CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Igor Dodon, pro-Moscow candidate for president, had about 56 percent of the vote in Moldova’s election Sunday, with nearly 90 percent of the vote counted.
Dodon has promised to restore ties with Moscow and he spoke in Russian in comments after the polls closed. His rival Maia Sandu, an ex-World Bank official who ran on an anti-corruption ticket, was polling 44 percent.
Dodon has tapped into popular anger with corruption under the pro-European government that came to power in 2009, particularly over the approximately $1 billion that went missing from Moldovan banks before the 2014 parliamentary elections.
As results came in, Dodon urged Moldovans to be calm.
“We don’t need destabilization and we don’t need confrontation, which somebody is trying to do,” he said, speaking in Russian. “We’re all living in one country, in Moldova. The next president should find this balance.”
Dodon’s rival, Maia Sandu, an ex-World Bank economist who ran on an anti-corruption ticket, needed a high turnout to stand a chance of winning. The final turnout was 53.3 percent, more than 4 percentage points higher than in the first round but a discouraging result for Sandu.
In an unusual development, 9,000 voted in the separatist region of Trans-Dniester, where residents usually do not vote in Moldovan elections.
Moldovans lined up for hours to vote in Paris, Milan, Dublin and the London borough of Stratford, where about 700 Moldovans were unable to cast ballots. Election authorities said ballots had run out in Stratford, Bucharest, Moscow and Bologna, Italy. One electoral official in Chisinau, Sergiu Gurduza, apologized that some Moldovans had not been able to vote.
Sandu called for the resignation of authorities organizing the vote and said the elections had been badly organized.
If elected, she had pledged to appoint “honest, righteous people and good professionals … this will be the first signal that things change for the better in Moldova.”
The former education minister, who heads the Action and Solidarity Party, says the former Soviet republic will have a more prosperous future in the EU.
Dodon, who nearly won the election in the first round two weeks ago and led in recent polls, has promised to restore friendly relations with Moscow. He also has pledged to seek good relations with Moldova’s neighbors, Romania and Ukraine.
He has been criticized in Ukraine for saying Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, is Russian territory. Russia punished Moldova with a trade embargo on wine, fruit and vegetables after it signed a trade association deal with the EU in 2014.
Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania, contributed to this report.