Pro-Western parties in Moldova said Monday that they would press ahead with building closer ties to Europe, relying on a narrow victory in parliamentary elections to fend off Russia’s attempts to keep the ex-Soviet republic in its orbit. The election Sunday in one of the poorest countries in Europe was seen as an important battleground in the worst standoff between the West and Moscow since the Cold War, sparked by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Russia has opposed the European Union’s moves to seal free-trade and political-association deals with countries in the region, including Ukraine and Moldova. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Western leaders have warned that the Kremlin is trying to restore its old sphere of influence over its neighbors using economic and military pressure. After street protests in Kiev early this year ousted a pro-Moscow president, Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea region and has backed separatists in the country’s east. Russia has also stationed troops in Transnistria, a pro-Russia breakaway region of Moldova, and has blocked imports of some of Moldovan meat, fruit and wine in response to the landlocked country’s EU ambitions.
In Sunday’s voting, three pro-European parties took nearly 45% of the vote. That would hand them a small majority in parliament over pro-Russia parties, which secured 39% of the vote.
“This result allows us to continue our pro-European course,” said Vlad Filat, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, which finished second with 19.4%.
However, the most popular party, with 21.4% of the vote, was the Socialist Party, which wants closer ties with Moscow, underscoring the country’s divisions.
The EU’s foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc “now looks forward to the swift formation of an inclusive and accountable government, as well as a constructive opposition.”