The pro-Russian candidate, Igor Dodon, is leading presidential elections in Moldova.

Moldova went to the polls on Sunday; according to the Central Election Commission, the turnout was sufficient for the elections to be considered valid.

The Socialist Party leader is leading the polls with just under 50% of the vote; his rival, the ex-World Bank economist Maia Sandu, is trailing with 37%. If Dodon does not pass the 50% threshold there will be a second round on November 14.

Dodon is the 41-year-old leader of the Socialists’ Party. His election challenges a pro-EU government embroiled in a corruption scandal with tremendous economic consequences.

Towards the end of 2014, the small country of 3,5 million people was forced to bail out three banks whose reserves were robbed of $1bn (approximately €880 million). That is about an eighth of Moldova’s GDP.

Unfortunately, this grand theft took place on the watch of a pro-EU government, which came to power in 2009. Since February 2015 thousands of Moldovans have taken to the streets of Chisinau calling initially for the government’s resignation and then for new elections. The country has since changed Prime Ministers six times.

Moldova is one of the three countries of the Eastern Partnership – along with Georgia and Ukraine – that has signed an Association Agreement with the EU.

Sunday’s poll was the first direct presidential election in Moldova for 20 years.

epa05609854 The leader of Action and Solidarity Party (ASP) Maia Sandu speaks to the media after voting at a polling station during presidential elections in Chisinau, Moldova, on 30 October 2016. EPA/DUMITRU DORU