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Europe

Moldovan court orders vote recount in disputed election

Moldova's highest court has agreed to President Voronin's request for a vote-recount following accusations that his Communist Party rigged last week's election victory. Meanwhile, anti-government protests continued.

Map of Moldova, which is wedged between Ukraine and Romania

Moldova is one of Europe's poorest states

Moldova's Constitutional Court ordered the country's Central Election Commission to conduct a recount within nine days, as protesters rallied outside on Sunday, April 12.

Court Chairman Dumitru Pulbere said after the court's sitting that all ballots from the April 5 poll would be reviewed.

According to the first official count, the incumbent Communist Party won the election with 50 percent of the vote, a result that triggered violent protests by opposition activists who believe the vote was rigged.

Pulbere added that the recount would also involve an examination of voters' lists.

"These two issues are closely linked," he said, in comments aimed to address opposition claims that a number of long-dead people were on the electoral roll. "You cannot do one without the other."

Outside the court, protesters claimed a recount would only disguise electoral fraud, and called instead for President Vladimir Voronin to step down.

Sunday's protests were peaceful

President Voronin making a speech before the election

President Voronin wants to retain some form of power

Some 5,000 protesters staged a peaceful rally in the capital, Chisinau, chanting "Down with the Communists!"

Most of those present were significantly older than the crowd of students that stormed the parliament and the president's office on Tuesday.

One Moldovan opposition leader, Serafim Urechean, told Sunday's protesters that President Voronin was seeking to turn the clock back and align the eastern European country more closely with Russia.

"Voronin wants to draw an iron curtain between Moldova and the European Union and Romania," Urecheanu said. His party -- Our Molodova -- was one of three groups that won seats last week.

Urecheanu added that Moldava's "fragile" democracy was in danger and said that innocent people had been arrested and were "beaten and tortured."

Some 200 protesters have been detained in the wake of last week's demonstrations. Authorities say one of those arrested died of smoke inhalation while in custody, but his family and opposition activists say he was beaten by police.

Voronin accuses the opposition of plotting a coup

Masked protester in front of a fire set before a government building

Anti-communist protests turned violent last week

Voronin requested the Constitutional Court order a recount to legitimize his party's victory and restore order after anti-communist protesters ransacked government buildings this week.

The president accused opposition parties of plotting a coup and also blamed neighboring Romania for fomenting turmoil.

A new parliament, in which the Communist Party controls 60 out of 101 seats, is set to decide on a new president to replace Voronin.

Voronin has served two consecutive terms and cannot run again, although he has said he wants to remain in some kind of decision-making role.

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