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Russia-Friendly, Pro-EU Candidates In Runoff Moldovan Election

Moldovan President Igor Dodon (left) casts his ballot with his wife at a polling station during local elections in Chisinau on May 20.

The candidate of Moldova's pro-Moscow Socialist Party, Ion Ceban, has won the first round of the snap election for mayor in Moldova's capital, Chisinau, with almost 41 percent of the vote, followed by Andrei Nastase, the candidate of the pro-European party Dignity and Truth Platform (DA), who garnered just over 31 percent.

Ceban and Nastase will face off in a second round in two weeks' time.

The turnout in Chisinau on May 20 was 35.5 percent -- more than the mandatory 25 percent turnout needed for the vote to be valid.

Snap mayoral elections were also held in Moldova's second-largest city, Balti, where Nicolai Grigorisin, the candidate of the pro-Russia Our Party, won with 61 percent of the vote.

The elections were called after the mayor of Chisinau, Dorin Chirtoaca of the pro-European Liberal Party, and Balti Mayor Renato Usatii, the Our Party founder and leader, resigned to protest against criminal cases against them, which they say are politically motivated.

The May 20 polls were seen as a test for the Socialist Party -- which was previously headed by Russia-friendly President Igor Dodon -- two pro-European parties, the DA and the Party of Action and Solidarity, and the Democratic Party, which is the main force in the governing coalition, ahead of Moldova's parliamentary elections later this year.