Riot police in Moldova retook control of the country's parliament and president's office overnight after crowds protesting the weekend election victory of the communists dissipated. The opposition is claiming fraud.
Moldovan protesters set fire to furniture outside the parliament building in Chisinau
Riot police in Moldova have seized the president's office and parliament after the two buildings were stormed and occupied by anti-government protesters on Tuesday.
The police took control of the buildings in the early hours of Wednesday after two straight days of demonstrations at the election victory of the ruling Communist Party.
Riot police were unable to control the protestors
By the time authorities moved in, most protesters had already left, having ransacked President Vladimir Voronin offices and looted the parliament, where fires raged into the night. The AFP news agency reported that around a dozen remaining demonstrators were arrested.
Opposition supporters have vowed to return in force on Wednesday.
An estimated 10,000 mainly young protestors gathered in the capital Chisinau for the second consecutive day on Tuesday to dispute the Communist Party's victory in Sunday's election.
Demonstrators claim the elections were fraudulent. Media reports said many at the rally were carrying European Union, Moldovan and Romanian flags, chanting "Moldova has awoken," "We want to join Europe," and "We want to join Romania."
Police used water cannons against the protestors but were unable to stop them from storming the parliament building and a presidential office, breaking windows, setting fire to furniture and throwing computers out onto the street.
Moldova is one of Europe's poorest countries
The EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Tuesday he was "very concerned" about the situation in Chisinau. He appealed to both the government and protestors to remain calm.
"I call on all sides to refrain from violence and provocation," Solana said in a statement released Tuesday. "Violence against government buildings is unacceptable. Equally important is the respect for the inalienable right of assembly of peaceful demonstrators."
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said he was concerned over the protests that had been "provoked" in Moldova, according to the Interfax news agency.
Opposition wants new elections
International monitoring groups, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said the vote was generally democratic, with few violations of election law.
However, Solana said preliminary findings by observers had noted that "further improvements were required to ensure an electoral process free from undue administrative interference and to increase public confidence."
The youth of many protesters points to a generation gap
Opposition parties said they would continue their anti-Communist protests until new elections had been called.
"The protests will continue until a date is set for new elections," said Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoaca, deputy head of the opposition Liberal Party which lost to the ruling Communists in Sunday's election.
"We have asked international organizations to recognize the election results as invalid," Chirtoaca said. "We support the protest action in the center of Chisinau. The protests are justified; their participants are calling for justice to be restored."
Julian Fruntasu, a spokesman for the opposition Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova, told the Infotag news agency that the protests were justified "because the Communists lost the elections."
Opposition parties said the vote was inherently unfair, as the election campaign was conducted with strong Communist Party control of major media and regional governments.