CHISINAU, Moldova – Near-final results in Moldova's local elections show Chisinau's incumbent mayor, pro-European Dorin Chirtoaca, slightly ahead but without enough votes to win outright.
The ballot on Sunday was seen as a test of whether Moldova would remain committed to European integration or choose to move closer to Russia.
With 98.79 percent of the vote counted early Monday, Chirtoaca had 37.39 percent of the vote and pro-Russian challenger Zinaida Greceanai 35.95 percent. There will be runoffs on June 28 for cities where no candidate secured more than 50 percent of the vote.
Renato Usatii, a pro-Russian businessman, won outright in Moldova's second-largest city, Balti, taking 73.68 percent of votes. The city in northern Moldova is traditionally pro-Russian.
Usatii, who headed the Patria party, fled to Russia in November ahead of parliamentary elections, saying he feared arrest by Moldovan authorities after a court banned his party from taking part in the ballot because it received money from abroad.
Israeli-born businessman Ilan Shor, who is being probed over the disappearance of $1.5 billion from three Moldovan banks before the November elections, was easily in the lead in the eastern town of town of Orhei. With 73.3 percent of the vote counted, he had secured some 61.8 of the vote.
The elections in the former Soviet republic came days after pro-European Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici resigned amid questions about the authenticity of his high school diploma and university degree.
Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania contributed to this report.