Preliminary results show that Igor Smirnov, the longtime leader of Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester, failed to qualify for an expected presidential runoff.
Transdniester's official news agency, Olvia, said Smirnov won just under 25 percent of the vote, behind first-place candidate Yevgeny Shevchuk with 38.53 percent, and Anatoly Kaminsky, who came in second with 26.48 percent.
Smirnov's position was decisively weakened after Russia made it clear earlier this year that he no longer enjoyed its crucial support.
However, opposition candidate Shevchuk's placing first was a surprise, given that it was Kaminsky who had enjoyed Russian backing in the election.
Smirnov, who was seeking a sixth term, has refused to recognize the results. Olvia said they could still be ruled invalid by the Election Commission later in the week due to complaints about violations.
The Central Election Commission said it would announce the final results of the first round on December 16.
The Russian-backed region, with a population of over 555,000, declared independence from Romanian-speaking Moldova in 1990, and the two sides fought a brief civil war in 1992.
No country has recognized its independence internationally.
compiled from agency reports