CHISINAU -- A candidate from the pro-Russian Moldovan Socialist Party (PSRM) has for the first time in the country’s post-Soviet history been elected as mayor of the country's capital, official preliminary results indicate.
On November 3, Ion Ceban took 52 percent of the vote, followed by Andrei Nastase of the pro-European ACUM bloc, who received nearly 48 percent.
Immediately after polling stations closed, both candidates gave news conferences during which they thanked voters for their support and the work of the Central Election Commission.
Ceban, 39, in his statement didn't emphasize his political affiliation, instead saying that he would be mayor of all Chisinau residents.
Among his priorities are to prepare the city for winter, provide compensation for heating, and adopt a budget for next year.
Voter turnout stood at 37 percent, with 236,298 voters casting their ballots, election commission data showed.
Both Ceban and Nastase kept mostly out of the public spotlight during much of the campaign and didn't appear on public TV debates.
In the days leading up to the election, however, they made more public appearances and criticized each other's ideological differences.
The Socialists are currently the strongest political force on Chisinau's local city council based on general election results from the October 20 vote.
In the last mayoral election in Chisinau, held in June 2018, Nastase overcame Ceban -- but the result was overturned by the courts in a controversial ruling.
Runoff elections also took place for mayoral seats in 383 other cities and townships on November 3.
Moldova has struggled to implement reforms urged by many in the West since the disappearance of more than $1 billion from state-owned banks five years ago shattered the already impoverished ex-Soviet state's economy and took down a government.
Inconclusive national elections in February sparked a major constitutional crisis in the summer and a showdown involving President Igor Dodon of the PSRM, the Constitutional Court, and parliamentary deputies seeking to install Maia Sandu as prime minister.
The resulting situation was eventually endorsed by Dodon and Sandu, who has since led the country with support from a liberal-populist alliance in coalition with the Socialists.
Western critics have complained that political instability has hobbled efforts to bolster the rule of law and democratic gains in Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries.
In its "association implementation report" in September, the European Commission acknowledged that some economic and banking-sector reforms had advanced in Moldova but warned that "fundamental structural reforms of the judicial system, the fight against corruption, the prosecution of the 2014 banking fraud, and ensuring media plurality were lagging behind."