Pro-Europe party of Moldova's president wins local elections, sees setbacks in big cities
14:39 | 08.11.2023 Categorie: Republica Moldova din exterior
(Reuters) - The party of Moldova's pro-European president came first in hundreds of weekend local elections but was unable to win mayoral seats in the biggest cities, including the capital Chisinau, according to preliminary results on Monday.
Sunday's elections to pick 12,000 local officials nationwide, including the mayor of Chisinau, were seen as a test of President Maia Sandu's pro-European course and took place amid allegations of Russian meddling, which Moscow denies.
Sandu's ruling Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) won more than 40% of the votes cast for mayors, city councillors and district and village councils nationwide.
It won mayoral seats in the first round of voting in 240 of 898 villages, towns and cities. Those victories were mostly in rural areas and its candidates did not win control of the big cities.
In the capital, incumbent mayor Ion Cebal said on Monday he had defeated Lilian Carp of PAS, narrowly avoiding a second round with 50.62% of the vote according to the preliminary results.
In other cities, the mayoral race in Balti went to a second round after the PAS party contender crashed out; in Cahul, the mayor's seat was won by an independent candidate; in Orhei, an independent candidate linked to fugitive businessman Ilan Shor won in the first round.
Ahead of the votes last week, Sandu accused Russia of "buying" voters by funnelling $5 million over two months to "criminal groups" led by Shor, who lives abroad and has been convicted in absentia for his role in a bank fraud.
A pro-Russian political party linked to Shor was barred on security grounds from taking part in the elections.
Infrastucture Minister Andrei Spinu, vice chairman of PAS, said the main takeaway of the election was that Moldova's "pro-European choice has won confidently across the whole country".
This is the last national vote in Moldova before a presidential election due in November 2024, as the small ex-Soviet state bordering Romania tries to advance its bid to join the European Union and leave Russia's orbit.
Sandu has denounced Russia's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine and accused Moscow of plotting to oust her in a coup