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Moldova Voters Choose Parliament


In Moldova's parliamentary elections, opinion polls predict the ruling pro-Western Communists will retain power, an outcome that is likely to receive a cool reception from Moldova's largest neighbor, Russia.

Fifteen parties and alliances are competing for 101 seats in parliament, which would be responsible for choosing a president later this year.

Moldova's Communist Party has led the country, the poorest in Europe, since 2001. The president, Vladimir Voronin, has been criticized for trying to silence the opposition and tightly controlling the state media.

The Communists used to have strong links with Russia, but have decided to pursue closer ties with the European Union. President Voronin fell out with Moscow over the future of the Russian-speaking separatist region of Trans-Dniester. He rejected a Russian-backed proposal in 2003 to federalize Moldova, by giving Trans-Dniester statehood status.

Russia put 1,800 of its peacekeepers in the separatist region on alert on Saturday, following the refusal from Trans-Dniester authorities to allow polling stations on their territory. Nine polling stations for about 700,000 people living in Trans-Dniester were opened near the region's border.

Maintaining friendly relations with Russia has become the main electoral pledge for the Democratic Moldova bloc, a pro-Moscow alliance, headed by Serafim Urechean, the mayor of the capital, Chisinau.

Another opposition group, which enjoys significant support, especially from students and women, is the Christian Democratic Peoples Party, headed by Iurie Rosca.

More than 700 foreign observers, including 150 from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, monitored the vote.

Final results are not expected before Wednesday.