REUTERS - Moldova's president accused the opposition of attempting a violent coup on Tuesday after protesters denouncing an election win by his ruling Communist party ransacked his offices and parliament.
As many as 10,000 demonstrators massed for a second straight day in the capital of Europe's poorest country after the Communist Party led by veteran president Vladimir Voronin scored a big victory in a weekend parliamentary election.
Protesters overwhelmed riot police and ransacked the president's office, hurling computers into the street and waving flags from the roof while police took cover behind riot shields. One woman died and dozens of people were injured.
Opposition leaders condemned the violence and demanded a new election to resolve the confrontation with Voronin, the only Communist president in Europe.
"Everything that they have undertaken in the last 24 hours cannot be described as anything other than a coup d'etat," Voronin said in a television address.
"The authorites in Moldova will not allow groups of fascists intoxicated with hatred to trample on our democracy," he said, adding that opposition leaders had "embarked on the path of violent seizure of power".
Voronin made his comments after meeting opposition leaders, who denied reports by Russian news agencies that the authorities had agreed to a recount in the elections. Official results put the Communists in front with close to 50 percent of the vote.
Most of the protesters were students who see no future if Communists keep their hold on the ex-Soviet state of 4 million people. Wedged between Ukraine and Romania on edge of the European Union, Moldova is within what Russia sees as its sphere of influence.
Opposition leaders called for a halt to the violence after protesters hurled computers into the street and heaped tables and chairs onto a bonfire outside parliament. Fires were also lit inside.
Moldovan state television said a young woman choked to death from carbon monoxide poisoning in the parliament building.
It cited a senior doctor at Chisinau emergency hospital as saying 34 other protesters had been injured, including two who were in a serious condition. Some 80 police officers also received treatment for injuries, it said.
By the end of the day, about 5,000 people were still massed outside the parliament building, but there were no signs that more people were arriving to support them.
The leaders of three opposition parties that won seats in parliament spoke to reporters after emerging from talks with Moldova's president and prime minister in the aftermath of the protests.
"We must stop this violence," said Dorin Chirtoaca, leader of the Liberal Party and mayor of Chisinau. "We must secure the right to a recount of all the votes. And we demanded the right to stage peaceful protests."
Vlad Filat of the Liberal Democrats said the opposition, which stands broadly for closer ties with neighbouring Romania, was demanding the right to check all electoral lists.
"As a result of this, I can assure you that the elections were rigged and we will organise a new election."