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SNAP ANALYSIS: Moldovan riots have deep political roots

CHISINAU (Reuters) - One woman was killed and over 100 were injured in ex-Soviet Moldova on Tuesday as protesters rioted in the capital against the ruling Communists and demanded a recount of Sunday’s election, won by the government.

President Vladimir Voronin described the rioters’ actions as an attempted coup and urged Moldova’s authorities to defend democracy.

Following is a snap analysis of the Moldovan crisis.

* The riots in Moldova reflect deeply entrenched differences in Europe’s poorest state, most of which was once part of Romania. There is a gulf between those who favor Moldovan independence and the political stability achieved under Voronin and those who want Moldova to integrate with Europe and possibly reunite with Romania.

* The protesters say the Communists, who maintained their control over parliament after winning around 50 percent of the vote in Sunday’s parliamentary election, falsified the results. They say the Communists endanger Moldova’s European future and have demanded a recount.

* Leaders of Moldova’s pro-Western opposition parties have denounced Sunday’s polls but have distanced themselves from the rioters, saying they want to achieve their goals by peaceful means.

* Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on Monday the elections were democratic. Voronin used this endorsement to argue that the riots were an attempted coup d’etat and violated democracy.

* The unrest in Chisinau prompted comparisons with popular post-election revolts in ex-Soviet Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004, which brought to power pro-Western governments in those countries. Governments’ fear of such revolutions has become a major factor in the politics of the former Soviet Union.

* The riots are likely to have a strong impact on Moldova’s efforts to settle its dispute with Transdniestria, a predominantly Russian-speaking province which broke away from Moldova amid the collapse of the Soviet Union, fearing Moldova might merge with Romania.

* Originally warm relations with Russia cooled by the end of Voronin’s first four-year term in 2005 after Moldova rejected a Russian-backed peace plan with the Transdniestria separatists and accused the Kremlin of backing them.

* Voronin, who is to step down after Sunday’s poll because the constitution does not allow a third term, is seeking closer ties with Europe while maintaining good relations with key economic partner Russia, which is the main gas supplier.

* Moldova has recently become a member of the European Union’s “Eastern Partnership,” a project designed to establish close links with some ex-Soviet states without granting them EU membership. The riots could damage the image of pro-Western forces in Moldova.

* Russia congratulated Voronin on his election win. In a clear message of support, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev urged the country to stick to election law and to its constitution to solve the latest crisis.

Reporting by Oleg Shchedrov; editing by Andrew Roche