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Moldova's referendum declared invalid because of low turnout (UPDATE 1)

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Moldova's referendum on whether the country's president should be directly elected was declared invalid on Monday as voter turnout has not reached the necessary 33.33 percent.

Moldova's referendum on whether the country's president should be directly elected was declared invalid on Monday as voter turnout has not reached the necessary 33.33 percent, the head of the Moldovan Central Election Commission said.

Only 30.98 percent of eligible voters have gone to Sunday's polls, Yevgeny Shtirbu said.

The referendum was held in a bid to break the political deadlock that has left the country without a full-fledged president for 18 months.

Several hours earlier, when turnout figures showed that the referendum would most probably fail, Moldova's acting President Mikhai Ghimpu said he would be forced to dissolve the parliament and announce early elections.

Moldovan Prime Minister Vladimir Filat said he would push for early parliamentary elections to be held "in the near future." In line with the country's laws, a new parliamentary election cannot be held before next fall.

Communist leader Vladimir Voronin, who called for a boycott of the referendum, described it as a "real vote of censure against the current regime."

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.

CHISINAU, September 6 (RIA Novosti)

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