|Twenty political parties and 19 independent candidates contested the parliamentary polls [EPA]
Moldova's liberal forces appear on the verge of finally getting the votes necessary to appoint a new head of state for Europe's poorest state.
The pro-Western alliance is composed of the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova led by Vlad Filat, the prime minister, the Democratic Party of Moldova, and the Liberal Party.
Two exit polls from Sunday's parliamentary election, the third in the former Soviet republic in less than two years, put the three-party liberal alliance well ahead of their Community Party foes.
The RIAS-Publika TV poll gave the liberals 65.1 per cent of the ballot while the CBS-AXA marketing firm gave the three parties a combined 56.2 per cent of the votes.
The difference is crucial, since the ruling party needs to control 61 of the 101 seats in the chamber to appoint a president, a figure that has escaped the liberals since July 2009.
The two polls said the Communist Party had collected between a quarter and a third of the popular ballot.
The result reflects the gradual wane in influence that pro-Moscow forces have experienced since the Soviet Union's collapse, with Filat pushing the country toward EU membership despite its dire economic record
The prime minister's group came ahead of the others and is set to assume the leading role in any future negotiations over a head of state.
The Communist Party has blocked all previous efforts to pick a president who would use a stronger alliance with neighbouring EU member Romania to bring the tiny country into Europe's fold.
Its leaders gave initial signs that they may yet contest Sunday's outcome, warning of potential falsifications and announcing that they were conducting their own independent count of the votes.
"We want to avoid a repeat of past violations," said Vladimir Voronin, the deposed Communist Party chief.
"The people are tired of voting. They want a parliament that will be around for four years."
Moldova, which has an average monthly salary of $230, is trying to make itself eligible for EU membership by improving its infrastructure and government services through funding and aid projects from abroad.
"The only true chance for Moldova is to continue with the reforms that have begun and which are supported by its external partners - the EU, the United States, the IMF and the World Bank," Filat told the Reuters news agency ahead of the vote.
"Our main aim is not to allow the return of Moldova to the past."
Moldova relies exclusively on Russia for its gas, but it fell foul of Moscow when Mihai Ghimpu, the acting president, included a "Day of Soviet Occupation" in the political calendar.
Russia responded with restrictions on imports of Moldovan food, including wines which are the country's main export earner.