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Moldova Sets Presidential Election For Next Week

Following former President Vladimir Voronin's (center) election as speaker, former Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanii (left) is the leading candidate for president.
CHISINAU (Reuters) -- Parliament in Moldova, an ex-Soviet state jolted by political protests last month, has announced it would hold a presidential election on May 20.

A resolution named the date one day after outgoing Communist President Vladimir Voronin was elected parliament speaker, a position from which he hopes to remain in a position of power in the country wedged between Romania and Ukraine.

The Communists, by far the largest group in parliament after last month's elections to the chamber, immediately named Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanii as their candidate in the election.

"This decision was made on Wednesday at the plenum of the Central Committee of the Moldovan Communist Party," the Omega news agency, close to the Communists, said.

The nomination of Greceanii, a largely compliant figure in charge of the government in the later years of Voronin's mandate, had been widely expected.

Voronin, in power since 2001, cannot run for a third term in Moldova, where parliament elects the president. If the election fails to produce a winner after two ballots, the chamber is dissolved and new parliamentary elections must take place.

The Communists won 60 of 101 seats in last month's elections, but remain one seat short of the 61 needed to elect a president.

Three opposition parties, broadly liberal and pro-Romanian in orientation, hold a combined total of 41 seats and have vowed to boycott the poll.

The outcome of last month's elections sparked mass protests, with young demonstrators unhappy at the prospect of continued Communist rule ransacking parliament and the president's office.

As president, Voronin was initially close to Russia, but turned away from it for a time before restoring close ties and praising Kremlin attempts to negotiate an end to the separatist rebellion in Moldova's Russian-speaking Transdniester region.