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Moldova leader urges riot amnesty

Published on 16/04/2009

Chisinau — Moldova on Wednesday started recounting votes from a disputed election and its leader ordered an amnesty for people who took part in anti-Communist riots last week in a bid to ease tensions.

Dozens were injured and hundreds arrested in protests against the victory of President Vladimir Voronin’s ruling Communist Party in the April 5 legislative election.

The three main opposition parties refused to take part in the recount and on Wednesday repeated fraud allegations.

The recount is seen as a bid by Voronin to restore confidence and the legitimacy of the election after protestors stormed parliament and ransacked its offices on April 7.

Voronin called for an amnesty for some rioters. He said legal action would be taken against "criminal elements and repeat offenders," but said there should be "a general amnesty" for others who joined the protests.

In a nationwide speech, extracts of which were given in advance by the presidency, Voronin said the government was "above all concerned about preserving the unity of society, healing the political wounds that have divided public opinion and created a cold war situation between political camps."

But the president renewed allegations that neighbouring Romania was involved in the troubles. "I hope that sooner or later the contemporary Romanian leadership will recognise that the time for geopolitical intrigue is over," he said in the speech.

Moldova was a part of Romania for most of its history and Romanian remains its official language.

After Voronin accused Romania of provoking the violence, the neighbouring country hit back by calling for a European investigation into "repression" in Moldova.

Council of Europe secretary general Terry Davis said Wednesday he was "very concerned" about alleged human rights breaches in Moldova and would send an envoy to report on events in the country.

The central elections commission said that the recount result may not be announced until Friday when all information from local bureaus is received.

The leaders of three main opposition parties have called the recount a sham designed aimed at keeping the Communist Party in power.

"We have established the scheme which the Communists used to falsify the election results," Vlad Filat, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, told reporters.

The opposition has evidence that fake names were on voter lists and that some individuals voted several times, Filat said, speaking alongside leaders of the two other main anti-Communist parties.

"We will prove to society, including to the international community, that the Communists stole the election," said Serafim Urechean, head of the Our Moldova party.

The party leaders said they would ask Moldova’s Constitutional Court to allow them to continue inspecting voter registration lists and suggested they would seek a new election.

"The opposition will be able to prove the falsifications that took place," said Mihai Ghimpu, head of the Liberal Party. "In this case, we will demand that repeat elections be carried out immediately."

Together the three parties won around 35 percent of the vote, compared to about 50 percent won by the Communists, according to the preliminary results.

That gave the Communists 60 out of 101 seats in the parliament, one short of the 61 needed to fully control the selection of the next president.

The Moldovan parliament selects the president. Voronin — the country’s strongman leader over the last eight years — is due to step down shortly after serving the maximum two terms.

The opposition have admitted they were taken aback by the size of protests when tens of thousands of people took to the streets after protest calls were made on SMS text messages and Internet services like Twitter.