A woman carrying her baby casting her ballot in the presidential elections in Hrusevo, a village north of the capital, Chisinau, Moldova, November 1, 2020. EPA/Doru Dumitru
About 3.2 million Moldovans are entitled to head to polling stations on Sunday in the run-off second round of the presidential election in the country.
A large number of people with voting rights has raised eyebrows in Moldova, as the total population is only 3.5 million inhabitants, including the breakaway region of Transnistria.
Voters will be choosing between two candidates: the pro-Russian incumbent, Igor Dodon, who is backed by the Socialist Party, PSRM, and the pro-European former prime minister, Maia Sandu, leader of the Action and Solidarity Party, PAS.
Polling stations will open on Sunday from 7am to 9pm, and the voting will likely last almost to midnight, as members of the large diaspora in Europe will form long queues in the many European cities.
Sandu won the first round of the election, scoring 36.16 per cent of votes cast, or 487,635 votes, just ahead of Dodon, who scored 32.61 per cent, or 439,866 votes in total.
The result of the run-off may well depend on the voters who backed the third-ranked candidate in round one, the populist leader of Our Party, Renato Usatii.
Beyond expectations, he won 16.9 per cent of the votes cast, or 227,938 votes. Usatii did not fully endorse Sandu in the second round but has continued to accuse Dodon of taking illegal cash from Russia for his pricey campaign that is estimated to have cost over 11 million euros.
According to the final results of round one on November 1, 1,368,516 citizens cast votes, or 48.54 per cent of those registered in the State Register.
Internally, the voting body was small in comparison to the presidential election in 2016, but a new record was set for the diaspora, after 149,840 Moldovans cast votes abroad.
The votes from the Western diaspora, where about half a million Moldovan citizens live, changed the balance of the final count in favour of the pro-EU candidate.
The Foreign Ministry announced the opening of more voting stations abroad on Sunday compared to the first round, to allow as many citizens as possible to exercise their democratic right. Among them are polling stations in Iasi and Bucharest in Romania, London, Munich and Tel Aviv.
The Foreign Ministry said sporting, cultural and exhibition centres had been chosen in order to best comply with the COVID rules in foreign countries. The Central Electoral Commission, CEC, announced that it would send additional voting ballots for the diaspora. As a result, some polling stations will receive 5,000 ballots, instead of 3,000, as was the case so far.