CHISINAU (Reuters) -- A leading member of Moldova's Communist group in parliament said today he was quitting and taking with him three or four other members because of the bloc's boycott of a new president.
A Communist walkout from parliament, enforced by the party's leadership, meant Marian Lupu, who represents a new Western-leaning coalition, missed being elected president by eight votes in the delicately balanced assembly on December 7.
Another parliamentary ballot is not possible and the outcome means the small ex-Soviet country of 4.1 million, Europe's poorest, will face paralysis in decision-making next year with much-needed reform being shelved.
Parliament is now likely to be dissolved in the second half of 2010 and a new general election called.
"The boycott of the election of president is forcing me to leave the [parliamentary] faction," Communist bloc deputy Vladimir Turcan said.
"I think three or four deputies will follow my example. I intend to leave the parliamentary faction of the Communist Party and will remain an independent deputy or form a new grouping in parliament," he told PRO-TV Chisinau television.
Communists in parliament toed the party line on Lupu's election even though several of them had been ready to back him in the interests of ending a political stalemate in the country.
The country, which lies between Ukraine and European Union member Romania, has been gripped by uncertainty since the Communists won an election last April that was condemned as fraudulent by the liberal opposition.
The result led to violent protests in which the parliament building was ransacked and a snap election was called in July which the four-party Alliance for European Integration went on to win.
The Communists, led by ex-President Vladimir Voronin, appear to be counting on improving their position in a new general election that is now likely for autumn 2010.
They currently hold 48 seats against the alliance's 53.
The alliance, which is seeking to move Moldova into the European mainstream and shake up institutions and business practices to bring it into line with EU standards, reveled in the new Communist defection.
"The Communists acted illogically and so the party is suffering. We in the right-wing alliance must go ahead if we get the chance of splitting it," Prime Minister Vlad Filat, who leads the Liberal Democrats in the alliance, told Reuters.
"We will support those who leave this party and we will do all we can to destroy it," said Serafim Urechean, leader of another alliance party, Our Moldova.
Lupu, a 43-year-old economist, appealed to the Communists to put "narrow interests" behind them and support him for the presidency for the sake of the country.
But in the end Voronin, a personal enemy of Lupu's, prevailed and the party insisted all its lawmakers boycott his election.