After a walkout by opposition Communists, Moldova's parliament failed to elect a president in its second try since November, plunging Europe's poorest country further into uncertainty.
The communist boycott on Monday meant that Moldova's Western-leaning coalition failed to elect Marian Lupu as the country's president. It was the second attempt to elect a president after a vote in November also failed.
Lupu - the single candidate for the presidency - won 53 out of 101 votes, falling just eight votes short of the 61 needed to secure him the top job.
As a result, parliament is likely to be dissolved by acting president Mihai Ghimpu in the second half of 2010, and new elections called. Elections may not be held sooner because of provisions in the country's constitution stipulating that parliament may only be dissolved once a year. Since the body was already dissolved in July of this year, the next dissolution may not take place before July 16, 2010.
Lupu has called for a national referendum to amend the presidential election process.
"It is necessary to change the constitution to allow for the president to be elected by a simple parliamentary majority or nationwide vote," he told reporters in the capital Chisinau.
Communists oppose more constitutional change
But former president and Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin said his party would remain firm in its opposition to Lupu's proposal and candidacy.
"We will not allow this," Voronin said. "The constitution is not something which anyone can change as they wish."
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The political stalemate is therefore set to go on in the small former Soviet republic of 4.1 million, while much-needed reforms will remain on the shelf. Moldova, which lies between Ukraine and EU member Romania, has a reputation for widespread corruption, while monthly pay averages around 200 euros ($300).
The current coalition of four pro-European liberal parties won a slim majority in parliamentary elections in July, ending eight years of Communist rule. It aims to strengthen Moldova's ties with the EU and bring the country in line with EU standards.