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October 31, 2016

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Moldova’s presidential election will go to a runoff after a pro-Russian candidate narrowly missed winning a majority of votes. With almost all ballots counted early Monday, Igor Dodon won 48.26 percent while pro-European rival Maia Sandu scored 38.42 percent, the top finishers among the nine candidates.

With no one securing a majority, a second round of voting will be held on Nov. 13 to decide between Dodon and Sandu. The election on Sunday was the first presidential election by direct vote in 20 years in this impoverished former Soviet republic.

Moldovans, angry about high-level corruption, were divided about whether to seek closer integration into Europe or rekindle ties with Moscow. Dodon, who favors closer ties with Moscow, has pledged to “restore broad and friendly ties with Russia.”

The former Communist Party member tapped into dissatisfaction with the pro-European government that came to power in 2009. Sandu, an ex-World Bank economist and a pro-European figure, has vowed to be tough with endemic corruption. She earned praise for reforms she carried out when she was education minister.

Both the European Union together with the U.S. and Russia seek to have more influence over Moldova, a landlocked nation of 3.5 million between EU member Romania and Ukraine.

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