Maia Sandu, a former World Bank economist who favours closer ties with the European Union, has won Moldova’s presidential runoff vote, decisively defeating the staunchly pro-Russian incumbent.

 According to preliminary results released Monday Sandu captured more than 57 percent of the vote, leaving the incumbent, Igor Dodon, behind by more than 15 points, according to preliminary data from the Central Election Commission (CEC) that said nearly 100 percent of the vote has been counted.

Sunday’s election was seen as a referendum on two divergent visions for the future of the small Eastern European nation sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania.

 Sandu and Dodon, who Russian President Vladimir Putin identified as his preferred candidate, have been rivals since he narrowly defeated her in the 2016 presidential race.

The current pro-Russian government controls only 51 of 101 seats in the parliament.

The new president can dissolve parliament if the prime minister resigns and there are two failed attempts to find a successor.

Report says since gaining independence a year after the Soviet collapse in 1991, Moldova has been divided between those favouring closer relations with Europe and those who prefer stronger links with Moscow.

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