In 1998, the general election resulted in an upset whereby the Communist party became the largest in the country. This followed an earlier upset at the presidential election of November 1996 when the first president of Moldova since independence, Mircea Snegur, was defeated at the second ballot by Petru Lucinschi, hitherto speaker of parliament and first secretary of the Communist Party since November 1989. Moldova had come to have a competitive system, but parties were volatile and coalitions difficult to build until, in February 2001, the communist party won an absolute majority of seats in Parliament; its leader, Vladimir Voronine, was elected President of the country by Parliament in April 2001.
Moldova declared itself independent from the Soviet Union on 27 August 1991, a few days after the coup by which the Old Guard attempted to stop Gorbachev's reforms, although a number of moves in the direction of Moldovan statehood had taken place earlier. These moves had been initiated partially by Lucinschi and even more by Snegur, then chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Moldova. In particular, the issue of language and alphabet had been resolved in favour of the Moldovan language (in effect Romanian) and of the Latin script as early as August 1989, following the creation of the pro-Romanian Popular Front of Moldova (PFM) in May 1989. Other moves occurred after the February 1990 semi-competitive elections for the Supreme Soviet at which the PFM took a large number of seats. In the course of the following three months, a tricolour flag, which was a modified version of the Romanian flag, was adopted; sovereignty was declared and the communist government of Petr Paskar was defeated by a vote of censure. He was replaced by Mircea Druc, who belonged to the Popular Front. Finally, in September 1990, Snegur was appointed as president of Moldova by the Supreme Soviet, which was to call itself parliament (Sfatul Tarii) in the subsequent May.