World Bulletin / News Desk
Moldovan voters headed to the polls on Sunday in a second round of a presidential election -- the country’s first in 20 years.
None of the candidates won enough backing in the first round on Oct. 30.
The election results are important to determine if the state will draw closer to the West or traditional ally Russia.
Igor Dodon, leader of the pro-Russian Socialist Party, won 47.98 percent in the first round while former pro-Western education minister Maia Sandu received 38.71 percent.
Voting began at 7 a.m. (0500GMT) local time and will end at 9 p.m. (1900GMT).
Moldova's president was last chosen by popular vote in 1996.
Since 2000, presidents were chosen by parliament. However, in March the Constitutional Court overturned this practice and reinstated direct voting.
The election is being followed by 3,744 local and foreign observers, including representatives of international organizations.
Moldova, a former Soviet republic that is Europe's poorest country, signed an association agreement with the EU in summer 2014. But Russian President Vladimir Putin has pressured Moldova to postpone implementation of the free trade portion of the agreement.
However, Moldova has been wracked by corruption and unrest since 2014 when €1 billion euros ($1.09 billion) vanished from three banks in suspected embezzlement. The loss -- equivalent to 14 percent of Moldova’s GDP -- put huge strain on the country’s finances.
Since then, the country has seen five prime ministers resign amid allegations of high-level corruption and street protests that some claim are engineered by Moscow, angered by the government’s pro-Europe stance.
AALast Mod: 13 Kasım 2016, 10:45