Moldova’s incumbent pro-Russia President Igor Dodon, who was given the explicit backing of the Kremlin ahead of the poll, won just 43% of the votes after 99% of the ballots were counted, according to the initial results.
Sandu, who leads the Party of Action and Solidarity, has promised to lead a fight against endemic corruption in the country, which is wedged between Ukraine and EU member Romania.
The country has been hit by multiple political crises and a $1 billion (€840 million) bank fraud scheme that equates to almost 15% of its annual economic output.
Dodon, who sought a new four-year mandate, says Moldova is tired of upheaval and now needs stability.
Following the first round of voting two weeks ago, the national electoral authority said Sandu received 36.1% of votes, while Dodon garnered 32.6%.
West, Russia pick sides
Police in the village of Varnita were on Sunday reported to have clashed with pro-Sandu protesters who tried to block a road to stop voters traveling from the breakaway pro-Russia region of Transnistria.
Moldova is closely linked with Romania, with the two sharing a common language. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said he was happy with Sandu’s first-round victory earlier this month.
Sandu — who worked for the World Bank and was briefly Moldova’s prime minister — has received messages of support from German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and the former European Council President Donald Tusk.
Such support was denounced by Dodon’s supporters as an attempt to destabilize Moldova. Russian President Vladimir Putin last month called for Moldovans to cast their ballots for Dodon.
Moldova is under the watchful eye of Russia, which wants the ex-Soviet nation to remain in its sphere of influence at a time when several Kremlin-aligned governments are rocked by political unrest.
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