Top prosecutor probes possible coup attempt

Moldova announced a probe to determine if the post-election violence was linked to a possible coup attempt. The Romanian ambassador was expelled from Chinsau after President Voronin accused Bucharest of instigating violence.


AFP - Moldova's Communist Party fell just short Wednesday of the majority needed to control the selection of the next president after disputed elections that sparked bloody riots.

Final election results showed the Communists garnered 49.48 percent of the vote, gaining 60 parliament seats -- one less than the three-fifths required for the party to control the presidential election.

The opposition Liberal and Liberal Democratic parties gained 15 seats each and the Our Moldova alliance 11, electoral commission secretary Yuri Ciocan told AFP.

Preliminary results, which had drawn the opposition's fury, showed President Vladimir Voronin's Communist Party of Moldova (PCRM) winning 61 out of 101 seats in parliament.

The difference of one seat will give other parties a say in choosing a successor to Voronin, who has served the maximum of two consecutive terms allowed.

In their latest show of anger, around 1,000 protestors in Chisinau's central square threw bottles at police, but there was nothing on the scale of Tuesday's unrest when a rally drew 15,000 people and young rioters stormed parliament.

Prosecutor General Valery Gorbulia announced Wednesday a probe to determine if those involved in the post-election violence -- which Voronin claimed had been instigated by Romania -- had been attempting a coup.

More than 190 people were detained during the unrest, including eight minors, interior ministry spokeswoman Alla Meleka told AFP.

"Romania is involved in the events," Voronin said. "Patience has its limits. The influence of Romania is very serious and strong work by security services is tangible."

The Moldovan foreign ministry declared Romanian Ambassador Filip Teodorescu and his number-two diplomat personae non grata and gave them 24 hours to leave the country.

In Bucharest, the Romanian foreign ministry rejected Voronin's accusation, calling it a "provocation," and also blasted as "absurd" a separate move by Voronin to reintroduce a visa regime for Romanian nationals.

Romania late Wednesday designated a new envoy to Moldova but he will have to wait for the green light from Chisinau before he takes up his post.

During the unrest some protestors had shouted "We are Romanians!" and called for Moldova to reunite with its neighbour.

Moldova was part of Romania for some years until it was annexed by the Soviet Union in World War II and Romanian is its official languuage.

Voronin, a 67-year-old former Soviet official, said authorities had every right to stop further riots in his impoverished country of 4.3 million people wedged between Ukraine and Romania.

"I tried to not allow blood to flow in similar situations in 1989 and 1991," Voronin said, referring to his own widely-admired decision not to fire on protestors when he was interior minister in the last years of Soviet rule.

"But yesterday I was on the edge, as such a decision was needed. If this is repeated such measures could be taken. The authorities have every right to take them in line with the law."

Police kept a tight lid on the 1,000-strong demonstration Wednesday after retaking parliament from protestors overnight.

The bottle-throwing crowd shouted "Down with Communism!" and "Down with the Dictatorship!" and at one point tried to surge through police lines, but were pushed back, an AFP journalist witnessed.

Western observers had given a tentative stamp of approval to the election, saying it met "many international standards" but also noting some problems.

The European Union, NATO and the United Nations have appealed for calm and condemned Tuesday's violence, in which around 100 people were injured, according to medical sources.

Youth activists spread word of Wednesday's mass rallies with a major Internet and SMS text message campaign, rather than by political parties.

The PCRM, which pledged to build a "European Moldova" while maintaining warm ties with Moscow, has ruled since 2001 when it became the first Communist party to win power in the ex-Soviet Union.

Predominantly agricultural Moldova is Europe's poorest country with an average monthly wage of only 253 dollars. Over a quarter of its active population works abroad and their remittances are vital for its economy.

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