Maia Sandu, a pro-reform former prime minister has won Moldova’s presidential race to become the first woman president of the former Soviet republic.
The ex-World Bank economist won 57.63% of the vote on Sunday to defeat the incumbent, Igor Dodon who had Moscow’s support. He polled 42.37% with more than 99.8% of the votes counted.
Ms Sandu gained traction after an unexpectedly good result in Nov. 1 first round of voting while Mr. Dodon ran on a negative campaign and failed to mobilize his electorate.
The 48-year-old Sandu also won crucial support from Renato Usatii, a mayor who came third in the first round with 17% of the votes.
The mayor of Balti, Moldova’s second largest city, who was previously pro-Russian, did an about-face and switched his allegiance, throwing his weight behind her candidacy.
Voter turnout was more than 52%.
„People went and out and voted because they care,” she said. „People wanted their voice to be heard, to be respected and for politicians to offer them solutions to their problems,” she said after the polls closed.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis congratulated her.
“Citizens chose to continue the European and democratic path, a road of progress,” he tweeted. “ Romania will stand side by side with Moldova in its real efforts to modernize, become more democratic and get closer to the EU.”
Mr. Dodon, 45, blamed Moldovan voters abroad for his loss in the first round calling the estimated 1.2 million Moldovans living outside of the country a “parallel electorate.”
Moldovans who work abroad generally vote with pro-Western candidates, such as Ms. Sandu. Mr. Dodon’s base tends to be older and poorer voters.
The majority of Moldovans moved abroad to seek better opportunities, discouraged by endemic graft, and a lack of opportunity at home. Ms Sandu was seen as the best chance to implement reforms in the ex-Soviet republic of 3.5 million.
Although elections are often described as a choice between Russia and the West, voters focused on the economy in one of Europe’s poorest countries which has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic and relies on remittances from workers abroad.