CHISINAU Moldova's parliament on Tuesday passed a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Vlad Filat's government after weeks of feuding within the three-party pro-Europe coalition which has ruled in the former Soviet republic for more than three years.
The opposition communists, pushed out by the Alliance for European Integration in 2009 after years in power, seized the opportunity to call for a no confidence vote after Filat fell out publicly with other coalition leaders who called for his resignation.
The vote means that Filat's government must formally resign within three days, but will stay on as an interim one until agreement is reached on a new prime minister or - failing that - early elections are held.
The three-party Alliance has been working to integrate the tiny landlocked state, bordering Ukraine and EU-member Romania, into the European mainstream since it ousted the communists.
But simmering rivalries, personal feuds and conflicting business interests among the Alliance's leaders burst to the surface last month when Filat accused his allies of corruption and withdrew his Liberal Democratic Party's support for the founding coalition agreement.
Commentators say a prolonged crisis in the country, which the European Union sees as a regional beacon of progress despite its poverty, might endanger the signing of a political association agreement with the EU at the end of the year.
Fifteen deputies from the centre-left Democratic party, which is one of the Alliance partners, joined the opposition communists - the biggest single faction in parliament - in the vote to bring down the Filat government.
(Reporting by Alexander Tanas; Writing By Richard Balmforth)