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Low Turnout Reported In Moldova Snap Mayoral Elections

Election workers prepare for the vote in Balti on May 20.

Voters in Moldova's main cities of Chisinau and Balti are heading to the polls to elect their mayors for one year.

Turnout was expected to be unprecedentedly low, with election authorities saying less than 13 percent of the voters had cast their ballots in the Moldovan capital and Balti by noon local time.

The snap polls' results are to be declared invalid if less than one-quarter of the registered voters take part.

The elections were called after the mayors of Chisinau and Balti, Dorin Chirtoaca and Renato Usatii, resigned to protest against criminal cases against them, which they say are politically motivated.

They were seen as a test for the Socialist Party -- which was previously headed by Russia-friendly President Igor Dodon -- two pro-European parties -- the Dignity and Truth Platform and the Party of Action and Solidarity -- and the Democratic Party -- the main force in the governing coalition -- ahead of Moldova's parliamentary elections later this year.

A second round will take place in two weeks if none of the candidates receive more than half of the votes.