Ukraine neighbor disputes pro-Russian election result – media
Moldovan police raided the central election commission of Gagauzia on Tuesday, alleging irregularities after a politician championing better relations with Russia, and not the EU, won the local gubernatorial vote.
Gagauzia, an autonomous region in southern Moldova, elects its own bashkan – governor – and Sunday’s run-off saw the victory of Yevgenia Gutsul, with 52.36% of the vote. Gutsul represents the Shor party, which the government in Chisinau has tried to ban.
The operation at the election office in Comrat was “part of a criminal investigation into bribing of voters,” a spokesperson for the National Anti-Corruption Center (NAC) in Chisinau said in a statement. The NAC had executed search warrants for eight individuals on Saturday, just before the election, alleging that Shor had offered bribes of 15,000 lei ($3,200) each to some 30 voters. No arrests were made.
On Tuesday, NAC officials and police reportedly sought to confiscate the ballots from Sunday’s election. The Gagauzian election commission told them the ballots had already been forwarded to the court in Comrat, in charge of verifying the results. According to local media outlets, commissioners were told to report for interrogation on May 18.
“Residents of Gagauzia made their choice, and our opponent conceded. But Chisinau doesn’t want to recognize a Shor victory,” said Aleksandr Panov, a spokesman for Gutsul’s campaign. “These are orders from the center, to remove all documents so the elections can be annulled.”
Moldovan Prime Minister Dorin Recean said on Monday evening that the Gagauz elections ought to be annulled due to “many violations.” The country's Central Election Commission has issued fines to all eight candidates, claiming they had violated campaign finance laws. However, the Gagauz CEC responded that the election was conducted according to the autonomy’s own laws, without issues.
“We are for being friends with the Russian Federation,” Gutsul said ahead of the vote on Sunday, calling the issue “very important for Gagauzians.” She said that the current government in Chisinau had “spoiled relations with Russia in every possible way,” and that her party is working to mend them.
Moldova is a former Soviet republic, with a population that is mostly ethnic Romanian. The Russian-speaking Gagauz are Orthodox Christians of Turkic origin, who live in four enclaves in the south of the country. Shor advocates better relations with Russia, while Recean and Moldovan President Maia Sandu seek membership of the EU and NATO.