Page last updated at 14:11 GMT, Monday, 6 April 2009 15:11 UK

Communists win Moldovan election

A woman uses her old Soviet internal passport as ID to vote in Kochiyer, Moldova, on 5 April
Moldovan voters are at a crossroads

The ruling Communist Party has won the general election in Moldova.

The party, which is led by President Vladimir Voronin, had secured 50% with almost all of the ballots counted.

The Communists were followed by the centre-right opposition Liberal Party with almost 13% of the votes, and the Liberal Democratic Party with 12%.

It is still not clear whether the Communists will win the 61 seats in the 101-seat parliament that they need to elect a new president unopposed.

Mr Voronin will step down on Tuesday after two terms in office.

He is barred by the constitution from running for a third, although he has indicated he wants to remain involved in the affairs of state.

Parliament will begin the process of electing his successor on Wednesday. If no president is chosen before 8 June, another parliamentary election must be held.

The pro-Western centre-right opposition parties have said they will not join a coalition with the Communists, who favour strong links with both Russia and the European Union.

Breakaway region

Mr Voronin's successor will lead the poorest country in Europe, where the average wage is just under $250 (£168) a month, and will inherit the unresolved conflict over the breakaway region of Trans-Dniester.

The dispute is reminiscent of the situation in South Ossetia before last summer's war between Georgia and Russia, the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse reports.

The region has run its own affairs, with Moscow's support, since the end of hostilities in a brief war in 1992.

Russia has kept a peacekeeping presence, many Trans-Dniestrians hold Russian passports, and would like eventually to join Russia.

Though Trans-Dniester is de facto independent, no country has recognised it as such and Moldova maintains that the region is an integral part of its territory.

Most Trans-Dniestrians boycotted Sunday's election, although there were reports of some being prevented from reaching polling stations in Moldova proper.

Mr Voronin resumed direct talks with Trans-Dniester last year.

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