The pro-Russian incumbent and a former World Bank technocrat will face each other in a runoff in Moldova’s presidential elections, according to exit polls.
President Igor Dodon, 45, who is supported by Russia and promises continuity and stability in the impoverished nation polled 40% according to the WatchDog.md and Institute of Public Policy Poll.
Rival Maia Sandu, a 48-year-old former prime minister who has promised to crack down on corruption, attract foreign business and improve living standards had 34.6% according to the same poll.
The Intellect Group and SPERO Association gave Igor Dodon 40.3% and Ms Sandu 30.4%
The Nov. 14 runoff will be a repeat of the 2016 runoff.
Voter turnout was about 42.7% election authorities said, but less than four years ago, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic which has made some Moldovans wary of casting their ballot.
Eight candidates ran for the post in the landlocked former Soviet republic of 3.5 million which neighbors Ukraine and Romania.
Moldovan elections are often described as a choice between Russia and the West, but the country is reliant on both, and is unlikely to definitively move into either sphere.
Five of the candidates are considered pro-Russian and three pro-European, but their campaigns have focused on different visions rather than geostrategic alliances.
More than one million Moldovans are working outside the country and generally vote with pro-Western candidates, such as Ms. Sandu. Mr. Dodon’s base are older and poorer voters.
Renato Usatii, 41, who leads the left-wing Our Party scored between 11.5% and 12.4% according to the polls. He is seen as in the pro-Russian camp but ran on a campaign of promising good relations with Russia and the West.
Voter turnout 42.7%, less than four years ago, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic which has made some wary of casting their ballot.
Head of the Central Electoral Committee Dorin Cimil said voting hours would be extended beyond 9 pm at stations where voters were still waiting to cast their ballot. Long lines were reported in stations in France, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, Romanian news agency Agerpres reported.
Ms Sandu was premier from June to November 2019, when the president pushed her out over a dispute over who should name the chief prosecutor.
The 2016 election was dogged by allegations of fraud focusing on former oligarch Vlad Plahotnuic _ now a fugitive facing massive money-laundering charges_ used his massive media network to support Mr. Dodon and discredit Ms. Sandu.
said he exerted influence on the leader of the Russia-backed breakaway Trans-Dniester
region to mobilize its voters to back Igor Dodon.