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8 Apr, 2009 20:34

Moldova is boiling – protesters demand new vote

Protesters in Moldova are vowing to continue rioting if the government does not call a new parliamentary vote.

Thousands of young Moldovans stormed through the capital on Tuesday to protest alleged fraud in the election won by the Communist Party.

Police have managed to take control, but the peace is fragile.

Russia is voicing deep concern over the unrest and has denounced the violence over the election results.

Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said “It is essential to not only condemn yesterday's events in Chisinau, but also to take measures to stop any attempts to undermine state and democratic processes underway in Moldova. We all saw under what flags the riots took place and hope the EU will draw the most serious conclusions.”

Boris Makarenko from the Moscow Center of Political Technologies says that despite the violence in the Moldovan capital, there's still room for compromise.

“The secret of their [Communist Party] repeated success is that they are the party of the peasantry. Moldova is the most unindustrialized nation in the whole of Europe, its rural population is predominant and many urban dwellers were born in a village,” Makarenko said.

“In Moldova, their Communist party is a party of peasants so even if they lose in Chisinau they will win elsewhere while the crowd in the Moldovan capital is nationalistic and extremist. The opposition instigated the crowd but could not lead it. So there’s still room for a compromise.”

Moldova blames Romania for riots

The Moldovan president said Romanian influence was behind Tuesday’s riots in the capital of Chisinau. The Romanian ambassador was expelled from Moldova.

“We know certain forces in Romania are behind this. It is evidenced by Romanian flags, which had been raised over official buildings in Chisinau,” President Vladimir Voronin said on Wednesday.

He announced that more than a hundred ‘organizers of the riots and their sponsors’ have been arrested.

Cross border travel between Moldova and Romania has been restricted. Voronin also said a visa regime will be put in place.

The Romanian Foreign Ministry has called President Voronin’s statement about its involvement in organizing protests a ‘provocation’ but stated however, that Romania is not going to introduce restrictions for Moldovan citizens entering the country.

Voronin also declared persona non grata the Romanian ambassador to Chisinau, Philip Teodorescu, and Counsellor Ioan Gaboryan. They now have to leave the country within a day.

Meanwhile, opposition is gathering for a third day of protest in the Moldovan capital. Police are preparing to hold them back if Tuesday’s riots are repeated.

Day of riots

After parliamentary elections in Moldova brought victory to the communist party, thousands stormed both the Parliament and the presidential palace.

By mid-day, the crowd had managed to seize the presidential building and put an EU flag on top of it.

As night descended on the city, the authorities slowly took the situation under control. The fire in the parliament building was being dealt with by teams of firemen – although the ugly black soot marks on its front, as well as the vandalised presidential palace, will remain for a while as a reminder of this Tuesday's events.

Almost a hundred policemen have been injured, with 43 of them having to be hospitalised.

The protests have left at least 270 people injured, including 170 policemen and around 100 ordinary citizens, RIA Novosti reports, citing President Voronin.

Several hundred protestors continue the rally in central Chisinau. They have demanded that those detained be released. Around 200 protestors are now in custody, with criminal cases having been lodged against them.

Protesters have also demanded that their rally be broadcast live on TV and radio, and called on the population to support their demand, Interfax reports.

So far, the negotiations between the opposition and the authorities have not brought a solution any closer. Moldova's central election committee has already promised to re-count the election votes within the next ten days, but the opposition now wants a completely new election.

The opposition has turned over evidence of violations during the election on April 5 to the Central Election Commission, RIA Novosti reports.

‘Coup d’etat attempt’

The Moldovan President has already called it a 'coup attempt,' and appealed to the world community for help to resolve the unrest.

“All today's events can only be described as a coup. The Moldovan authorities would not let a group of extremists intoxicated with anger to trample on our democracy,” Vladimir Voronin said.

The crowd, chanting revolutionary slogans, burnt furniture and threw stones at the building. Local authorities say the angry mob's intentions were serious.

“Most of the slogans they are chanting are anti-Moldovan, and are mostly concerned with the country's unification with Romania, the Romanian flags are everywhere. All of this can be classified as an attempt to launch a street riot coup d’etat,” said the head of the presidential administration, Mark Tkachuk.

The crowds are comprised of supporters of Moldova's opposition movements, only three of whom made it into the parliament with less than half of the seats after the country went to the polls on Sunday.

And despite international observers deeming the vote fair, the riots came in the wake of opposition anger over the results.

However, the protesting parties say they had no intention of turning what was a peaceful rally into violence.

“We decided to protest against the results of the election. It's impossible that every second person in Moldova voted for the communists. However, we believe the riots were a provocation and we are now trying to reconcile the crowd. Leaders of all opposition parties are at the scene,” said Larissa Manole of the Liberal-Democratic Party of Moldova.

“I can call it a spontaneous action by youths, which is now out of control,” said Vlad Filat, the leader of Liberal-Democratic Party of Moldova. adding that he didn’t encourage his supporters to take such action.

International reaction

Moldovan events evoke response from European Union and Russia.

EU foreign policy chef Javier Solana has expressed his concern over the riots in Moldova.

"I call on all sides to refrain from violence and provocation,” he said. “Violence against government buildings is unacceptable."

According to Solana, international observers noted in their preliminary findings that the elections in the country met many international standards and commitments.

In a telephone conversation with Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev called for a peaceful resolution of the situation.