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Constitutional Court orders poll recount

Video by Marian HENBEST

Latest update : 2009-04-14

Some 5,000 demonstrators gathered on Sunday, marking a week of protests against the April 5 election results that gave President Vladimir Voronin's Communists a narrow win. Moldova's Constitutional Court agreed to a recount.

REUTERS - Moldova’s Constitutional Court agreed on Sunday to a request from President Vladimir Voronin to stage a recount of last week’s election in which a victory by his Communist Party sparked violent protests.

Voronin submitted the request on grounds that a recount could re-establish calm in the former Soviet republic wedged between Ukraine and Romania after anti-communist protesters this week ransacked the president’s office and parliament.

The president accuses opposition parties of plotting a coup and says Romania fomented the turmoil in a country bordering the European Union but beset by a post-Soviet “frozen conflct”.

“The Constitutional Court of Moldova hereby orders the Central Election Commission to recount within nine days all ballots cast by voters in the election of April 5,” Court Chairman Dumitru Pulbere said after the court’s sitting.

Pulbere also said the recount of the parliamentary election would involve an examination of voters’ lists as demanded by the opposition, which has alleged mass poll fraud.

“These two issues are closely linked. You cannot do one without the other,” he said.

The court had been expected to approve the president’s request as eight of its nine judges were appointed during his time in office.

Results gave the Communists nearly 50 percent and 60 seats -- one short of the number needed to ensure victory for their candidate when the assembly later elects the president.

Voronin has served two consecutive terms and cannot run again, although he has said he wants to remain in some kind of decision-making role.

Recount could be ordered

Pulbere acknowledged the process could take longer than anticipated. The court, he said, had already given the election commission two days more than set down by law as Moldova’s majority Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter next week.

“If there are problems or complications of any sort, the Constitutional Court, at the request of the Central Election Commission, can still extend the deadline,” he said. “But we should agree that this process cannot last indefinitely.”

Opposition parties had earlier said the proposed recount was intended to mask election fraud and demanded a new poll instead.  Their supporters staged a peaceful rally on Sunday before the court sitting to denounce what they view as human rights abuses.

About 5,000 protesters heard opposition party leaders accuse Voronin’s administration of keeping demonstrators incommunicado and ill-treating them. About 200 protesters have been detained.

“Voronin wants to draw an iron curtain between Moldova and the European Union and Romania,” said Serafim Urecheanu of the Our Moldova party, one of three groups that won seats.

Authorities said a second participant in this week’s upheavals had died of smoke inhalation, but opposition activists and his family said he had been beaten by police. About 200 people were hurt in the melee, including 80 policemen.

The opposition has tried to distance itself from the violence and repeatedly called for calm at the rally.

Analysts have suggested Voronin could take on another top job once he steps down, like speaker of parliament or head of its biggest faction.

The president has moved closer to the Kremlin recently and applauded its efforts to help resolve an 18-year-old separatist rebellion in Moldova’s Russian-speaking Transdniestria region.

Though most of Moldova was once part of Romania and the two neighbours share a linguistic and cultural heritage, it also has longstanding ties with Russia.

Date created : 2009-04-12