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Moldova elections: pro-Europeans dominate

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.

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Socialist Party candidate Zinaida Greceanii casts her ballot during the mayoral elections at a polling station in the Technical University of Moldova

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.

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Liberal Democrat Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici resigned on Friday before the elections

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.