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Low turnout in Moldova's referendum sparks fears of failure

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Turnout results from all but three of Moldova's regions show that only some 25 percent of the country's eligible voters has gone to the polls in Sunday's referendum on whether the Moldovan president should be directly elected.

Turnout results from all but three of Moldova's regions show that only some 25 percent of the country's eligible voters have gone to the polls in Sunday's referendum on whether the Moldovan president should be directly elected, the Central Election Commission has said.

The West-leaning coalition government campaigned for the change as a way to break the political deadlock that has left the country without a full-fledged president for 18 months.

The turnout in the referendum must pass 33 percent for the vote to be valid.

Moldova's acting President Mikhai Ghimpu has blamed the low turnout on the opposition Communist Party, which has called for a boycott of the referendum.

Ghimpu said that in line with Moldovan law, if the referendum did not pass, he would be forced to dissolve the parliament and announce early elections.

Moldovan Prime Minister Vladimir Filat has expressed doubts that the turnout will be enough for the referendum to pass, but said "there is no tragedy," adding "we should act further in accordance with law."

Should the referendum fail, he said he would push for early parliamentary elections to be held in the near future.

The impoverished former Soviet republic has been divided between the Communists, who had dominated the political scene for most of the decade, and the ruling coalition of four parties who seek closer ties with the European Union.

Parliamentary elections in April and July last year left no political force strong enough to secure the 61 votes in the 101-seat chamber to elect a new president.

The government has said that if the referendum passes, it will hold presidential and parliamentary elections in November.

CHISINAU, September 6 (RIA Novosti)

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