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Moldova Votes in Key Poll

A woman casts a ballot during a parliamentary election at a polling station in Laloveni near Chisinau, Moldova, Nov. 30, 2014.

The polls have closed in crucial parliamentary elections in Moldova, where voters chose between parties that want to pursue integration with Europe and those advocating closer ties with Russia.

No exit polls were released after the voting, but first results are expected early Monday. No party is expected to gain an outright majority in the 101-seat parliament.

Surveys indicate public opinion is just about equally divided between voters favoring European Union-friendly political parties and those deemed pro-Russia. Analysts say the Communist Party, led by former president Vladimir Voronin, could form a coalition with either side.

Voronin said he hoped the poll would produce a clear direction for Moldova, a former Soviet republic with a population of about 3.5 million people.

"I voted for Moldova to get rid of the problems it has seen for five years now - the corruption, the mafia that is all over Moldova, and all over our citizens, and because of which we cannot develop. I hope that something clear will come from these elections, even though I don't have great expectations. Because they (the elections) are organized in such a manner that falsifications and all sorts of games will occur, because the ones who rule the country now don't want to leave the government under any circumstances," said Voronin.

Voter Stefan Petru, 61, said he hoped the vote would establish a relationship between elected officials and their constituents.

"People need to gain confidence in the [officials] they vote for. And the elected must also take care of us and look out for us. We need to make some progress towards going into Europe. If we resolve all the problems, we'll be good. This is the main thing, to have confidence in the ones who we vote for,” said Petru.

For another voter, Petru Croitoru, 56, the poll was about the country’s future course.

"We expect a better country after this elections. A beautiful future, a European future, for our children… for all our country. So help us God," said Croitoru.

Moscow has made clear it wants to keep Moldova within its sphere of influence, maintaining troops in the Russian-speaking breakaway region of Transdniestria.

The government in Chisinau signed a historic agreement with the EU earlier this year, despite bitter opposition from Russia. With the signing of the accord, Moldovans gained visa-free travel to Western Europe, access to a free trade zone, and hundreds of millions of euros in funding. Russia retaliated with an embargo on imports of many Moldovan foods.

Moldova, one of Europe's smallest and poorest countries, is wedged between Ukraine and EU member Romania.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.