Moldova's pro-Western leadership brushed off Communist calls for an early election and pressed ahead on Wednesday with plans to break a political impasse with a referendum in September.
The small ex-Soviet republic has been without a president since last September and rivalry between the ruling Alliance for European Integration and the Communists has repeatedly doomed attempts to elect a new one.
Analysts say the deadlock is draining the political energy needed to enact reform in one of Europe's poorest countries where average monthly pay is $240.
Wednesday marked a full year since the last parliament was dissolved. Under the constitution, the leadership should now call an election within a "reasonable" timeframe.
But acting president Mihai Ghimpu, a right-wing nationalist, dismissed Communist calls for parliament to be dissolved within the next 10 days and an election date to be fixed.
He stood by plans for a referendum in September to decide how the head of state should be elected -- by parliament, as it is now, or by a popular vote which the pro-Western coalition wants.
"I will not sign any decree on dissolving parliament until the referendum is held because in the decree I would have to fix a date for elections to parliament within 45 days," he told a news conference.
Moldova, which lies between Ukraine and European Union member Romania, aspires to EU membership one day. But it suffers from widespread corruption while the judiciary, police and state security apparatus are politicised.
Its economy was hit hard by the global financial crisis that squeezed remittances from hundreds of thousands of Moldovans working abroad, one of the country's main sources of revenue.
The Communists, once the dominant political force in Moldova, appear to feel they would fare better in an early election than the four-party Alliance coalition.
Communists in parliament have consistently managed to block election of the coalition's candidate, Marian Lupu, as president through the parliamentary voting procedure.
They oppose the idea of a presidential election by universal suffrage since they have no eligible candidate who could beat Lupu, a charismatic left-winger, at the polls, analysts say.