Moldovan leader vows to stop riots

CHISINAU - Moldova's president warned on Wednesday that authorities would use force to prevent a repeat of the violent riots that shook the ex-Soviet country after a disputed election victory by his Communist Party.

President Vladimir Voronin also accused neighbouring Romania of instigating the unrest in Moldova, hours after police seized control of parliament from young protestors who had stormed and ransacked the building.

The 67-year-old leader and former Soviet official said authorities had every right to stop the riots, the worst disturbances in recent years in this country of 4.3 million people wedged between Ukraine and Romania.

"I tried to not allow blood to flow in similar situations in 1989 and 1991," Voronin said, referring to his own widely-admired decision not to fire on protestors when he was interior minister in the last years of Soviet rule.

"But yesterday I was on the edge, as such a decision was needed. If this is repeated such measures could be taken. The authorities have every right to take them in line with the law," Voronin said.

Voronin also accused Romania of fomenting the unrest, after some protestors shouted "We are Romanians!" and called for Moldova to re-unite with its neighbour, a member of the European Union.

"Romania is involved in the events," Voronin said, quoted by RIA-Novosti news agency. "Patience has its limits. The influence of Romania is very serious and strong work by security services is tangible."

Moldova was part of Romania in the years the followed World War I, before being annexed by the Soviet Union in World War II. Romanian is its official language.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there was no need to review the results of the Sunday election, in which Voronin's Communists won 50 percent of the vote but which the liberal opposition has criticised as flawed.

"Any demands to hold new elections, to review the results of the vote that took place are absolutely groundless," he said at a news conference in Moscow.

"I hope that the most serious conclusions will be drawn, including in the European Union," he said. Moscow in recent years has been highly suspicious of Western interference in post-Soviet elections.

Western observers had given a tentative of stamp of approval to Sunday's election, saying it met "many international standards" but also identifying some problems.

The European Union and United Nations have condemned the violence by the protestors, in which around 100 people were injured, according to medical sources.

Ahead of the new protests expected later Wednesday, the square in front of parliament was quiet as trucks took away the broken glass and furniture scattered on the ground from the night before.

But protestors vowed to keep demonstrating until the election results were ruled invalid.

"I know it's a mess but there is no other way to fight the Communists," said Sergei Muntian, a 22-year-old protestor.

"This is only the start, it's the Communists who are guilty. We have nothing to live on here," he added, complaining about the lack of jobs that has given Moldova the dubious status of being Europe's poorest country.

The government and liberal opposition parties that together won around 35 percent of the vote were in negotiations about a possible recount but so far had not reached agreement, opposition leaders said.

The rallies in Chisinau that drew some 15,000 people on Monday and Tuesday were instigated by youth activists spreading word in a viral Internet and SMS text message campaign, rather than by established political parties.

"What is going on in Chisinau is a spontaneous action by protesting young people," said Vlad Filat, leader of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

Official results showed the Communist Party of Moldova (PCRM) winning enough seats in parliament to fully control the selection of the next president, despite opinion polls showing its margin of victory would be smaller.

Voronin is to step down shortly following the end of his second term. Under Moldova's constitution the parliament elects the president.

The PCRM, who pledged to build a "European Moldova" while maintaining warm ties with Moscow, have ruled since 2001 when they became the first Communists to win power in the ex-Soviet Union.

Moldova is a predominantly agricultural country where the average monthly wage is only 253 dollars. Over a quarter of its active population works abroad and their remittances are vital for its economy.

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