Moldova’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the president should be elected by popular vote, reversing a 16-year-old constitutional amendment that gave lawmakers the power to choose the head of state.
The decision was the latest chapter in the continuing political turmoil that erupted in 2009 when President Vladimir Voronin's second constitutional term expired.
The court made the decision in response to a complaint filed by opposition lawmakers, who argued that the amendment had violated the constitution.
Court President Alexandru Tanase said March 4 that the decision would help avoid a new crisis in the country, which has seen months of anticorruption protests prompted by the disappearance of more than $1 billion from three banks in 2014.
Under the decision, incumbent President Nicolae Timofti, who was elected in 2012 and completes his term later this month, will stay on afterwards as acting president until parliament sets a date for direct presidential elections.
Lawmakers will have up to two months to do that.
Protesters have been demanding early elections, a move that would favor pro-Moscow opposition parties.
Under the current system, a candidate needs 61-vote majority in Moldova's 101-seat parliament.