Moldova holds the second round of local elections on Sunday with the focus in the capital where a pro-Russian candidate will seek to win the seat which has traditionally been held by pro-European forces.
Moldovans are voting for mayors of 380 town halls, communities where no candidate won a majority in the first round of voting on Oct. 20.
In the first round, voters elected 518 mayors in a race where the pro-Russian Moldovan Socialist Party came first in the landlocked former Soviet republic of 3.5 million.
Eyes are on the capital Chisinau on Sunday, where the Socialist candidate, Ion Ceban, is facing Andrei Nastase, the co-chairman of the pro-European ACUM bloc. It would be a major defeat for pro-European parties to lose the capital.
The pair have run a low-profile campaign and there has been no head-to-head televised debates, Balkan Insight reported.
Nastase has accused the Socialists of being accomplices in real estate organized crime in Chisinau, saying he would deal with this issue as a priority.
Ceban fired back saying he would sue Nastase for 41,000 euros in damages. “I will ask…. for the cost of the car he purchased this year, that Volvo of 41,000 euros or almost a million lei, and the money will be given to an auxiliary school,” Ceban said, Balkan Insight reported.
Moldova’s President Igor Dodon warned that attacks could lead to the collapse of the governing coalition between the pro-Russian Socialists and the pro-European ACUM group.
In Romania, the leader of Liberal Party Ludovic Orban called on “all citizens of the Republic of Moldova to go and vote in the second round of local elections. Moldova needs clean democracy and voting is a an important step to maintain the health of democracy.”
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.
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.
It would be a blow for pro-European forces to lose the Chisinau City Hall seat, which is seen as a pro-Western bastion, unlike some rural areas and towns in north Moldova which are traditionally pro-Russian.