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Moldovan protests turn violent after Communist win
Tue Apr 7, 2009 10:54am EDT
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By Dmitry Chubashenko and Gleb Garanich
CHISINAU (Reuters) - Protesters denouncing a Communist election victory in Moldova seized the president's offices on Tuesday, hurling computers into the street while police took cover behind riot shields, Reuters reporters said.
About 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.
Opposition leaders demanded a new election to resolve the confrontation with Voronin, the only Communist president in Europe, who accused them of seeking destabilization and demanded an end to the "bacchanalia."
Most protesters are students who see no future if Communists keep their hold on the ex-Soviet state of 4 million people which is wedged between Ukraine and Romania -- on the European Union's border, but within what Russia sees as its sphere of influence.
Protesters hurling rocks overwhelmed riot police protecting both the president's office and parliament -- located opposite each other on the capital Chisinau's main boulevard -- and poured into both buildings through smashed windows.
They heaped tables, chairs and papers onto a bonfire outside parliament, and fires could also be seen in some of the building's windows. Police were forced to retreat in disarray from attacks by protesters hurling stones and other projectiles.
Commanders and rank-and-file officers withdrew beneath riot shields as demonstrators pushed them from their positions. Some demonstrators were seen chasing police away after seizing truncheons and riot shields.
"The election was controlled by the Communists, they bought everyone off," said Alexei, a student. "We will have no future under the Communists because they just think of themselves."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has already congratulated Voronin on his party's election win and the Foreign Ministry said Russia was deeply concerned by the events in Moldova.
OPPOSITION DEMANDS NEW ELECTION
"We call for a new election to be held. And we will win it," Serafim Urecheanu of Our Moldova, one of three opposition parties to win seats in Sunday's election, told a rally after a truce was established between protesters and police.
Voronin has overseen stability and growth since 2001, but he has been unable to resolve an 18-year-old separatist rebellion in the Russian-speaking region Transdniestria, where Russia has had troops since Soviet times.
He cannot stand for a third consecutive term but has made it plain that he wants to retain the levers of power. Analysts say he could try to take on another influential role such as parliamentary speaker.
Arcadie Barbarosiem, from Moldova's Institute for Public Policy, said the opposition had mishandled the protests.
"Opposition leaders have wasted a lot of time. Will they be able to lead this protest, to direct it in a more civilized way?" he said. "Will they have enough force, intellect and skills to do so?" Continued...
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