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Moldovans choose between Europe, Russia in local elections

Polls close at 9 PM, about 2.8 million voters

14 June, 13:30
(ANSA/AP) - CHISINAU - Moldovans are voting in local elections Sunday which are seen as a test of whether the country is committed to European integration or will move closer to Russia's orbit.

The elections come two days after pro-European Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici resigned after he was questioned about the authenticity of his high school diplomas and university degree.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT; 12 a.m. EDT) and will close at 9 p.m. (1800 GMT; 2 p.m. EDT) and early results are expected Sunday evening. About 2.8 million eligible voters are choosing mayors and local councils. A runoff is slated for June 28 for seats with no candidate who secures 50 percent of the vote.

The key seat is the capital, Chisinau, where Dorin Chirtoaca, the pro-European mayor of the city of about 1 million people since 2007, faces Zinaida Greceanai, who is running for the pro-Russian Socialists.

Gaburici, a businessman who headed a minority government, had criticized a probe into the disappearance of $1.5 billion from three Moldovan banks before November elections.

Analysts say anger over missing money may be reflected in local elections, giving a boost to pro-Moscow parties against pro-European parties. (ANSA-AP).

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