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Moldova Communists Boycott Parliament

Communist Party Vladimir Voronin

Communist Party Vladimir Voronin

CHISINAU -- Communist Party members in Moldova have begun a boycott of parliament sessions, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

The boycott is in protest at the pro-Western government's attempt to change the constitution and avoid early elections.

The communists are the largest opposition force with 43 seats in the 101-member assembly.

Their party leader Vladimir Voronin last week said the boycott would be open-ended and could be followed by additional protests, such as calling for a referendum on dismissing the government.

It was unclear, though, if the communists will be able to collect enough signatures for such a move.

The communists claim that the four-party ruling coalition is "undermining the state" by planning to change the constitution, which says the country should hold fresh elections by mid-June because the parliament has failed repeatedly to elect a new head of state.

Although the ruling coalition has not stated clearly which articles of the constitution it wants to change, the communists say that apart from making it easier to elect the president, the government would also like to change the name of the country's official language from "Moldovan" to "Romanian" and possibly to scrap Moldova's neutrality.

The communists are fierce opponents of Moldova joining NATO and of closer ties with NATO and EU-member Romania, of which Moldova was part until World War II.