The pro-Europe economist and politician, 48-year-old Maia Sandu, won a clear victory over her Socialist, pro-Moscow opponent Igor Dodon in the second round of the presidential elections in the Republic of Moldova, Romanian news portal Ziare reports.
With almost 90 percent of the votes counted, Sandu has a clear 56.28 percent lead over Dodon’s 53.72 percent. The campaign and election were the latest chapters in the ongoing political battle whether Moldova should orient itself towards the European Union (as Sandu advocates along with others), or Moscow, which is the direction preferred by the country’s Communist and Socialist parties.
Incumbent Igor Dodon, 45, also an economist, was a lukewarm supporter of the EU-orientation while a member of the Communist party, which he left in 2009 and joined the Socialist party. Over the course of one year, between 2009-2010, he completely reversed his position and has since been one of the figureheads of the pro-Moscow line.
The tiny country with a population of 3.5 million, including the breakaway Transnistria region, once part of Romania’s Moldova region, is wedged between Romania and the Ukraine and its economy and energy supply are largely dependent on Russia, which is the main market for its mainly agricultural products of fruits and wine. Lacking natural resources, Moldova is also dependent on Russian natural gas. In recent years, Moldova has accrued $15 billion in debt to Russian natural gas supplier Gazprom, one quarter higher than the country’s 2019 nominal GDP of $12 billion.
While the country is notoriously irregular in releasing reliable statistics, in 2012, the latest official figure available, 55 percent of the population was under the poverty line.
Sandu’s candidacy was strongly supported by the large Moldovan diaspora, with long lines reported at the polling centers in London, Berlin, Frankfurt and several Italian cities.
Sandu will not be the first female president in the 30-year history of the country: Zinaida Greceanîi, born in Siberia, was president for a short spell between 2018 and 2019.
Title image: Maia Sandu, at the time Moldova’s Premier addresses members of parliament during a no-confidence motion against her government in Chisinau, Moldova, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Roveliu Buga)