Sun, Apr 12, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Moldovan president calls for vote recount

REUTERS , CHISINAU

A protester wearing a British flag over her face attends a demonstration outside the government building in Chisinau, Moldova, on Friday, demanding that the government step down.

PHOTO: AP

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin called on Friday for a recount of an election, saying it would restore trust and calm after violent demonstrations by protesters alleging the vote was rigged.

Opposition parties said the president’s offer was meaningless and intended to distract attention from mass fraud on voters’ lists. The parties have demanded a new election in the country of 4 million wedged between Ukraine and Romania.

Voronin, Europe’s only ruling communist, asked the Constitutional Court to allow a recount of the April 5 vote, in which the communists finished far in front with nearly 50 percent of the vote.

The court, dominated by his supporters, is likely to agree.

“I, as chairman of the party which gained undoubted victory in the fair and democratic contest, approach the Constitutional Court for a clear decision on the need for a full recount of the votes cast in the parliamentary election,” Voronin said.

“A full recount ... would be an important argument for the restoration of political stability, peace and mutual confidence in the Moldovan Republic,” he said in the request.

The president’s office later said Voronin had met US Ambassador Asif Chaudhry and promised to take steps to create dialogue between the authorities and the opposition.

In Washington, a US State Department spokesman told reporters the US welcomed the call for a recount. He said Chaudhry also met opposition leaders and that on Thursday the opposition was given four days to review voter rolls.

Thousands of demonstrators looted and set fire to the parliament and the president’s offices on Tuesday in the worst violence to sweep Moldova, Europe’s poorest country, in decades.

The president, speaking to reporters on Friday, again blamed opposition parties for the violence.

Voronin has accused EU member Romania of trying to stage a coup as part of plans to annex Moldova, with which it shares ethnic and linguistic ties. He expelled its ambassador and denied entry to Romanian journalists.

The Central Election Commission this week confirmed results showing Voronin’s party winning nearly half the vote — a ruling that implied there would be no recount.

The results gave the communists just short of 50 percent of the vote and 60 seats in the 101-member assembly — one short of the number needed to ensure victory for the party’s candidate when the assembly elects the president.

Eight out of nine court judges in the Constitutional Court were appointed under Voronin.

Opponents said the recount proposal was an attempt to mask fraud. They say thousands of dead people and Moldovans who work abroad were on voters’ lists and had votes cast in their names.

“This is a trick to draw attention from fraud on the voter lists,” said Serafim Urecheanu, leader of Our Moldova, one of three opposition parties to win seats in the election.

He said authorities were hindering checks of the lists although the Commission granted access to them this week.

After 10,000-strong demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday, only about 100 protesters stood outside the government building on Friday. Many held daffodils described as symbols of peace and spring. Dozens of riot police stood behind the building.

“I just came here because I felt so strongly about this,” said Vasile, a teacher. “The nation was deceived.”

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