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Moldovan Parliament Fails To Elect Lupu President

Presidential candidate Marian Lupu
CHISINAU (Reuters) -- Moldova faced further political instability after a walkout by communists in parliament today blocked the election of the pro-Western coalition's candidate as state president.

The vote for president -- for which Marian Lupu was the only candidate -- was the latest attempt by the governing Alliance for European Integration to tighten its grip on the ex-Soviet state after defeating the communists in a July poll.

But the opposition communists, denouncing proceedings as a "political farce," stymied the election of Lupu, a communist defector, by leaving the chamber before the ballot.

This condemned the 53 Alliance deputies to taking part in a doomed ballot since they were eight short of the 61 votes required for a president to be elected.

Former communist President Vladimir Voronin has publicly ruled out voting for Lupu, 43, whom he labelled as "a traitor."

But there are dissidents within communist ranks who may be ready to support him in exchange for political concessions and acting president Mihai Ghimpu said he was confident Lupu would be elected next time round.

"We have to organize repeat elections for president and I am sure that Marian Lupu will become that president," he was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

The new vote should be held next month and deputies informally suggested the date of December 10.

If there is no result from that vote, Ghimpu must dissolve parliament and call a new parliamentary election.

Though a former communist, political analysts expect Lupu, if he is elected in future, to push forward with policies of European Union integration and step back from relations with former Soviet master Russia, on whom it depends heavily for energy imports.

IMF Bailout

Since a pro-Western government took over, Moldova has reversed policy and agreed to a $590 million bail-out program from the International Monetary Fund on condition it keeps a tight rein on the budget.

The European Union has said it would start talks soon on a new agreement for closer cooperation with Moldova once it penned a deal with the IMF and dependant on enforcing reforms.

Europe's poorest country with an average monthly wage of about $270 has suffered a sharp fall in trade and a drop in vital remittances from Moldovans working abroad.

Any new leadership will have also to deal with the "frozen conflict" in Transdniester. The mainly Russian-speaking region, home to much of the country's industry, broke away in 1990 and is demanding independence. Chisinau is willing to give it autonomy.

Moldova, a nation of 4.5 million, has been in political deadlock since the communists won a majority in an April election that was criticized by the opposition as fraudulent and led to violent protests.

The pro-Western coalition emerged as victors from a fresh parliamentary election in July that ended eight years of dominance by Voronin's communists. Voronin himself was unable to stand for a third consecutive term as president.

The communists, before marching out of the parliamentary chamber today, accused the new governing coalition of flouting the law and constitution since coming to power.

"The ruling Alliance is leading an anti-social policy, is violating the constitution, laws and regulations of parliament...All this borders usurping power. We cannot vote for the candidate of the ruling Alliance. We will not take part in this political farce," Maria Postoico, leader of the communist faction, said.

Oleg Serebryan, an Alliance leader, retorted that any future elections in Moldova would be genuinely democratic.

"We will create conditions for participation by hundreds of thousands of Moldovan citizens who, under communist rule, had to go and work abroad and were deprived of the right of expression," he told parliament.