Moldova holds first presedential election in 20 years

For many the choice is between closer ties with Russia or the EU

Moldova holds first presedential election in 20 years

An elderly woman casts her vote at a polling station during presidential elections in Chisinau, Moldova. | Image: Roveliu Buga AP/Press Association Images

Voting is under way in Moldova for the country's first direct presidential election for 20 years.

The vote is being seen as a fight between those supporting closer ties with Russia and those wanting integration with the European Union.

Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe and has been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals. In 2014, the country was thrown into turmoil following the 'disappearance' of an estimated $1bn (£820m) from the banking system.

Six prime ministers took office in one year as weeks of street protests followed.

Since then, parliament has passed anti-corruption laws, forcing public officials to disclose their assets and making the misuse of EU funds a criminal offence.

Presidents of Moldova have been chosen by parliament since 1966.

Pavel Filip was appointed prime minister in January and it was his pro-European coalition that re-established the popular vote.

Both the EU and Russia seek greater influence over the country, located between Ukraine and Romania, but polls indicate that voters are divided about which offers them a better future.

The pro-Moscow Socialist candidate, Igor Dodon, has been ahead in opinion polls and has pledged to push for new parliamentary elections if he wins.

His main rival is Maia Sandu of the pro-Western, centre-right opposition. She has been praised for reforming the education system.

If no candidate wins an outright majority in the first round, a second round of voting will be held on 13 November.