Moldovan presidential election heading for runoff as pro-Russian incumbent leads
By Alexander Tanas CHISINAU (Reuters) - Moldova's presidential election on Sunday looked likely to go to a runoff as the pro-Russian incumbent, Igor Dodon, held a lead over his main pro-Western opponent but not by enough to win outright in the first round, partial results showed. Dodon led with 36.14%, compared with 31.32% for former Prime Minister Maia Sandu, according to preliminary data from the election commission with 80% of votes counted.
By Alexander Tanas
CHISINAU (Reuters) - Moldova's presidential election on Sunday looked likely to go to a runoff as the pro-Russian incumbent, Igor Dodon, held a lead over his main pro-Western opponent but not by enough to win outright in the first round, partial results showed.
Dodon led with 36.14%, compared with 31.32% for former Prime Minister Maia Sandu, according to preliminary data from the election commission with 80% of votes counted.
A candidate needs over 50% of the vote to avoid the Nov. 15 runoff, which would be a repeat of the 2016 election, when Dodon defeated Sandu in the second round.
The election in the nation of 3.5 million, where the West and Russia vie for influence, took place in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic that has pushed one of Europe's poorest countries into a sharp economic downturn.
"I thank everyone who voted today. You have proved that you are patriots, that you care about the future of the country," Dodon said.
He took power four years ago after pro-Western political forces became mired in scandals.
Sandu, a Harvard-educated former World Bank economist known for her tough stance on corruption, led a coalition government last year that was brought down within months by a no-confidence vote.
If elected, she has promised to secure more financial support from Brussels, while Dodon has pledged to roll out a settlement next year for the breakaway Russian-speaking region of Transdniestria.
The European Union forged a deal in 2014 on closer trade and political ties with the ex-Soviet republic, which is squeezed between EU member Romania and Ukraine, but became increasingly critical of Chisinau's track record on reforms.
Sandu has received messages of support from German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, and former European Council President Donald Tusk.
A group of Dodon's supporters denounced such support as an attempt to destabilise the country.
Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia's SVR Foreign Intelligence Service, accused the United States last week of plotting to instigate mass protests against Dodon as punishment for him fostering good relations with Moscow.
Naryshkin similarly accused Washington of fomenting revolution in Belarus, where Moscow-backed President Alexander Lukashenko has battled months of protests following a contested election.
(Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Christina Fincher and Michael Perry)
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