CHISINAU (Reuters) - Moldovan riot police regained control of the president’s office and a burning parliament on Wednesday after both buildings were ransacked during a protest against the election victory of the ruling Communist Party.
Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, Europe’s only Communist leader, called on the West to help restore order and accused the opposition of attempting a coup after violence swept the capital of Europe’s poorest country.
One woman died and about a hundred people were hurt after protesters, who say Sunday’s parliamentary election was rigged, ransacked Voronin’s offices and looted parliament, where fires raged into the night.
Reuters reporters at the scene said dozens of riot police in black helmets and bearing shields had regained control of the buildings in central Chisinau during the early hours and were standing outside both.
Hundreds of demonstrators were no longer outside the buildings and it was not immediately clear where they had gone. A Reuters reporter also saw some groups of armed special forces troops in the center of the capital.
Opposition leaders condemned Tuesday’s violence but demanded new elections. Some protesters demanded the resignation of Voronin, who is due to step down after the poll because of constitutional limits on a third term.
Supporters of the opposition had said earlier they would join new protests on Wednesday.
“I can tell you tomorrow 10 buses with protesters will move to Chisinau from my district alone,” one opposition activist told Reuters by telephone from a rural area. He said that if police blocked roads they would walk to the capital.
Official election results put the Communists in front with close to 50 percent of the vote.
The worst violence to hit Moldova’s capital in decades could complicate efforts to resolve the 18-year-old separatist rebellion in the Russian-speaking region of Transdniestria, where Russia has had troops since Soviet times.
Moldova, wedged between Ukraine and Romania on the edge of the European Union, is in what Russia sees as its sphere of influence. Moldova, which was once part of Romania, recalled its ambassador from Bucharest for consultations on the troubles.
Most of the protesters on the streets of Chisinau were students who say they see no future if Communists keep their hold on the ex-Soviet state of four million people.
Late in the evening, about 600 people were still massed outside parliament. Some had waved European, Romanian and Moldovan flags from the roof of the president’s offices.
A former interior minister, Voronin has overseen stability since 2001, but many Moldovans still live in poverty.
“The authorities in Moldova will not allow groups of fascists intoxicated with hatred to trample on our democracy,” he said in a television address, adding that opposition leaders had “embarked on the path of violent seizure of power.”
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who had congratulated Voronin on his party’s election win, called for a speedy and calm resolution of the situation.
The European Union and the United States urged an end to the violence. “What’s important here is that ... people desist from any type of violent activity. That doesn’t help anything,” U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said in Washington.
Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Matthew Jones