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Pro-European candidate Maia Sandu becomes Moldova’s first female president

On November 15th, Moldovans voted in the second, run-off round of the 2020 Moldovan presidential elections. Maia Sandu, a pro-European candidate and leader of the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS), won the election with 57.63% of the votes. The other candidate, incumbent president Igor Dodon, received 42.37% of the votes. Just over 1.65 million Moldovan citizens cast their votes.

Victory for Sandu
In the first round of the presidential elections, Sandu won 36.1% of the vote and Dodon 32.66%. In opinion polls, the two candidates were neck-and-neck before the run-off election. On Sunday, Sandu’s campaign was able to call victory as she won with a large margin.

Sandu promised to tackle corruption and unite the country. “We need the state to work for citizens, not for thieves and corrupt officials,” she said. Sandu is now tasked with leading one of Europe’s poorest countries, which was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sandu’s PAS does not currently hold a majority in parliament, which could make it more difficult for Sandu to get her policies through. She also promised she would secure more financial support from the EU as president. In the lead-up to the election, Sandu received messages of support from former European Council President Donald Tusk and German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Votes from abroad
Much like in the first round of the election, voters from abroad played an important part in Sandu’s victory. Around 262,000 votes were cast from abroad, with the majority coming from Western Europe. This number is higher than in the first round when some 150,000 votes were cast from abroad. After the first round, Dodon argued that the diaspora forms a “parallel electorate” that is out of touch with Moldovan society. Moldova has a high rate of emigration and many families have relatives working or living abroad.

Dodon’s defeat
During his campaign, Dodon placed the emphasis on ‘stability’ and promoted his record of securing loans from Russia. On November 13, Dodon called on supporters to take to the streets if he felt the election was stolen from him. During his first speech after the polls closed on November 15th, Dodon urged everyone to remain calm regardless of the election results and that he remained ready to engage in dialogue with all parties to maintain stability in the country. Dodon has been president since 2016 and ran as an independent candidate.

International response
Following the elections, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen congratulated Sandu with her victory. Von der Leyen tweeted “Your victory is a clear call to tackle corruption and restore respect for the rule of law- the path to a prosperous future.” She added that “the EU is ready to support Moldova.” EU Council president Charles Michel has likewise congratulated Sandu, stating that the EU is ready to intensify their close partnership.

Putin also congratulated Sandu, stating that he expects that Sandu’s work will “facilitate the constructive development of relations” between Moldova and Russia.

Sources: Reuters, Aljazeera, Euronews, BBC, Rferl, Balkan Insight

Photo: Flickr