Moldova's pro-European parties have begun consultations on forming a coalition as near-complete results showed them in a strong position.
With nearly 97 percent of the vote counted, the pro-Europe Liberal Democratic Party (19.74 percent), Democratic Party (15.94 percent), and Liberal Party (9.45 percent) had a combined total of 45.1 percent.
That would be enough to take a slim majority of 54 seats in the 101-seat parliament if the parties can agree, but they have clashed in the past and tough bargaining is expected.
The pro-Russian Socialist Party, which was in the lead with 20.93 percent, and the slightly more moderate Communists (17.85 percent) had a combined total of 38.8 percent.
Turnout in the November 30 elections was nearly 56 percent.
As in previous elections, the Russian-backed breakaway region of Transdniester did not take part.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the poll was "generally well administered" and Moldovans "voted in a free and dignified manner."
"The largely well-run election offered voters the opportunity to choose their preferred candidates and even geopolitical aspirations," said OSCE observer mission leader Emin Onen.
But the OSCE said the disqualification of the pro-Russian Patria (Homeland) party shortly before the election "raised questions about the timing and circumstances."
Vlad Filat, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said talks with the Liberals and Democrats had already started on forming a pro-European coalition.
"I'm not very happy with results, but we can offer a skeleton to build a pro-European government," he said.
Marian Lupu, leader of the Democratic Party, said, "Moldova continues its pro-European path."
Meanwhile, Socialist Party leader Igor Dodon promised to continue his hardline anti-western stance, saying, "We know that our opponents are astonished. We will continue to surprise them."
Dodon said his first motion in the new parliament will be to denounce Moldova's pact with the EU and propose a referendum on joining the Moscow-led Customs Union.
He added that he does not rule out a coalition with the Communists.
The Socialists' unexpectedly good showing after being credited with only 6 percent in opinion polls may have benefited from the disqualification of the Patria party over alleged illegal financing from abroad.
The party's leader denied the allegation and fled to Russia.
Patria, like the Socialists, favors membership in the Customs Union -- a chief instrument of Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to strengthen relations between former Soviet republics and counter Western influence in the region.
Led by Vladimir Voronin, a former long-serving president who many of the older generation identify with past stability, the Communists insist they do not oppose EU integration.
But they call for good relations with Moscow and for a review of the trade portion of a pact with the EU, saying Moldova must better protect domestic producers.
The Liberal Democrats and the Democrats are part of the pro-EU coalition that has ruled the country since 2009 and steered it to the signing of an Association Agreement tightening ties with the EU in June.
The Liberals left the coalition and went into opposition last year.
Russia has shown its displeasure to the government's pro-European agenda by banning imports of agricultural products from Moldova, including wine, meat, fruits, and vegetables, dealing a severe blow to its economy.
Moscow has also called on Moldova to postpone the implementation of the trade part of accord with the EU, saying it is worried that a flood of cheap EU goods could hurt its producers.
Landlocked Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, is bordered by Ukraine and EU member Romania.
Around 78 percent of the population is ethnic Romanian, while Ukrainians and Russians account for around 14 percent.
Most of present-day Moldova was part of Romania before being annexed by the Soviet Union during World War II.
Mostly Russian-speaking Transdniester broke away from then-Soviet Moldova in 1990 over fears that Chisinau might seek reunification with Romania.
The two sides fought a short war in the summer of 1992 which left some 1,000 people dead and was quelled by the intervention of Russian troops on the side of the separatists.
More than two decades of international mediation efforts under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have failed to bring one of Europe's oldest frozen conflicts to a resolution.
Some 1,000 Russian troops are still stationed in Transdniester, and Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine has led to concerns about its intentions toward other former Soviet republics on Europe's edge.
With reporting by dpa, AFP, AP, and moldpress