Moldovans Choose Between Russia, Europe in Local Elections

June 28, 2015 Updated: June 28, 2015
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CHISINAU, Moldova— Moldovans were voting Sunday in local election runoffs that are being seen as a test of whether the former Soviet republic moves closer to the European Union or Russia.

The key post is for mayor of Chisinau, the capital, where pro-European incumbent Dorin Chirtoaca faces pro-Russian challenger Zinaida Greceanai, a former prime minister of the Communist Party. A low turnout in the city of one million will benefit the 59-year-old Greceanai, while a higher number of voters will benefit Chirtoaca.

“I hope we will clarify things…. and build something that is certain, definitive, irreversible, for the future of Chisinau and Moldova,” Chirtoaca said after voting.

“Residents have a great desire to see deeds and not just statements,” said Greceanai.

Runoffs were being held in 458 towns in this country of 4 million. Some 348 seats were already decided in the first round. Early results are expected late Sunday.

Renato Usatii, a pro-Russian businessman, won outright on June 14 in Moldova’s second-largest city, Balti. Another pro-Russian businessman, Ilan Shor, who is being probed over the disappearance of $1.5 billion from three Moldovan banks last year, also won outright in the eastern town of town of Orhei.

Moldovan officials, meanwhile, have been investigating the disappearance of the money from state-owned and private banks before the parliamentary election last November. Moldova’s currency has lost 20 percent value this year.