Election in Moldova instigates rioting mob demanding recount

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Riots in the capital of Moldova
Image: VargaA.

Protests which began Monday escalated to a riot on Wednesday consisting of over 10,000 people in Chişinău, the capital of Moldova, protesting the results of Sunday's 2009 Moldovan parliamentary election, which showed an apparent, narrow victory for the Communist Party (Partidul Comuniştilor din Republica Moldova, PCRM). Demonstrators claim the victory was the result of electoral fraud.

The demonstration escalated to a “flash mob” of between 10,000 to 15,000 communicating via online tools like email, micro-blogging tool Twitter, and social-networking website Facebook. "We sent messages on Twitter but didn't expect 15,000 people to join in. At the most we expected 1,000", said Oleg Brega of the activist group Hyde Park.

Police deployed tear gas and water cannons, and fired blanks into the crowd. The rioters threw stones at the riot police and took control of the parliament building and presidential office. A bonfire was built out of parliamentary furniture and all windows below the 7th floor were broken.

Approximately one hundred protesters and 170 police officers are reported as injured. There have been conflicting reports as to whether a female protester died during the altercation.

193 protesters “have been charged with looting, hooliganism, robbery and assault," said an Interior Ministry spokesperson. This announcement sparked another protest by those demanding the release for those detained.

There is wide speculation about who was to blame for the rioting.

President Voronin
Image: Juergen Lehle.

President Vladimir Voronin has expelled the Romanian ambassador from Moldova, blaming Romania for the violent protests. "We know that certain political forces in Romania are behind this unrest. The Romanian flags fixed on the government buildings in Chisinau attest to this" said Voronin. “Romania is involved in everything that has happened.“ Voronin also blamed the protests on opposition leaders who used violence to seize power, and has described the event as a coup d'état.

Protesters initially insisted on a recount of the election results and are now calling for a new vote, which has been rejected by the government. Rioters were also demanding unification between Moldova and Romania. “In the air, there was a strong expectation of change, but that did not happen”, said OSCE spokesman Matti Sidoroff.

Dorin Chirtoacă
Image: Dorin Chirtoacă.

"The elections were fraudulent, there was multiple voting" accused Chişinău mayor Dorin Chirtoacă of the Liberal Party. “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.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) proclaimed the PCRM to have won 61 seats in initial counts, enough to guarantee a third term in power for Voronin, who has held the position since 2001. But the Central Election Commission has received evidence of election violations, according to RIA Novosti, and upon recounts conducted of disputed polls, the commission reported that the Communists achieved 49.48% of the Moldovian vote, giving them 60 parliamentary seats — one short of the total needed to win the presidential election. "The electoral commission also granted opposition parties permission to check voter lists, fulfilling one of their chief demands," said Yuri Ciocan, Central Election Commission secretary.

Voronin will step down in May, however his party could elect a successor with 61 parliamentary seats without any votes from outside parties as well as amend the Constitution. With the PCRM garnering 60 seats, the opposition will have a voice in the presidential election for a new successor.

Riots in the capital of Moldova
Image: VargaA.

The western part of Moldova was a part of Romania from the Romania's independence until the region was detached by the USSR in 1940 to form the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. On independence in 1990 the country sought union with Romania but the eastern, Russian- and Ukrainian-inhabited areas of the country declared themselves independent from Moldova and formed the state of Transnistria and movement toward union was halted.

Moldova is Europe's poorest country, where average income is less than $250 (£168) a month. The country's neighbours are Romania and Ukraine. Romania is a European Union (EU) state.


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