main trading partner, hit the pace of its own growth. But economic mismanagement and a failure to tackle corruption mean nostalgia for Soviet times remains high among large sections of the population.

The independent region of Transniestra is not shown on this map. It lies along the border with Ukraine, its capital is Tiraspol.

The independent region of Transniestra is not shown on this map. It lies along the border with Ukraine, its capital is Tiraspol.

With 98.5 percent of votes from Sunday’s mayoral and regional elections counted, Moldova’s electoral commission said pro-Russian and pro-European parties were virtually tied.

In the capital Chisinau, neither the incumbent mayor, pro-European Dorin Chirtoaca, nor pro-Russian candidate Zinaida Greceanii gained the 50 percent of votes required for a win. A second round will be held in two weeks.

The biggest single upset was in the central town of Orhei, which elected Ilan Shor as mayor with just over 60 percent of votes.

In May an international report named Shor as a key beneficiary of a scandal that saw $1 billion – equivalent to one eighth of Moldovan gross domestic product – disappear from three of the country’s largest banks.

Shor, who denies the accusations, will not gain immunity from prosecution in his position as mayor.

Thousands took to the streets in May to demand the government find guilty parties in the banking swindle and last week Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici, who had accused prosecutors of moving too slowly over the case, tendered his resignation.

His departure, which has yet to be approved by the President, has forced pro-European parties to try and form a new broad coalition with communist and liberal parties. If this fails, a fresh parliamentary election could be called.

 

Moldova elections: pro-Europeans dominate

Deutsche Welle, June 15, 2015

In the Republic of Moldova, pro-European forces have won the majority of the votes in local elections, but an end to the political crisis is nowhere in sight.

In Moldova’s administrative districts, more than one party will soon be in charge: the pro-European liberal democrats, the democrats, the liberals, the socialists and communists will have to build coalitions.

According to the official outcome, pro-European forces have taken the majority in 25 municipalities, the socialists and communists in the remaining seven.

The campaign for Chisinau, the capital of the former Soviet Republic, located between Romania and Ukraine, will ultimately be decided in a second ballot in two weeks time.

Socialist Party candidate Zinaida Greceanii

Socialist Party candidate Zinaida Greceanii

The liberal incumbent, Dorin Chirtoaca, received 37.5 percent of the vote. His socialist rival and former communist prime minister, Zenaida Greceanii, received just under 26 percent.

Controversial businessman in power

Moldovan businessman Renato Usatii succeeded in clinching a surprisingly high victory in the city of Balti. The head of the new political group called “Our Party” obtained 73 percent. Usatii opposes the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union, and likes to be referred to as the “second Lukashenko.”

In the run-up to the elections, municipal administration authorities in Balti had already announced that a referendum on increased autonomy would be held by the end of the year.

In the city of Orhei, another enigmatic personality topped the first ballot of the mayoral elections: businessman Ilan Shor. Nonetheless, he is under investigation for alleged involvement in a bank scandal.

According to the country’s Central Bank, three Moldovan financial institutions apparently granted several loans exceeding 900 million euros (1 billion dollars). A large part of the money has apparently disappeared in Russian banks.

The election encompassed around 900 mayors and 10,000 local councilors in 32 districts, plus the larger cities of Chisinau and Balti. Only 49 percent of the approximately 2.8 million Moldovans entitled to vote have cast their ballot.

Bankruptcy looming

Moldova is facing a severe political crisis. Much to everyone’s surprise, Liberal Democrat Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici resigned on Friday before the elections. He has been accused of having obtained his university admission with falsified certificates. Gaburici led a minority government consisting of liberal democrats and democrats, who were tolerated by the communists.

The third pro-European force, the Liberal party, was not involved in the government. Now, the party seeks punitive measures for those responsible for the bank scandal before new coalition negotiations begin. Since Gaburici’s party fared well in Sunday’s municipal elections, especially with the tentative victory after the first ballot in Chisinau, the liberals are hoping for a better bargaining position in future government formations.

The resignation of the prime minister brought financial consequences with it. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) visit slated for this Monday has been canceled due to developments in the three main Moldovan banks, which are implicated in the financial scandal. Experts agree that the Republic of Moldova runs the risk of bankruptcy without financial support from the IMF.

The EU ambassador in Chisinau, Pirkka Tapiola, has underscored this concern and called on politicians to hasten the establishment of a new government. If the Republic of Moldova is not able to sign an agreement with the IMF, economic consequences would be “negative – in the short and long term,” says Tapiola.

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