(RFE/RL) Moldovans head to the polls this weekend for a presidential election that could hint at whether the country's current aspirations lie more with the European Union or Russia.
The October 30 vote pits nine candidates in a race for what largely is a ceremonial position as head of state. Moldova's constitution puts executive power in the former Soviet republic — one of Europe's poorest countries — in the hands of the prime minister.
But if the new president takes office with a strong popular mandate, he or she could wield considerable influence in setting the course of a nation deeply divided over its future. Moldova has a wide variety of bitterly feuding political parties, some of which seek to lead the country into the EU, some of which advocate closer ties with Russia, and some of which hope for union with neighboring Romania. […]
"Support for the EU has decreased in recent years, partly as a reflection of pro-EU governments not fighting corruption and people growing disillusioned with that," says Nicu Popescu, a regional expert with the Paris-based EU Institute for Security Studies. "In the last five years, support [for the EU] has decreased from 65 percent to 40 percent. It stabilized approximately a year ago and support for the EU and Russia now are neck-and-neck at about 40 percent each." […]