Moldovans began voting Sunday morning for a new parliament after the previous one was dissolved by the pro-European president to shore up her position against pro-Russia forces.
Maia Sandu, who wants to bring Moldova into the European Union, in November defeated Kremlin-backed incumbent Igor Dodon on a pledge to fight corruption in one of Europe’s poorest countries.
Polls indicate that Moldovans will vote to weaken Russia’s influence and push the former Soviet republic toward European integration in the the snap parliamentary elections.
Some 3.2 million people, including a sizeable diaspora abroad are eligible to cast ballots for more than 20 parties and blocs competing.
After the former World Bank economist’s victory , lawmakers loyal to Mr Dodon blocked her pledges of reform. She dissolved Parliament in April and scheduled the snap vote.
Moldova, which lies between EU member Romania and Ukraine, has long been in geopolitical limbo.
Some want the country to forge closer ties with Brussels while others want to keep good relations with Moscow which it had until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
In the latest polls, the center-right Action and Solidarity party which Maia Sandu founded was leading with 35-37%. Its rivals, a coalition of socialists and communists led by former president Dodon and Vladimir Voronin were polling about 21-27%.
Polls opened shortly after 7 a.m. and will close at 9 p.m.
“We have been fighting against the thieves for many years. It’s been a long and hard road. It’s our duty to go to the end and to get rid of the thieves. On Sunday, we must go and vote to stop the corrupt politicians controlling the next Parliament.”, she said on Thursday.
In another speech in Russian, which many speak in the ex-Soviet republic, she said: „The time for change is coming in Moldova.”
Moldovans have seen their country rocked by a string of political crises, including a $1 billion bank fraud scheme equivalent to nearly 15 percent of the country’s GDP in 2014.
The 101 lawmakers will be elected for four-year terms.
Analysts predict the election will likely be a blow to Russia, which wants Moldova to remain in its sphere of influence.