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Moldovans To Go To Referendum, Early Polls In The Fall

CHISINAU -- Moldova's ruling coalition today announced it will hold a referendum in September to change the way the country's president is elected, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

The four-party ruling Alliance for European Integration also said it will then organize early parliamentary elections in November and -- in the even of a "yes vote" in September's referendum -- a first election of the president through a direct vote.

Under the current constitution, the president is elected by parliament and needs an unusually high majority of three-fifths of the deputies' votes.

The opposition communists, who have 48 seats in the 100-member parliament, have successfully blocked repeated attempts by the ruling alliance to pass its candidate for president, Marian Lupu.

Opinion polls show a majority of Moldovans want to be able to elect the head of state directly.

The fate of the early parliamentary election in November is harder to predict. The communists, who are currently in the opposition, remain the strongest single Moldovan party.

The Alliance for European Integration is still ahead of the communists in opinion polls.

But several unpopular austerity measures taken by the government under pressure from the International Monetary Fund -- such as a freeze on wages in the public sector and higher prices for energy and utilities -- could yet erode its popularity.