A pro-Russian party has taken the lead in parliamentary elections in Moldova, results showed Monday, but without the clear majority needed to avoid a hung parliament.
With nearly all votes counted, the Socialist party close to President Igor Dodon was ahead with 31 percent, the election commission said.
The pro-European ACUM bloc came second with 26 percent, while the ruling pro-Western Democratic Party was third with 24 percent.
Political observers fear a new period of instability for the ex-Soviet country after Sunday's vote.
Wedged between Ukraine and Romania, Moldova has struggled to find its place since gaining independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
While many in the country of 3.5 million want to maintain close ties with Moscow, others seek to follow the example of Romania -- with which Moldova shares a language and long history -- and look west to the European Union.
The vote was held under a new electoral system that divides the 101-seat parliament into seats elected by party lists and by individual constituencies.