CHISINAU -- Thousands of people carrying red flags have marched in the streets of the Moldovan capital in support of the main pro-Russian opposition Socialist Party, ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections.
Under the slogan "Our time is coming," the participants gathered on November 18 in Chisinau's Great National Assembly Square to cheer the kickoff to the party's campaign for the elections set for February 24.
An Association Agreement between Moldova and the European Union came into force in 2016, but the Socialists favor the country joining the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union.
The Chisinau rally was attended by President Igor Dodon, who led the Socialist Party before being elected to his post in November 2016.
Dodon has expressed confidence that the Socialists will win the upcoming polls, which will take place under a mixed electoral system introduced in 2017 despite mass protests in Chisinau and criticism from the EU and the United States.
The system provides for half of the lawmakers to be elected on party lists and another half in individual constituencies.
Critics say the electoral changes favor the country's two largest political parties -- the Socialists and the ruling pro-Western Democratic Party.
However, supporters say the changes will make politicians more accountable.
Moldova has had three governments since 2015, after the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system sent the country into a political and economic crisis.
On November 14, the European Parliament passed a resolution highly critical of Moldova, saying it had become a "state captured by oligarchic interests" that exert their influence over most part of Moldovan society.
The European Commission later announced it was cutting its financial assistance to Moldova by 20 million euros ($22.7 million) per year for both 2017 and 2018.
The financial assistance earmarked by the EU for the two years amounted initially to a total of 140 million euros ($158 million).