Pro-EU candidate Sandu leads in first round of Moldova’s presidential elections

Pro-EU candidate Sandu leads in first round of Moldova’s presidential elections
Presidential candidate Maia Sandu's message to voters ahead of the first round of voting.
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest November 2, 2020

Pro-EU presidential candidate Maia Sandu received slightly more votes than the pro-Russian incumbent President Igor Dodon in the first round of Moldova’s presidential election after 99.6% of the votes were counted in the first ballot on November 1.

Irrespective of the final results, Sandu will meet Dodon in the second round on November 15 from a much stronger position than before the first round. Her score exceeded the most optimistic expectations. Furthermore, Sandu is expected to perform even better in the second round, as the voters that supported the other pro-EU candidate, Andrei Nastase, will join her electorate after the two avoided direct confrontations in the run-up to the vote.

After the counting of 98% of the 1.34mn votes (43% turnout), Sandu was leading with 35.96%, 3.2pp more than Dodon (32.74%). In absolute terms, the margin was 42,000 votes.

The third-placed candidate — the “king-maker” as dubbed by Jameston Foundation analyst Vladimir Socor — was independent candidate Renato Usatii with an unexpectedly high score of 16.94%. Usatii might play a key role in the second round, Socor commented. 

As Usatii mainly focused his rhetoric against Dodon, the voters supporting him are most likely to back Sandu in the second round, as suggested by pre-electoral polls. Usatii might come out in favour of one of the two candidates that meet in the second round, but such support will probably be subtle.

Violeta Ivanov, the candidate of Ilan Shor and his political vehicle, came in fourth place with 6.52% of the votes.

Nastase, the second pro-EU candidate and leader of the Dignity and Truth (DA) political party, received only 3.26% of the votes, which are likely to go to Sandu in the second round, consolidating her position.