99% of Gagauz voters support declaring independence if Moldova joins Romania

More than 98% say they prefer Russian-led Customs Union over European Union · Non binding referendum had been declared illegal by Moldovan judiciary · Moldovan Government wants the country to join the EU · Gagauzia is governed by the Communist Party, which is opposed to European integration of Moldova

A double, non binding referendum that the Government of Gagauzia (an autonomous territory in Moldova) held yesterday gave clear results, according to data released by Gagauz Electoral Commission Chairwoman Valentina Lisnic. With a turnout of more than 70%, 98.9% of the voters supported the declaration of independence of Gagauzia if Moldova eventually lost its sovereignty, a scenario that could imply the merger of Moldova and Romania into a single sovereign state. Similarly, 98.4% of voters said they prefer to tighten ties with Russian-led Customs Union rather than moving towards EU integration.

The consultative referendum had been declared illegal by the Moldovan judiciary, but nonetheless the Government of Gagauzia -in the hands of the Communist Party, which favours close ties with Russia- decided to organize it anyway.

Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca has criticised the decision, saying that the Gagauz Government is "defying the law" and is trying to "encourage separatist processes" in Moldova.

Specialized media understand the results as a Gagauz warning to the Government of Moldova, which is leading a policy of EU integration. Moldova signed an Association Agreement with the EU in November, and at the same time, the President of Romania, Traian Basescu, encouraged Moldovans and Romanians  to unite under a single state. Meanwhile, the Moldovan Government insists it has no plans to join Romania.

82% of the 160,000 inhabitants of Gagauzia belong to the Gagauz people, which has its own language of Turkic origin. Gagauz, Romanian and Russian are Gagauzia's three official languages ​. The territory is autonomous within Moldova since 1994. Its Statute of Autonomy recognizes its right to self-determination in the event that Moldova lost its status as a sovereign country.