An election in Moldova this month looks likely to produce a hung parliament, entrenching a split between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces at a time when concerns over corruption and democracy have soured its relations with the European Union. The EU forged a deal on closer trade and political ties with the tiny ex-Soviet republic in 2014 and showered it with aid but it has become increasingly critical of Chisinau’s track record on reforms. Sandwiched between EU member Romania and Ukraine, Moldova has been dogged by scandals and its pro-Western government has failed to lift low living standards, driving many voters towards the Socialists, who favour closer ties with Russia. Socialist leader Igor Dodon took the presidency in 2016. The presidency is not being contested in the February 24 election.
Opinion polls suggest no party will win a parliamentary majority, raising the prospect of prolonged wrangling or possibly further elections.
Vladimir Plahotniuc, an oil-to-hotels tycoon whose Democratic Party leads the government, could cobble together a coalition, as he did after the last election in 2014 despite winning only 19 out of 101 seats.
“Moldova has become a grey zone, a no-man’s land between the East and the West,” said Vladislav Kulminski, the head of Chisinau-based Institute for Strategic Initiatives.