- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

CHISINAU, Moldova | Anti-communist demonstrators stormed Moldova's parliament Tuesday, hurling computers through windows and torching furniture to protest elections they say were fraudulent.

Police fired water cannons but were unable to stop protesters from breaking into parliament and an adjacent presidential office.

Dr. Iuri Baziluc, at Chisinau Emergency Hospital, said 50 police officers and protesters were injured in the clashes, two days after the Communist Party won re-election in one of Europe's poorest nations.

The violence started after at least 10,000 protesters gathered outside the parliament building, demanding new elections and shouting “Down with the Communists” and “Freedom, freedom.”

The crowd - primarily young people carrying European Union, Moldovan and Romanian flags - broke through police lines. A small number stormed the buildings.

President Vladimir Voronin said on national television that the protest had been planned in advance, without saying by whom. He said “a true patriot cannot commit such acts of vandalism.”

In a statement read later on Moldovan TV by a journalist, Mr. Voronin called opposition parties “fascists [who] want to destroy democracy and independence in Moldova.” He said authorities would “decisively defend the democratic choice of the people.”

The Communists, in power since 2001, won about 50 percent of the vote in what international observers said was a fair election.

But Chisinau Mayor Dorin Chirtoaca said many people voted more than once.

”The elections were fraudulent, there was multiple voting,” Mr. Chirtoaca, who is also the deputy leader of the opposition Liberal Party, said on Realitatea TV.

Opponents blame the Communists for low living standards and for preventing the former Soviet Republic from building closer ties with the European Union. Moldova, with a population of 4.1 million, remains one of Europe's poorest nations with an average monthly salary of $350.

Mr. Voronin will step down this month after serving the legal maximum of two terms in power. Sunday's results allow the Communists to form a majority in the 101-seat legislature, but they may need backing from other parties to elect a new president.

The only foreign leader to congratulate Moldova after the elections was Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The Communists have enjoyed close relations with Russia.


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