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European Country Moldova likely to stick to European Union path regardless of the Election Outcome

The vote is the first since 1997 where the president will be elected by national balloting instead of by parliament

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A girl walks by campaign posters for socialist presidential candidate Igor Dodon, in Chisinau, Moldova, Nov. 12, 2016. VOA
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November 12, 2016: Moldovans are facing a critical choice for the presidency, as the country votes in a run-off election that will determine whether it moves closer to Moscow or the European Union.

Igor Dodon, a Socialist former trade minister, had a sizable lead in the first round of voting last month, but failed to gain an outright majority and avoid facing second-place finisher Maia Sandu in the November 13 run-off.

Sandu, a former World Bank economist and education minister, has called for closer ties with the European Union, and warned about the danger of closer economic relationship with Russia, which is Moldova’s leading energy supplier.

FILE - Leader of the Socialists Party, Igor Dodon, shown with his son Nikolai and wife Galina, casts his ballot, during the presidential elections in Chisinau, Moldova, Oct. 30, 2016. Dodon and second-place finisher Maia Sandu will face off in a November. VOA
FILE – Leader of the Socialists Party, Igor Dodon, shown with his son Nikolai and wife Galina, casts his ballot, during the presidential elections in Chisinau, Moldova, Oct. 30, 2016. Dodon and second-place finisher Maia Sandu will face off in a November. VOA

Dodon wants to reverse the country’s move toward European integration, which included a historic association agreement signed in 2014 despite bitter opposition from Russia.

The vote is the first since 1997 where the president will be elected by national balloting instead of by parliament.

The tiny country of 3.5 million is one of Europe’s poorest, a situation only worsened by the turmoil that erupted in late 2014 when nearly $1 billion — around 10 percent of the country’s GDP — disappeared from three banks.

FILE - Leader of the Action and Solidarity Party, Maia Sandu, casts her vote during the presidential elections in Chisinau, Moldova, Oct. 30, 2016. Sandu and Igor Dodon, a Socialist former trade minister, will face off in a November 13 run-off. VOA
FILE – Leader of the Action and Solidarity Party, Maia Sandu, casts her vote during the presidential elections in Chisinau, Moldova, Oct. 30, 2016. Sandu and Igor Dodon, a Socialist former trade minister, will face off in a November 13 run-off. VOA

Moscow fears Moldova moving closer to the European Union, similar to what happened in Ukraine in 2014.

Russia also has thousands of troops stationed in the disputed military presence in the mainly Russian-speaking territory of Transdniester, which broke away following a short war that killed some 1,000 people.

Russia still keeps a contingent of troops ostensibly as peacekeepers in the territory.

Polls show the banking crisis sapped many Moldovans’ enthusiasm for European integration. It also prompted the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to suspend financial aid.

Map, VOA
Map of Ukraine, VOA

Earlier this week, however, the IMF approved nearly $180 million of loans for Moldova ahead of a presidential runoff election that could see the former Soviet republic move closer to Europe or tilt toward Russia.

The Washington-based fund cited what it said was Moldova’s improving economy and government reform to strengthen the banking sector. (VOA)

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USA Finally Votes On Tuesday To Render Decision On Trump

Republicans are counting on Trump's frenetic campaign pace in the final days to help them retain or even expand their narrow Senate majority.

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jamal Khashoggi, election
Trump, Merkel discuss trade, security issues at G-20 Summit. VOA

A sharply divided U.S. electorate is voting Tuesday to elect a new Congress and to render a midterm verdict on President Donald Trump. The results could shift the balance of power in Washington and alter the next two years of Trump’s presidency.

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are at stake Tuesday, plus 35 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats and 36 of the 50 state governorships.

Public opinion polls and analysts suggest that opposition Democrats have an advantage in the battle for control of the House of Representatives. Democrats are favored to win more House seats than they currently have and they need an overall gain of 23 to retake the House majority.

Republicans are counting on President Trump to rally his supporters to help maintain their narrow 51 to 49 seat edge in the Senate. Of the 35 Senate seats at stake Tuesday, Democrats hold 26 and Republicans hold nine.

Immigration focus

Democrats are trying to hold 10 Senate seats in states where Trump prevailed in the 2016 election, including Tennessee.

Trump blasted Democrats over immigration during a recent rally in Chattanooga.

America, election
A woman arrives at a polling station in Lark Community Center as early voting for midterm elections started, in McAllen, Texas. VOA

“Democrats want to invite caravan after caravan of illegal aliens to pour into our country. I don’t think so,” Trump said, invoking images of the caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico. “No nation can allow its borders to be overrun. And that is an invasion. I don’t care what they say. I don’t care what the fake media says. That is an invasion of our country.”

Democrats are getting some high-profile campaigners to help them including former President Barack Obama, who rallied voters in his home state of Illinois and told them Trump’s deployment of U.S. troops to the border in response to the caravan was a “political stunt.”

“When you vote, Illinois, you can reject that kind of politics. When you participate in the political process, you can be a check on bad behavior. When you vote, Illinois, you can choose hope over fear,” Obama said.

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President Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd at a rally in Chattanooga, Tenn. VOA

Early turnout has been huge in several states, especially for a midterm election when total voter turnout often struggles to reach 40 percent of eligible voters.

Trump a central issue

Polls show Democrats are most concerned with health care and the economy, with Republicans focused on immigration.

But Brookings Institution expert John Hudak said it is also clear that Trump is a major issue for both parties this year.

“This is a president who wants this midterm to be a referendum on him, largely because he thinks his own popularity is so great that it will carry Republicans across the finish line,” Hudak said.

But Trump is not only battling Democrats in this year’s election, he is also battling history.

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lorida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, left, and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), right, listen to former President Barack Obama as he addresses the media and supporters as they stump for votes at a rally in Miami, Florida, VOA

“The big picture is that midterm elections go against the president’s party,” noted John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. “I think there will be no difference here. The Democrats will do quite well in the House of Representatives, in the governorships and state legislatures.”

Trump’s approval rating is also a concern for Republicans. RealClearPolitics puts Trump’s average approval at about 43 percent, with 53 percent disapproving.

“The midterm history is pretty stark in that the president’s party usually loses ground in the midterms and it is usually a question of how much ground they lose,” said University of Virginia analyst Kyle Kondik. “That is particularly true when a president is unpopular, as this president is.”

Kondik notes that in the 29 congressional midterm elections held since 1900, the president’s party has lost House seats in all but three — 1934, 1998 and 2002.

Will Democrats turn out?

Historically, though, Republicans are more reliable voters in midterm elections.

Gallup pollster Frank Newport said that puts pressure on Democrats to make sure their supporters get out and vote.

America, election
People stand cast their ballots ahead of the Nov. 6 election at Jim Miller Park, in Marietta, Ga. VOA

“Under the expectation that Republican voters typically are more likely to turn out, can Democrats energize people who identify with the Democratic Party to turn out and vote for their candidates?” Newport said.

If Democrats win enough House seats to reclaim the majority, Trump would face a shift in the balance of power in Washington.

Also Read: U.S. President Donald Trump To Meet Google CEO Sundar Pichai And Other Heads Of Tech Giants

“The House has been a rubber stamp for the Trump agenda. It will no longer be a rubber stamp,” said Jim Kessler of the centrist Democratic group Third Way. “Anything that gets done will have to be a bipartisan basis.”

Democrats are hoping for a wave election that would bring them control of the House and gubernatorial victories in key states like Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Republicans are counting on Trump’s frenetic campaign pace in the final days to help them retain or even expand their narrow Senate majority. (VOA)