Leaders of Moldova's opposition have announced plans to boycott the next parliament as the country's supreme court sets a deadline for a political showdown in the former Soviet republic.
"We will not participate in the election of a president, or in parliamentary sessions that will discuss it," said Mihai Gimpu, leader of the opposition Liberal Party of Moldova (LPM).
Disputed national elections earlier this month gave the ruling Communists 60 seats in Moldova's 101-seat legislature, prompting violent clashes in the capital, Chisinau.
Opposition demonstrators accused the communists of voter fraud and battled with police on April 7, leaving one dead, hundreds injured, and the parliament building ransacked and partially burned.
According to the constitution, Moldova's next president must be voted into office by the new parliament, by a 61 member majority.
However, three opposition parties, including the LPM, control 41 seats in Moldova's legislature, according to a vote recount completed by the Central Election Commission on Wednesday - creating a potential deadlock.
Opposition aiming to block presidential selection
Moldova's Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon set a limit on the time allowed for the legislature to select a president, ruling that parliament must choose a new chief executive by July 7.
If it fails to agree on a president by that date, the parliament must be dissolved and new elections would have to be held, the court said, setting the rival factions on a possible collision course once again.
Independent observers including monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ruled Moldova's April 5 elections were generally free and fair.
Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, head of the Communist Party, took the country's top office in 2001 and has held it ever since. But as he is prevented by constitutional statute from continuing in office, a new president must be chosen.
Concerned EU discuss sending mission to Moldova
Meanwhile, European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner has backed the idea of sending an EU mission to Moldova.
"Personally I'm in favor of such a mission, that's absolutely clear. Now we have to work out the terms of reference of such a mission," she told a press conference in Brussels.
The idea of an investigative mission, including representatives from the European Commission and the Moldovan opposition was first mooted Wednesday by Czech President Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.
Topolanek made the suggestion during a visit to Moldova where he met communist president Vladimir Voronin and opposition figures, saying it would help shed light on recent events and help restore calm.
The mission proposal will be put to a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday.
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