Thousands protest in Moldova over marred election

14th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Meanwhile, the constitutional court backed a call by Voronin to recount the disputed April 5 elections that sparked this past week's violent protests.

Chisinau -- About 10,000 people rallied in Moldova Sunday against President Vladimir Voronin's "dictatorial" leadership as the constitutional court ordered a recount of disputed legislative elections.

It backed a call by Voronin to recount the disputed April 5 elections that sparked this past week's violent protests.

"The decision was unanimous and is definitive," court president Dmitry Pulbere told reporters, adding the electoral commission had nine days for the recount.

But the move has been dismissed by the opposition who say the problems with the vote lay elsewhere, such as the inclusion of many long-dead residents on electoral lists.

Authorities confirmed the death of Valeriu Boboc, 23 and a father of one, during riots earlier in the week, although the cause was not immediately clear.

His parents told opposition websites they had picked up his body from a morgue covered in bruises after he was beaten in custody.

But interior ministry spokeswoman Alla Meleka told Interfax news agency he died from gas used for crowd control, while the public prosecutor's office blamed "poisoning from an unknown substance."

An investigation is underway, Meleka said.

Demonstrators massed Sunday in front of the government headquarters for a series of fiery speeches and chanted slogans condemning communists and calling for democracy in Moldova.

But the atmosphere at the rally remained relatively restrained after calls for calm by an anxious European Union and the United States.

Most of those present were older demonstrators from various opposition parties, after many young activists were arrested last week during post-election rioting.

"We should voice our protest at human rights violations ... Hundreds of innocent young people have been arrested and beaten by the police," Vlad Filat, leader of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, told the crowd.

Echoing other opposition leaders, he described as "genocide" police treatment of demonstrators who took to the streets after the parliamentary polls last weekend, which the opposition says were rigged.

City Mayor Dorin Chirtoaca, who is a leader of the opposition Liberal Party, insisted the post-election violence was orchestrated by Voronin's leadership.

"When Voronin asks who organised these disturbances he should look in the mirror because it was he himself who organised them," he told the crowd.

One of Europe's poorest states, Moldova remained outside the Western direction taken by many central and east European states after the 1991 Soviet collapse, held back by its complex 20th-century history and a separatist conflict.

Dozens were injured and hundreds arrested in last week's rioting, which was sparked by claims of vote-rigging at the parliamentary polls.

The weekend vote was officially won by Voronin's Communist Party, with 60 out of the 101 seats in parliament.

The new parliament is to decide on a new president to replace Voronin.

The interior ministry on Saturday released lists of those detained in the unrest and denied charges of a cover-up or that detainees had been beaten and tortured.

The ministry said 129 were subject to administrative detention for five to 15 days. One hundred and sixty-six face criminal charges for vandalism, looting and theft at parliamentary and presidential offices. Another 14 are charged with organising the disturbances.

"No one has made a secret of the detainees list but it has changed considerably over time ... All their rights are being respected and they are getting medical and legal help," the interior ministry's Meleka told AFP.

On Saturday the election commission officially approved the election results but three of the nine commission members denounced what they described as "grave violations."


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