BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The speaker of Moldova's parliament accused Russia Tuesday of meddling in the country's politics ahead of a presidential election that could cement the former Soviet republic as a contender for European Union membership or further Russan control.
Parliament Speaker Andrian Candu said the government thinks "the Russians are financing political parties and leaders" and backing anti-government protests. Candu told The Associated Press that Moldova's leaders also suspect Russia of "manipulating media outlets and doing propaganda."
"I try to be positive and optimistic, but there are external factors that are of concern for us," he said in a telephone interview.
Candu is in Washington to discuss the political and economic situation in Moldova with the International Monetary Fund and U.S. State Department officials and others ahead of the Oct. 30 election.
Socialist Party candidate Igor Dodon, who favors closer ties with Moscow and opposes the current ruling party's push to join the EU, is leading in opinion polls. However, a runoff is expected since it is unlikely any candidate will secure a majority of votes.
Russian lawmaker Oleg Paholkov told Moldovan media site deschide.md last month that Russia is supporting Dodon because he wants to federalize Moldova to include two pro-Russian regions.
Candu said Moldova had had "challenges with Russia and (its) military forces," referring to military drills Russia has staged jointly in recent months with separatist troops in the breakaway republic of Trans-Dniester.
Moldova's president has limited executive power since the country has a parliamentary system of government.
Candu, a former economy minister, conceded that the government needs to regain public trust that eroded after $1 billion went missing from three banks before parliamentary election in November 2014, sparking months of protests and political instability. Moldova had six prime ministers in one year.
Parliament has recently voted anti-corruption laws, obliging public officials to disclose their assets and making the misuse of EU funds a criminal offense.
Moldova, he said, needs "stability, irrespective of results of the elections and to minimize the influence of so-called friends."