MOSCOW – Mia Sandu, a Harvard-educated economist who supports close ties with the European Union, has won a presidential election in Moldova, with President Vladimir V. Putin was openly supportive.
According to the Central Election Commission, on Sunday’s election, Ms. Sandhu voted for Igor Dodan, Moldova’s incumbent president, a small former Soviet state between Western and Russian influence, with 57.3 percent of the vote. .
Ms Sandu’s victory suggests her leaning towards policies of closer cooperation with the European Union, making her the first female president of Moldova. Moldova has not applied for the union, but Ms Sandu told the BBC in an interview on Monday that she was confident that her country would eventually become a member. Mr. Dodan, the incumbent, had promoted warm relations with Russia.
Ms Sandu has also called for the end of Russia’s peace mission in Transnistria, a broken region of Moldova, with most of Russia’s speakers. But he has also said that he favors a cordial relationship with Russia, where many Moldovans work as migrant laborers.
Critics of the Russian presence say that, far from reaching a compromise, Moscow has put the struggle at a low boil to prevent Moldova from joining the European Union or merging with Romania, an idea backed by some Moldovan politicians . The Kremlin has taken a similar approach to Ukraine, supporting a separatist insurgency since a Russian-ally leader was ousted in 2014.
Ms Sandhu, who worked at the World Bank before entering politics, has said that she was targeted by Russian disintegration during the campaign.
Although it has clarified its views on the close of the European Union, its victory comes in recent years with a twist to the general competition between East and West in Eastern Europe.
In Ukraine and Belarus, pro-Western opposition parties have positioned themselves as strong opponents of official corruption by pro-Russian governments. Ms Sandhu also campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, but the main target of her criticism was a wealthy businessman once supported by the United States, not Russia.
To counter Russian influence in Moldova, in 2016 the United States peacefully supported political parties aligned with Vladim Plahotniuk, a wealthy but unpopular banking tycoon. While voicing pro-Western views, Mr. Plahotniuk was greatly disliked at home for suspected corruption in influencing fate in a troubled country. He is now a fugitive, accused of corruption by Moldovan authorities, who believes he is now living in Turkey.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, pro-Russian groups cheered when Mr. Plotnyuk publicly spoke to the US assistant foreign minister, Victoria J. Met Newland and used a picture of the two in political advertising aimed at stigmatizing Western-leaning opponents.
The United States severed ties with Mr. Plahotniuk in 2019 by refusing asylum amid corruption investigations. In this election, Ms. Sandhu positioned herself in opposition to pro-Russian political groups and Mr. Plahotnik.
Analysts said their victory in the vote on Sunday in the second round of the presidential election shows that Moldova’s supporters have recovered from being linked to Western parties’ previous support for the United States tycoon.
“The era of Plathotiuk is over,” said Vladimir Soloviev, founder of an independent news site in Moldova of Newsmaker.md.
Prior to the election, Mr Putin offered “good wishes” to Mr Dodan in the election, a comment seen as a clear endorsement.
Neighboring Romania joined NATO and the European Union at the beginning of this century, part of an expansion by both groups in Russia’s sphere of influence, which Mr. Putin strongly opposed.
The primary language of Moldova is Romanian, and since independence in 1991, the union has recurred with Romania despite Russian resistance. The region was controlled by Russia for a century, then it was part of Romania amid most world wars, until it was repealed by the Soviet Union in 1940.
During the breakup of the Soviet Union, mainly the Russian-speaking region of Moldova, Transnistria, declared independence and fought a civil war against the Romanian-speaking majority. Russian peacekeepers are stationed in Transnistria.
While Mr. Dodan met with Mr. Putin in Russia and argued in favor of a relaxation of trade restrictions, Ms. Sandhu has said that her discussions with the Russian leader negotiate the improvement of conditions for Moldovan migrant workers and the withdrawal of Russian troops Will focus on doing. Transnistria.