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Independent candidate Irina Vlakh elected head of Gagauzia

"The vote counting is coming to an end, but it can be said confidently that Irina Vlakh has won, gaining over 50% of the vote in the first round," CEC head Valentin Kara told TASS

CHISINAU, March 23. /TASS/. Independent candidate Irina Vlakh has been elected new head of Gagauzia, an autonomous region in Moldova, gaining more than 51% of the vote, the autonomy’s Central Election Commission (CEC) said Monday announcing official preliminary results of Sunday's election.

The CEC said Vlakh gained 51.01% (32,543 votes), and her closest rival Nikolai Dudoglo received 19.05% (12,154 votes). Valery Yanioglo came third with 7.96% (5,080), former autonomy head Dmitry Kroitor was in fourth place with 6.2% (3,956). The remaining six candidates gained 0.5-5%

A total of 63,793 people out of 105,839 registered voters took part in the election. Thus, voter turnout totaled 58.1%

In her election program, Vlakh spoke for rapprochement with Russia and the European development vector. She enjoys the support of Moldova’s Socialist Party, which has the largest faction in the country’s parliament, controlling a fourth of mandates. Up until now, Vlakh was a parliament deputy. In line with Moldova’s laws, the head of Gagauzia becomes a member of the Moldovan government.

The canvassing campaign in Gagauzia, which traditionally favours closer relations with Russia, was held on the backdrop of confrontation with the Moldovan authorities, which have embarked on a course towards integration into the European Union. In February 2014, Gagauzia held a referendum, where 98% of voters spoke in favour of integration into the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Armenia. Chisinau declared the Gagauz referendum illegitimate and opened criminal cases against its organizers.