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New Moldovan parliament meets after communists fail

By Alexander Tanas
/ Source: Reuters

By Alexander Tanas

Moldova's new parliament holds its first session on Friday amid uncertainty over whether the communists, who have run Europe's poorest nation since 2001, will go into opposition or strike a political deal to keep control.

This first sitting is expected to kick-start the procedure for forming a new government in ex-Soviet Moldova and electing a president to replace outgoing communist President Vladimir Voronin, who cannot stand for a third consecutive term.

Four pro-western parties, which emerged with the upper hand in an election last month, have formed a coalition dedicated to taking the country of 4.3 million, bordering EU member Romania and Ukraine, into the European mainstream.

They have 53 seats in the 101-seat parliament -- enough to form a government, but too few to vote through their choice of president.

The communists, who have pursued varying policies of closer ties with Moscow and integration with Europe, control the other 48 seats. Sixty-one votes are needed to elect the president.

The first task for parliament on Friday is the election of a new speaker, a powerful post which some commentators believed would go to Marian Lupu. He leads the Democratic Party, one of the mainstays of the Alliance for European Integration.

But others believe surprises could emerge at the session, possibly with Lupu deciding to join forces with the Communists in what they describe as a center-left anti-crisis alliance.

Lupu, a defector from the Communists, has suggested he could forge an alliance again with the party if Voronin left politics.

The Communists finished far in front in an April election which prompted violent street protests by young urban voters.

It was the Communists' subsequent failure to secure election of their presidential candidate that prompted the July election.

Should a new deadlock arise, Voronin would remain in office until another election next year.

Whoever is in power will grapple with an economic crisis -- the economy is expected to shrink by 9 percent as remittances fall. They must also try to resolve a 19-year-old separatist rebellion in Transdniestria, where Russia has a military contingent.