CHISINAU Moldova's liberal, pro-Western opposition dismissed as a "trick" a planned recount of the recent disputed election won by the ruling Communist Party and said it would take no part in the process.
The Constitutional Court ordered the recount, scheduled for Wednesday, at the request of Communist President Vladimir Voronin following violent protests against the April 5 vote outcome.
Official results give the Communists nearly 50 percent of the vote and 60 seats -- one short of the number needed to ensure victory for their candidate when parliament chooses the president in the ex-Soviet state between Ukraine and Romania.
Opposition parties demand a new election and say they expect no new results. They say their concern is fraud with voters' lists which they allege contain the names of dead voters and Moldovans working abroad.
"We will not take part in the recount. This is a trick the communists want to use to distract attention from cheating with voters' lists," Serafim Urecheanu of the Our Moldova party, one of three opposition groups to win seats, told a news conference.
"We cannot rule out that they want to find a 61st seat which they need to elect the president."
Vlad Filat of the Liberal Democrats said the opposition would detail alleged cheating to the Constitutional Court.
Voronin accuses rivals of organizing the protests as part of a coup plot fermented by Romania, which shares a cultural and linguistic heritage with Moldova. Romania denies the charge and the opposition has distanced itself from the violence.
Voronin, who has called for further integration with the West while preserving longstanding ties with Russia, has served two consecutive terms and cannot run again. He has said he wants to remain in some kind of decision-making role.
The opposition staged a peaceful 5,000-strong rally on Sunday alleging ill-treatment of detainees held since protesters ransacked the president's office and parliament. Officials say about 200 people have been detained.
In Moscow, where authorities have backed Voronin's handling of the disturbances, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he expected the recount to help stabilize the country.
"We expect all opposition parties to take a responsible approach and to not allow their supporters to rush into violent actions," Lavrov said.
"Of course, special responsibility in this connection lies with the European Union when taking into account the conditions which accompanied the recent disorder."
Voronin has moved closer to the Kremlin recently and applauded its efforts to help resolve an 18-year-old separatist rebellion in Moldova's Russian-speaking Transdniestria region.
(Writing by Ron Popeski; Editing by Sophie Hares)