CHIșINăU, Moldova, Moldova is holding its first direct presidential election in 20 years, pitting those who want closer ties to Russia against those who want to form a stronger bond with the European Union.
Polls in Japan, one of 40 in foreign countries with residents eligible to vote in the election, had already closed by early afternoon, eastern time, on Sunday.
Moldovans are expected to vote in 33 foreign countries in addition to those voting from home, en.publika reported.
Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe and has been stung by a string of high profile corruption scandals in recent years. Since 1996, presidents in the former Soviet republic have been chosen by Parliament, BBC reported.
It was the pro-European coalition formed by Pavel Filip, who was appointed prime minister to Moldova in January, that re-established the popular vote.
The EU and Russia both seek greater influence over the country wedged between Ukraine and Romania. Polls, however, indicate voters are divided on which way to go for a better future.
Opinion polls show Pro-Moscow Socialist candidate, Igor Dodon, has been ahead. He has pledged to push for new parliamentary elections if he wins.
Dodon’s major rival is Maia Sandu of the pro-Western, center-right opposition. Sandu has received praise for reforming the education system.
The popular election in this nation of 3.5 million people could bring the presidential job more influence and authority.
The country was thrown in to political turmoil in 2014 when about $1 billion disappeared from its banking system. Six prime ministers took office in one year following the scandal and there were weeks of protests on the streets.
The scandal prompted parliament to pass anti-corruption laws which forced public officials to disclose their assets and make the misuse of EU funds a crime.
If no candidate wins the presidential election outright in the first round, a second round of voting will take place Nov. 13.
By Yvette C. Hammett