Meet Maia Sandu, the pro-Western woman who takes on Putin’s mini-me in Moldova’s decisive election

MOSCOW – Women leaders often suffer brutal treatment in post-Soviet states. It takes courage to run for president against an autocrat, especially one backed by Vladimir Putin. All of this highlights the success of Maia Sandu, a Harvard graduate and pro-Western Democrat, who beat her competitor, Igor Dodon, the incumbent President of Moldova, in the first round of the country’s presidential election.

Sandu not only won despite Putin’s open support and “good luck” wishes for his opponent. She took a surprise lead over Dodon in the first round and now, according to experts, has a good chance of winning the second round of the presidential election on Sunday.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Sandu said that Dodon had launched a dirty disinformation campaign against her with a “constant bombardment of fake news”. She said she was disappointed with her opponent’s leadership and lack of reform and fight against corruption. Dodon “inherited” a corrupt state system from a wealthy man long regarded as the puppeteer of Moldovan politics, Vladimir Plahotniuc, who was forced into exile, she added.

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