Europe's poorest country Moldova votes Sunday in a referendum aimed at ending a protracted political stalemate and paving the way for the selection of a new president.
For the last year, the impoverished ex-Soviet nation bordering EU member Romania has been unable to elect a president since no candidate has got the necessary three-fifths majority in parliament, which has a large Communist minority.
Voters will decide whether to change the constitution and return to a system in which the president is directly elected by the public. Since 2000, the country's president has been elected by the parliament.
Moldova's governing liberal coalition won a slim majority in parliamentary elections in July 2009, ending eight years of Communist rule.
The liberal coalition was elected after protesters rioted in the capital Chisinau in April 2009 following a disputed election, in anger at allegations that the ruling Communists had rigged the vote.
|Europe's poorest country Moldova votes Sunday in a referendum aimed at ending a protracted political stalemate and paving the way for the selection of a new president|
But it has not yet been able to win over enough Communist votes to raise the three-fifths majority needed to elect its democratic presidential candidate Marian Lupu.
Lupu fell short of the required majority in an abortive election in December last year. An earlier vote in November ended in failure because of a walk-out by the Communist bloc.
Recent opinion polls have shown that 75-90 percent of those who plan to vote in the referendum support direct presidential elections.
The referendum will be valid if at least 33 percent of the electorate votes, and the constitutional change will be introduced if at least half the voters support it.
The head of Moldova's constitutional court has warned that the referendum, which would turn the country into a semi-presidential republic, could lead to a stand-off between the president and the parliament.
If the referendum is passed, the presidential and parliamentary elections could be held simultaneously, possibly on November 14.