A pro-Russian Socialist has been elected mayor of the Moldovan capital Chisinau, a loss for pro-European parties which have held the seat since the country declared independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Ion Ceban of the Moldovan Socialists’ Party won 52.4% of the vote in Sunday’s runoff to defeat Andrei Nastase, the co-chairman of the pro-European ACUM bloc who scored just under 48%. The outcome is considered a major defeat for parties who want closer integration to Europe.
The local election results in the former Soviet republic of 3.5 million bolster support for the Socialists which made gains throughout the country.
after polls closed, Ceban, 39, shied away from declaring a political
affiliation, saying he would be mayor of all Chisinau residents. Ceban began
working at the city hall in 2000 and has since worked in government. He was
elected to Parliament in 2011 and 2014.
Among his priorities are to prepare the city for winter, provide heating subsidies, and adopt a budget for next year.
Voter turnout stood at 37%, the election commission data showed.
The Socialists also dominate Chisinau’s local city council based after the Oct. 20 vote.
previous election for mayor in June 2018, Nastase defeated Ceban, but the result
was overturned by the courts in a controversial ruling.
Moldova has struggled to implement reforms urged by Western institutions since more than $1 billion was looted from state-owned banks five years ago, which hurt the already weak economy in the poor ex-Soviet republic.
Inconclusive elections in February sparked a major constitutional crisis. An unlikely alliance was formed between the Socialists of President Igor Dodon and the ACUM bloc, and Maia Sandu was installed as prime minister.
The Socialists and ACUM signed an agreement in September where they promised to drop geopolitical East-West rhetoric and jointly work in the country’s interests.
Chisinau City Hall seat has always been a pro-Western stronghold, unlike some rural areas and towns in north Moldova which are traditionally pro-Russian.
Moldova was part of Romania until it was annexed in 1940 under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. The country declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and Romania has maintained close relations with the country since then. Moscow also seeks to maintain influence in the country where many speak Russian.