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Europe

Communists, opposition leaders agree to recount

Video by Christophe BAUER

Latest update : 2009-04-07

Moldovan authorities and opposition leaders agreed to a recount of votes cast in Sunday's parliamentary election after demonstrators protesting a victory by the ruling Communist party seized the president's offices, claiming the vote was rigged.

REUTERS - Moldovan authorities and opposition leaders agreed on Tuesday to a recount of votes cast in Sunday's parliamentary election, Russia's RIA news agency reported, after demonstrators seized the president's offices.

 

About 10,000 demonstrators massed for a second day in the capital of Europe's poorest country after the Communist Party, led by veteran president Vladimir Voronin, scored a big victory.

 

Protesters, denouncing the vote as rigged, hurled computers into the street while police took cover behind riot shields.

 

Opposition leaders had been demanding a new election to resolve the confrontation with Voronin, the only Communist president in Europe, who accused protesters of seeking to destabilise the country and demanded an end to the "bacchanalia".

 

The Communists won about 50 percent of the vote. Parliament elects the president, and the Communists appeared very close to securing the 61 seats they need in the 101-seat assembly to secure victory for their chosen candidate.

 

RIA news agency, quoting an unidentified official from Moldova's presidential office, said Moldovan authorities had agreed with opposition leaders to hold the recount.

 

Moldova's three main opposition leaders were holding talks following the protests with President Voronin and Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanii, lawmaker Alexandru Oleinic told Reuters.

 

Most of the protesters are students who see no future if Communists keep their hold on the ex-Soviet state of 4 million people which is wedged between Ukraine and Romania -- on the European Union's border, but within what Russia sees as its sphere of influence.

 

They overwhelmed riot police protecting both the president's office and parliament -- located opposite each other on the capital Chisinau's main boulevard -- and poured into both buildings through smashed windows.

 

They heaped tables, chairs and papers onto a bonfire outside parliament, and fires could also be seen in some of the building's windows.

 

A Reuters reporter saw protesters waving Moldovan flags -- a tricolour of blue, yellow and red with the country's coat of arms -- from the roof and balcony of the presidential offices.

 

Police were forced to retreat in disarray from attacks by protesters hurling stones and other projectiles.

 

They withdrew beneath riot shields as demonstrators pushed them from their positions. Some demonstrators were seen chasing police away after seizing truncheons and riot shields.

 

"The election was controlled by the Communists, they bought everyone off," said Alexei, a student. "We will have no future under the Communists because they just think of themselves."

 

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has already congratulated Voronin on his party's election win and the Foreign Ministry said Russia was deeply concerned by the events in Moldova.

 

Opposition demands new election

 

The opposition parties, which stand broadly for closer ties with neighbouring Romania, say only a new election can resolve the dispute over what they say are rigged results.

 

"We call for a new election to be held. And we will win it," Serafim Urecheanu of Our Moldova, one of three opposition parties to win seats in Sunday's election, told a rally after a truce was established between protesters and police.

 

Voronin has overseen stability and growth since 2001, but he has been unable to resolve an 18-year-old separatist rebellion in the Russian-speaking region Transdniestria, where Russia has had troops since Soviet times.

 

He cannot stand for a third consecutive term but has made it plain that he wants to retain the levers of power. Analysts say he could try to take on another influential role such as parliamentary speaker.

 

The election polarised Moldova between mostly older and rural voters, who see the Communists as a guarantor of stability, and those who identify with pro-Western liberal parties that broadly call for closer ties with Romania.

 

Moldova is one of six former Soviet states with which the EU is due to launch a new programme of enhanced ties at a summit in Prague next month. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana called on all sides to show restraint.

 

Date created : 2009-04-07

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