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Outgoing Moldovan Leader Elected Parliament Speaker

Vladimir Voronin was denied a third presidential term by the constitution.

Vladimir Voronin was denied a third presidential term by the constitution.

CHISINAU (Reuters) -- Outgoing Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin has won election as speaker of parliament, which could enable him to retain his hold on power.

Voronin, in power since 2001, could not run for a third presidential term.

Addressing the chamber, he called for reconciliation with opposition parties after the victory of his Communists in last month's parliamentary elections sparked violent protests.

But Voronin won backing only from his 60 party deputies with the 41-strong opposition, broadly liberal and pro-Romanian in outlook, boycotting the vote.

Parliament must now elect a new president by at least 61 votes. The opposition has vowed to remain united in taking no part in the forthcoming ballot and failure to elect a president in two ballots will result in a new general election.

"Even if we have irreconcilable ideological differences with the opposition, we have to join efforts for the sake of those people who voted for us," Voronin told deputies.

"I see my main task as speaker of parliament in ensuring such cooperation."

He also said parliament had to pay "special attention" to the economy to tackle the effects of the global financial crisis in the country wedged between Ukraine and Romania.

The crisis has reduced by a third the remittances sent home by hundreds of thousands of its citizens now living abroad -- mostly in Russia and Italy.

Voronin, the only Communist leader in Europe, made it clear in the run-up to last month's elections he wants to hold the reins of power in another senior post.

Riots erupted after the Communists won 60 of the 101 seats, with young protesters, angry at the prospect of further party rule, ransacking parliament and the president's office.

The president called for a recount on grounds that it could promote reconciliation in the country of 4 million, but the new count left the party standings unchanged.