CHISINAU, May 28 (Reuters) - Moldova’s parliament conducts a second ballot on Thursday to elect a president to replace veteran Vladimir Voronin and avoid a fresh parliamentary election in Europe’s poorest country.
The Communist victory in last month’s parliamentary election sparked violent protests. But the Communists last week fell one vote short in parliament of electing their candidate and if the ballot again fails on Thursday, the chamber will be dissolved and a snap parliamentary election called.
Here are some facts about Moldova and the vote.
* A former Soviet republic, Moldova is sandwiched between Ukraine and European Union-member Romania with which it shares a historical and linguistic heritage. Voronin has wavered over the past eight years between close ties with the EU and Russia.
* Voronin, in power since 2001 and unable to stand for a third consecutive term, has made it clear he wants to keep his grip on power and was elected speaker of parliament this month.
* The president is elected by parliament following an election to the assembly. A presidential candidate must secure the votes of 61 of 101 members to take office, but the Communists, in power since 2001, only have 60 seats.
* A first ballot on presidential candidate Zinaida Greceanii — a 53-year-old Communist handpicked by Voronin — failed to produce the necessary number of votes. Parliament has two chances to approve the president.
* After the parliamentary election, young anti-communist protesters ransacked the parliament and presidential buildings. [ID:nL7581683] Human rights organisations later reported police brutality against detainees including torture, accusations denied by the authorities. [ID:nLF241864]
* Opposition parties, liberal and pro-European, distanced themselves from the unrest, but accused the Communists of vote rigging in the parliamentary election. They have vowed to boycott the vote in parliament, as they did last week.
* Moldova is Europe’s poorest country, its economy dominated by agriculture and in particular wine, spirits and tobacco production. The population is 4 million.
* A “frozen conflict” in Transdniestria, a sliver of land bordering Ukraine, remains unsolved since the Russian-speaking region broke away in 1990, fearing Moldova might one day reunite with Romania.
* Voronin was at first close to Russia, then fell out with Moscow over allegations it was abetting separatists in Transdniestria. He has in the past year restored closer ties with Russia. (Compiled by Sabina Zawadzki)