CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Moldova's pro-European parties began talks on forming a coalition Monday as near-complete results showed them in a strong position despite a drop in support.
With 97.7 percent of the vote counted, the three pro-Europe parties were ahead with support of about 45.5 percent, while the two pro-Russia parties had 38.5 percent. The pro-Europe share was down from nearly 52 percent in 2010.
"I'm not very happy with results, but we can offer a skeleton to build a pro-European government," said Vlad Filat, leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, which was in second place with nearly 20 percent of the vote.
Sunday's parliamentary election took on wider significance with the unrest in neighboring Ukraine. Moldova, like Ukraine, has a pro-Russia separatist region in its east. The Party of the Socialists, a pro-Russian group, led all parties with a 20.7 percent share of the vote.
Parties need to get at least 6 percent to gain seats in the 101-member parliament.
The remaining votes to be counted were from absentees, and were expected to break more or less evenly between pro-Russians and pro-Europeans.
Although the pro-European parties could remain in government they do not have enough seats to elect a president, which could lead to political fighting and possibly slow the pace of reforms.
Ion Tabarta, an analyst from the Politikon Institute of Political Studies, said the pro-European reforms "will probably continue."
"Moldova continues its pro-European path," said Marian Lupu, leader of the fourth-place Democratic Party.
Analysts say the Socialists apparently gained votes because the country's top court had banned Patria, a pro-Russian party, from competing on the grounds it illegally received foreign funding. Its supporters likely switched to the Socialists.
Socialists leader Igor Dodon called for election authorities and the foreign minister to resign, complaining that there had only been five polling stations in Russia.
Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania contributed to this report.