Moldova's pro-Europe government has fallen to a confidence vote brought on by scandal and bitter feuds within Prime Minister Vlad Filat's ruling coalition.
The vote on Tuesday is likely to lead to new elections and raises questions over whether a new government will continue the drive towards the European Union (EU) or seek closer relations with Russia.
"This is a blow to Moldova and its citizens who dream of integration into the European Union," Filat said.
"After the resignation of the government, it cannot be excluded that there will be changes to the direction the country
Some 54 politicians voted Filat's government out after the main partner of the Liberal Democratic party he leads broke away over a battle to control the justice system.
The three-party Alliance for European Integration ousted the communists in 2009. It has worked since then to break with the Soviet past and integrate the small landlocked state that borders Ukraine and EU-member Romania into mainstream Europe.
The communists seized the opportunity to call a no-confidence vote amid a backdrop of corruption as Filat fell out publicly with other coalition leaders who called for his resignation.
|Pro-EU supporters' European dream may have now ended [EPA]
Communist Party leader and former president Vladimir Voronin led the charge against the ruling coalition in parliament.
"This government is responsible for impoverishing the people," he said.
Several top members of the retired government are now under investigation.
Finance Minister Veaceslav Negruta is being probed over the payment of 400,000 euros in compensation to a businessman named Petru Sandulchai after a
court decision went against him.
Culture Minister Boris Focsa is being investigated for the illegal privatisation of a historic building in the capital Chisinau.
Health Minister Andrei Usatii is under investigation for using a hospital as collateral for a bank credit.
All could face several years in jail if found guilty.
Moldova is one of the poorest corners of Europe. It is heavily reliant on Russian energy supplies and its weak economy is kept afloat by cash remittances from several hundred thousands of Moldovans working in Russia and EU countries.
The European Union (EU) has signalled strongly that Moldova is on track to sign landmark agreements on association and free trade at the end of this year.
President Nicolae Timofti now has 45 days and three attempts in which to get parliament to approve his pick for new premier.