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Leading Moldovan Communist Quits Party, Says Others To Follow

Victor Stepaniuc (file photo)

Victor Stepaniuc (file photo)

CHISINAU -- A leading Communist Party deputy in Moldova's parliament has told RFE/RL he will quit the party and predicted more Communists will defect this week.

If Victor Stepaniuc's forecast proves correct, it could produce sufficient votes to break a presidential stalemate.

Stepaniuc, who was seen as the communists' ideological leader, told RFE/RL's Moldovan Service that his decision was caused by what he called "mistakes" in the upper echelon of the party.

He said Communist Party head and former President Vladimir Voronin had failed to listen to suggestions by other party members, for instance to promote Marian Lupu within the party ranks.

Lupu quit the Communists in the spring and is now a leader of what is generally regarded as a pro-Western ruling coalition, which has selected him as its presidential candidate.

Stepaniuc told RFE/RL that more Communists, as many as "eight or nine," would announce on December 15 that they were leaving the party.

Cracks within the Communist Party emerged after the group decided not to vote for Lupu in a second attempt by parliament to elect a president on December 7.

Lupu was eight votes short of gaining election.

The Communists had a virtual stranglehold on power for about a decade, when party leader Vladimir Voronin controlled the presidency.