Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Romania says backs Moldovan opposition


Romania's president risked antagonising Moldova and Russia by saying he hoped the pro-Western opposition would make gains in Moldovan pollsRomania's president risked antagonising Moldova and Russia on Tuesday by saying he hoped the pro-Western opposition would make gains in this month's Moldovan parliamentary election.

Wading into a sensitive campaign, President Traian Basescu told a group of foreign journalists: "I hope that democratic forces, the current opposition, get a better positioning after the 2009 elections."

He added: "We consider that after the elections, irrespective of who is in power, (bilateral) relations would re-enter a normal path. No one can change our goal to bring Moldova closer to the European Union ... we have a duty towards the Moldovan population."

The last election in April produced a Communist victory and sparked violent street protests, which the authorities said were fomented by Romania. Bucharest denied this.

Russia said at the time that the riots were aimed at undermining the sovereignty of Moldova, and pointed the finger at forces favouring union with Romania.

Wedged between Ukraine and Romania, Moldova is among a group of former Soviet republics where Russia and the EU are waging a competition for influence that has fanned tensions between them.

Most of Moldova was once part of Romania and the two countries share a common linguistic heritage, but the country of 4.3 million also has longstanding links with Russia.

Three liberal opposition groupings, broadly pro-Romanian in outlook, won 41 seats in the April election. The Communists won 60 and fell one vote short in parliament of securing the election of communist Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanii as president, an outcome that triggered the new general election which is set for July 29.

Communist President Vladimir Voronin accused Romania, a member of the EU since 2007, of whipping up the April violence and said opposition parties were bent on having their country swallowed up by its western neighbour.

He said opposition groupings had done nothing to distance themselves from the "unionist" arguments of Romania's leadership which has offered Moldovans free education and passports -- about 800,000 people have applied.

Basescu would not say how many applications were currently pending but said: "We evaluate that in time, no more than 2 million (Moldovan) citizens would regain Romanian citizenship." This did not represent a danger from the point of view of emigration, he said.

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