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Europe

Torn between Europe and Russia, Moldovans vote in runoff election

Moldova's pro-Moscow candidate has called for greater ties with its former Soviet ruler, Russia. But his pro-EU rival has made tackling corruption and closer ties with Europe a priority.

Moldovan voters on Sunday cast their votes in a divided presidential runoff, marking the final round of the country's first direct election of its president in 16 years.

Polls show pro-Moscow candidate Igor Dodon, leader of the Socialist Party, leading after failing to reach a majority in the first round of voting with 48 percent.

Dodon has campaigned on restoring ties with Russia after it enacted a trade embargo against Moldova for signing a trade association deal with the EU in 2014.

"Life in Moldova has become unbearable. Our partnership with Russia has been destroyed; we lost access to a massive market," Dodon said in a campaign speech.

"I voted for the future of the country. I am totally convinced that Moldova has a future. It will be independent, united and sovereign," he noted.

'Fighting corruption'

Dodon's pro-European rival Maia Sandu, who garnered 38 percent of the vote in the first round, has instead campaigned on closer ties with Brussels and tackling corruption.

The EU association agreement "is the basis for the country's development," Sandu said during a televised debate.

"It means reforms and fighting corruption, and without this, the country cannot develop; it has no future," she added.

Sandu has also called for Russian troops in the separatist region of Transdniester to withdraw.

Moldova is considered to be Europe's poorest country, according to several international organizations. Some 41 percent of the population lives on less than $5 (4.6 euros) per day.

Partial election results are expected early Monday, according to the electoral commission.

ls/tj (AP, AFP, dpa)

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