CHISINAU, Moldova, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Moldova's first presidential election in 20 years will go to a second round after no candidate achieved a majority in weekend voting.
Socialist Party leader Igor Dodon fell just short of the required majority, with 48.6 percent of ballots cast Sunday. Dodon is regarded as a pro-Russia candidate, and his near-victory is seen as a blow to attempts to bring former Soviet republics out from Russia's influence, the New York Times said Monday. Maia Sandu, a former World Bank official and leader of the Party of Action and Solidarity, received 38 percent of the vote. Six other candidates also ran for the office, a ceremonial position which is expected to be more influential after the country's constitution is changed.
Moldova is among Europe's poorest countries, bordered by Romania and Ukraine, and independent since 1991. It has been governed by a divided coalition of parties since 2009 which has sought integration in the European Union but has kept strong economic ties to Russia and failed to eliminate rampant graft and corruption. The country was thrown into political turmoil in 2014 when about $1 billion disappeared from its banking system. Six prime ministers took office in one year following the scandal and there were weeks of protests in the streets.
Russia imposed restrictions on the importation of Moldavan products earlier this year, in an attempt to force the country to abandon its interest in siding with Western Europe.
Dodon and Sandu will be the only candidates in a Nov. 13 runoff election. Both campaigned on platforms to eliminate government and business corruption in the country.