Moldova vote winner pledges ‘balanced’ ties with West, Russia

Moldova’s pro-European election winner Maia Sandu on Monday vowed balanced ties with the West and Russia as Moscow-backed incumbent Igor Dodon conceded defeat and asked his supporters to refrain from violence.

Sandu’s election is seen by analysts as a major blow to the Kremlin, which had pinned hopes on Dodon winning a new term.

Russia had wanted polarised Moldova to remain in its sphere of influence at a time when several Kremlin-aligned governments are rocked by political unrest and security crises.

Sandu vowed to strike a “true balance” in foreign policy and “pragmatic dialogue with all countries including Romania, Ukraine, European countries, Russia and the United States”.

“I will work for all the citizens of our country,” said the 48-year-old centre-right opposition politician, who briefly served as prime minister in 2019.

Addressing Dodon’s supporters, she said: “You have not lost, I will be winning your trust with concrete deeds.”

Sandu, who has also promised to root out corruption, garnered 57.75 percent of the vote in the second round run-off on Sunday against 42.25 percent for Dodon.

In the first round vote earlier this month, she won a surprise victory against Dodon.

Many former Dodon supporters said they were happy with the results.

“We’ve grown tired of the situation in the country,” said Victoria, a 43-year-old nail technician. “We want something new for our children.”

Some political observers warned of protests after the Sunday runoff but Dodon conceded defeat and congratulated his rival.

He also said his campaign had registered an “unprecedented amount of violations” but asked supporters not to take to the streets.

“We don’t need destabilisation,” he said.

Dodon had promised continued close ties with Moldova’s “strategic partner” Moscow and said Russian should become compulsory in schools. 

He came to power in 2016, beating Sandu in the second round.

Part of the Soviet Union between 1940 and 1991, Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries and as many as 40 percent of citizens are estimated to have travelled abroad to work.

Moldova has been rocked by multiple political crises and a $1-billion bank fraud scheme equivalent to nearly 15 percent of annual economic output.