Pro-Russian candidate leads in Moldova presidential election

Socialist presidential candidate Igor Dodon. Photo: 30 October 2016Image copyright
AP

Image caption

Igor Dodon seeks closer ties with Moscow

A pro-Russian candidate is leading presidential elections in Moldova, partial results show.

With 92% of the votes counted, Igor Dodon – from the Socialist party – is winning with 49.7%. His pro-Western rival Maia Sandu currently has 37%.

To avoid a run-off in November, a contender must win an outright majority in the first round.

Sunday’s poll was the first direct presidential election in Moldova for 20 years.

It is seen as a battle between those supporting closer ties with Russia and those wanting integration with the European Union.

The ex-Soviet republic is one of the poorest countries in Europe and has been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals.

Since 1996 presidents of Moldova have been chosen by parliament.

Pavel Filip was appointed prime minister in January and it was his pro-European coalition that re-established the popular vote.

Moldova’s electoral commission says that by Sunday afternoon voter turnout exceeded the necessary one-third of the eligible electorate, making the ballot valid.

Both the EU and Russia seek greater influence over the country, which is wedged between Ukraine and Romania, but polls indicate that voters are divided about which offers them a better future.

Mr Dodon was ahead in opinion polls and has pledged to push for new parliamentary elections if he wins.

Ms Sandu, from the centre-right opposition, has been praised for reforming the education system.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Former Education Minister Maia Sandu is a supporters of EU integration

The president appoints judges and sets out foreign policy but other major decisions need the approval of parliament.

Popular election though could bring the post more influence and authority, correspondents say.

Moldova was thrown into political turmoil in 2014 with the disappearance of about $1bn (£820m) from the banking system.

There were weeks of street protests and six prime ministers took office in one year.

Since then, parliament has passed anti-corruption laws, forcing public officials to disclose their assets and making the misuse of EU funds a criminal offence.

  • Population 3.5 million

  • Area 33,800 sq km (13,050 sq miles)

  • Major languages Romanian (called “Moldovan” in official documents), Russian

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 66 years (men), 73 years (women)

  • Currency leu

Pro-Russian candidate leads in Moldova presidential election

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