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Big Wins Expected for Moldova's Pro-Russia Parties in Local Elections

FILE - A woman pushes a stroller past posters advertising the Party of Communists of Moldova, in Chisinau, Moldova, May 28, 2015.

Moldova held local elections on Sunday with polls forecasting big wins for pro-Moscow parties at a time of political turmoil following the resignation of the prime minister and the theft of $1 billion from the country's banking system.

The departure on Friday of the 38-year-old pro-Europe premier Chiril Gaburici after just over 100 days in office came as the tiny former Soviet republic, one of Europe's poorest states, seethes with resentment over the missing cash, equivalent to around one-eighth of annual GDP.

Moldova is governed by a minority coalition supported by two pro-European parties, but economic mismanagement, trade pressure from Russia and the failure of successive governments to tackle corruption mean nostalgia for Soviet times and traditional links with Moscow remains high among large sections of the population.

Opinion polls show the majority of regional seats being won by leftist parties that support Moldovan membership of the Moscow-led Customs Union, which would facilitate exports of wine and food products to a free-trade zone between members Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.