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Moldova's Ruling Communists Face Defeat

According to preliminary election results from Moldova, a group of pro-Western parties has narrowly defeated Europe's last ruling Communist Party in parliamentary elections.

With most of the votes counted, Moldova's four main opposition parties have won nearly 51 percent and a combined 53 seats in the country's 101-member parliament. The Communists won just over 45 percent of the vote and 48 parliamentary seats.

Outgoing President Vladimir Voronin dissolved the parliament in June and called new elections after his Communist Party's presidential candidate twice fell one vote short of the 61 votes in parliament needed to win the presidency.

The opposition boycotted both those votes, saying that parliamentary elections won by the Communists in April were rigged. The Communist victory in those elections triggered violent demonstrations in the capital, Chisinau.

Tudor Sorochanu, a journalist with the Russian-language newspaper Nezavisimaya Moldova, says the four liberal parties, even if they manage to form a ruling coalition, will not have the 61 seats in Moldova's parliament needed to choose the country's president. He also says the pro-Western parties will be unable to deal effectively with the global economic crisis, which has hit particularly hard in Moldova, where the average monthly wage is only $350.

Sorochanu says that people "who worked before and know today's real situation" must now unite to pull Molodova out of its political and economic crises. He said there are such people in the current government of President Voronin, who must leave office after serving the maximum two four-year terms allowed by the constitution.

Carnegie Moscow Center Deputy Director Sam Greene says Mr. Voronin and the Communist Party will remain influential, despite losing the parliamentary election and that the democratic parties will have to reach an accommodation with them over choosing a new president

"That means taking into account the fact that the communists, although they no longer control the parliament, remain the biggest party in the country and the strongest political force in Moldova," said Greene. "And by virtue of having been in power for so long, they retain a significant amount of influence and will be able to have an impact on how the country is governed even if they are not in government."

But Greene says the democratic parties will also benefit from the communists having been in power for eight years.

"It is certainly true that they are entering into a very difficult situation," he said. "On the other hand, many in Moldova believe it would be hard to mismanage the economy worse than the communists did over the last eight years."

Official turnout for Thursday's vote was just under 59 percent.