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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moldovan Parliament Votes For President

CHISINAU, Moldova - Moldova's parliament is to vote on a president Friday, choosing between a lawyer who favors closer ties with Europe and a senior Communist Party official.

Neither Vladmir Voronin, 55, of the Communist Party, nor Pavel Barbalat, an independent who is supported by centrist parties is expected to garner the 61 votes needed in the 101-seat chamber for outright victory.

It is the first time Moldova's parliament elects a president.

If none of the candidates wins the votes required, there will be another ballot in three days' time. After that there will be another round in two weeks. If that is again unsuccessful, President Petru Lucinschi can dissove parliament.

Barbalat decided to run in an effort to prevent a pro-Russian Communist from becoming president.

The Communist Party has 40 seats and is Moldova's biggest party.

In a move designed to allay fears that he will make Moldova a satellite of Russia, Voronin has pledged not to interfere in Moldova's foreign policy.

Barbalat counts on the support of some 55 noncommunist lawmakers.

Moldova was part of neighboring Romania until 1940 when it was annexed to the Soviet Union under a pact with Nazi Germany.

Two-thirds of its 4.3 million inhabitants are of Romanian descent, and the languages in both countries are virtually identical.

The average monthly salary in Moldova is the equivalent of $16.5, and unemployment stands at 15 percent. Wages and pensions are months in arrears.