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Moldova Faces Hurdle After Referendum Appears to Fail

Europe's poorest country faces more political turmoil after the country's Western-leaning government appears to have failed to pass a referendum to hold popular elections for the president.

Moldova Central Election Commission Secretary Lurie Ciocan announced turnout figures.

From the data Moldova has now, the turnout in the referendum is just under 30 percent, meaning around 780,000 voters took part in the vote.

A third of the electorate is needed to pass the referendum, which would change the country's constitution to allow the nation's president to be elected through direct voting instead of parliament selecting the official.

If the measure passes, it would end a year of political deadlock involving the Communist parliamentary minority; which has repeatedly blocked the liberal coalition's choice for president, leaving the tiny former Communist country without a head of state.

Final figures still have to come in from a small breakaway territory and from those Moldovans who work in the West.

Despite the low turnout, alliance leaders continue to express hope and confidence that they could gain the required numbers and go on to win support for presidential election by popular, instead of parliamentary vote.

Marian Lupu, a parliament member and leader of Moldova's Democratic Party, says the referendum would finally end this political and constitutional crisis, which risks turning into a chronic one. He says if God forbids this to happen, we would not be able to carry out fundamental economic and social reforms, European reforms.

The Alliance ousted the Communists in 2009, but has not been able to get enough parliamentary votes to install a full-time head of state. The move left country's parliamentary speaker as president.

The ex-Soviet state has about 3.5 million residents. The average income is just more than $250 a month. The European Union says in order for the country to join the bloc, it needs major reforms.