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FILE PHOTO: Moldovan President Igor Dodon delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia, June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mikhail Metzel/TASS/Host Photo Agency/Pool


CHISINAU (Reuters) - Moldova's constitutional court rejected on Thursday a plan to hold a referendum that might have boosted the powers of pro-Russian President Igor Dodon and paved the way for a roll-back of the ex-Soviet nation's trade pact with the European Union.

The court ruled that Dodon had acted against the constitution in March, when he signed a decree to hold a referendum on whether to grant him the power to dissolve parliament and call a snap election.

The decree also proposed cutting the number of members of parliament.

"The president exceeded his authority," the court ruled.

Moldovan politics is divided between the current pro-Western government that has forged closer trade and diplomatic links with the EU and the United States, and Dodon's administration which wants Moldova back in Russia's orbit.

But a $1 billion corruption scandal has sapped the popularity of the pro-EU leaders, helping Moscow-backed Dodon win the presidency in 2016.

Dodon said the court ruling denied citizens the right to be heard and showed that the court lacked political independence.

"This decision by the constitutional court proved ... that the court is subject to the influence of the Moldovan authorities," he said in a post on Facebook.

Moldova has seen three governments fall since 2015, when the banking scandal plunged the country, Europe's poorest, into political and economic chaos.

(Reporting by Alexander Tanas; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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