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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moldova's Parliament To Vote Again

CHISINAU, Moldova - After an abortive attempt last week, Moldova's parliament was scheduled to try again Monday to elect a new president, choosing between a Communist official and a candidate who favors closer ties to Europe.

Parliament declared Friday's ballot invalid because it was marred by irregularities, but three deputies appealed during the weekend to the country's Constitutional Court to rule whether the vote was valid and what constitutes a secet ballot. Neither candidate won the requisite three-fifths majority.

However, the Constitutional Court decided Monday that it was parliament's own business to determine whether the vote was valid. It did rule that for the vote to be secret it must take place in a booth. There was no booth Friday.

Lawmakers were to resume their debate at 2 p.m. (1100 GMT), followed by another vote.

There were angry scenes Friday, with Communist lawmakers accusing other party members of looking over their shoulders to see whether they were voting for the Communist Party candidate.

To win, Communist candidate Vladimir Voronin or independent Pavel Barbalat need 61 votes. In Friday's ballot, Voronin finished ahead of Barbalat, with a 48-37 tally. Fifteen votes were tossed out after deputies declared they had been deliberately ruined.

The election marked the first time that parliament rather than voters chose the head of state in what is supposed to be a secret ballot.

Parliament changed the constitution this year to have its members choose the president after disputes with outgoing President Petru Lucinschi over the appointment of a new government.

The Communist Party is Moldova's biggest with 40 seats. Barbalat, 65, counted on the support of many centrist deputies in the parliament of this impoverished former Soviet republic. He is head of the Constitutional Court but will not participate in Monday's vote on whether Friday's ballot was valid.

Under existing rules, parliament has three attempts before the outgoing president can dissolve the legislature and call new elections. Barbalat, 65, said he decided to run in order to prevent a pro-Russian Communist from becoming president. Voronin has pledged not to interfere in Moldova's foreign policy to allay fears that he would make Moldova a satellite of Russia.

Voronin, 55, wants to reverse Moldova's path toward a market economy. Some 600,000 Moldovans have left the country since it declared independence in 1991. Moldova is one of the most impoverished in the region with an average monthly salary of $16.50. Unemployment is 15 percent in the country of 4.3 million.

Moldova's president has become an increasingly ceremonial post in recent years as parliament has worked to enhance its authority. However, the president remains head of the Supreme Defense Council and can dissolve parliament. He also has the right to appoint a prime minister who must be approved by parliament.