Moldova Heads To Runoff Presidential Election As Pro-EU Candidate Leads

Moldova will hold a runoff presidential election after neither pro-Russian incumbent Igor Dodon or his pro-Western opponent, Maia Sandu, won outright in the first round on November 1.

With nearly all ballots counted on November 2, Central Election Commission data showed Sandu winning 36 percent against Dodon’s 32.7 percent.

A candidate needs more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid the November 15 runoff.

Sandu’s lead came as a surprise after exit polls had shown Dodon ahead by several percentage points.

In 2016, Dodon defeated Sandu in a second-round runoff by less than 5 percent in an election that was marred by allegations of fraud.

With a population of about 3.5 million, Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries and is sharply divided between those who support closer ties with Russia and those who advocate links with the European Union and, especially, neighboring Romania.

Most of Moldova was part of Romania until World War II, when it was annexed by the Soviet Union, and a majority of its population is ethnic Romanian.

The country's Moscow-backed breakaway Transdniester region has been de facto independent since a separatist war in the 1990s.

A former World Bank economist and prime minister, Sandu has campaigned against corruption and called for closer ties with the European Union.

If elected, she has promised to secure more financial support from Brussels.

Dodon says he wants to reach a settlement next year for the Transdniester region

Dodon has run largely on a platform calling for “stability” and has promoted his record of securing loans and other economic favors from Moscow.

He has been criticized for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, during which more than 55,000 Moldovans have been infected and more than 1,300 have died.

Our Party leader Renato Usatii, the mayor of Balti, Moldova's second-largest city, came third with almost 17 percent of the vote.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Moldovan Service.