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Moldovan Communists Slide In Preelection Poll

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin
CHISINAU (Reuters) -- Moldova's ruling Communists trail the combined opposition in the run-up to a July 29 parliamentary election being closely watched by Russia and the European Union, an opinion poll has shown.

Violent demonstrations greeted the Communists' victory in the last election, in April, and a new poll was forced after they failed to muster enough votes in parliament to get their candidate elected as president by the assembly.

A poll by the Vox populi'2009 group gave the Communists 29.7 percent, making them still the biggest party, but down from just under 50 percent in the April vote. The combined opposition -- including a new group led by a Communist defector -- were on just over 40 percent.

Europe's poorest country, Moldova is a former Soviet republic wedged between Ukraine and Romania, with which it shares close ties of history, culture, and language.

The opposition parties are broadly pro-Romanian in outlook, and outgoing Communist President Vladimir Voronin has frequently accused them of being bent on Moldova's disintegration.

"In terms of European integration, we need neither emotions nor slogans. What we need is professional action," he told a news conference. "What we must all understand is resolving this task can be done only on the basis of upholding Moldova's territorial integrity."

In eight years in power, Voronin has varied his alliances.

Initially close to Russia, he accused it of abetting Russian-speaking separatists in Moldova's Transdniester region and turned towards Romania. But he later broke with Bucharest after alleging it was trying to swallow up Moldova by offering its citizens passports en masse.

Upholding Moldova's integrity meant "special status for Transdniester...strengthening our neutrality and complete demilitarization," Voronin said.

Moldova is one of six former Soviet republics with which the European Union launched a new Eastern Partnership initiative in May to forge closer political and economic ties. Russia, on the other hand, regards it as part of its own sphere of influence.

In remarks that risked antagonizing both Moldova and Russia, the president of EU member Romania said last week he hoped the pro-Western opposition would make gains in the July 29 vote.