Pro-EU candidate Sandu leads Moldova presidential run-off, incumbent digs in

Grant Boone
November 16, 2020

Sandu, who lost the presidential election in 2016 to Dodon by just 70,000 votes, was buoyed by huge turnout by the 1.2 million-strong Moldovan diaspora that chose her over Dodon in the first round on November 1 and turned out in force again on Sunday.

Workers at Sandu's campaign office chanted "victory" after the former World Bank economist won 53.38% of votes compared to 46.62% for Dodon, with 96.55% of ballots counted.

Earlier, Sandu told journalists that the primary task after the Sunday presidential runoff was to unite the society around common goals and to develop the economy. Sandu won over 36% of the vote, leaving the incumbent, President Igor Dodon, behind by over 3.5 points.

The tiny ex-Soviet nation is under the watchful eye of Russian Federation, which wants polarised Moldova to remain in its sphere of influence at a time when several Kremlin-aligned governments are rocked by political unrest.

Dodon, meanwhile, said he "voted for peace", "social justice" and "Christian values". Sandu and Dodon, who Russian President Vladimir Putin identified as his preferred candidate, have been rivals since he narrowly defeated her in the 2016 presidential race.

Sandu, who worked for the World Bank and briefly served as prime minister, also called for "maximum vigilance" against possible fraud.

The Kremlin-backed candidate, reportedly aided by Russian advisers, had stepped up rhetoric against Sandu.

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She has presented further integration with the European Union as way out of the economic crisis. "It's time to live better wherever we are".

Police in the village of Varnita were on Sunday reported to have clashed with pro-Sandu protesters who tried to block a road to stop voters traveling from the breakaway pro-Russia region of Transnistria.

"If we show weakness, we will lose our country", Dodon said at Friday's rally.

But in Moldova - and in the diaspora - the major election issues have been economic rather than geopolitical.

"A victory in the second round by Maia Sandu would mean a period of tough political confrontation for Moldova", said independent analyst Corneliu Ciurea.

Such support was denounced by Dodon's supporters as an attempt to destabilize Moldova.

Faced this year with multiple protest movements targeting its allies in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, Russia will be watching Sunday's vote closely.

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