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Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 15:40 UK

Moldova starts election recount

Moldovan electoral officials handle ballots at the start of the recount (15 April 2009)
Judges ordered the recount after mass protests against the Communist victory

Authorities in Moldova have started recounting votes from the disputed general election, despite a boycott by the main opposition parties.

The recount was ordered by judges after a week of protests against the victory of the governing Communist Party.

One opposition leader said it was a "trick" by the Communists to distract attention from fraud over voter lists.

On Tuesday, Romania called for a European inquiry into "repression" in Moldova following last week's protests.

Tension between the two countries, which have strong cultural and historical links, has risen since Romania was accused of involvement.

'Infantile behaviour'

In a joint statement on Tuesday, Moldova's centre-right opposition parties alleged that many people had cast more than one ballot in the 5 April election, and that voter lists had included the names of 400,000 dead people and Moldovans living 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
Our Moldova Alliance

"Taking part in a recount will only legitimise the result of the elections and prevent us from checking the electoral lists," the parties said.

Serafim Urecheanu of the Our Moldova Alliance said the recount was a "trick the Communists want to use to distract attention from cheating".

He suggested it might be used by the Communists to claim the one extra seat in the 101-seat parliament needed to be able to elect President Vladimir Voronin's successor unopposed when he steps down later this month after the maximum two terms in office.

The Communist Party won just under 50% of votes in the election. They were followed by the Liberal Party with almost 13%, the Liberal Democratic Party with 12%, and Our Moldova Alliance on almost 10%.

A man holds a photo of the protests in Moldova at an opposition rally (12 April 2009)
The opposition says its supporters have been detained and beaten

Vlad Filat of the Liberal Democrats said the opposition would present their allegations to the Constitutional Court.

One Communist Party MP, Vladimir Turcan, criticised the opposition for refusing to participate in the recount, saying they were "discrediting themselves... and showing their weakness and political infantile behaviour".

Last week, President Voronin said "political forces in Romania" were behind the unrest, which saw thousands of young protesters, some carrying Romanian flags and shouting "We are Romanians!", ransack the parliament building.

He ordered that Romania's ambassador be expelled, recalled the Moldovan envoy from Bucharest, and said Romanians would in future need visas to enter.

'Atmosphere of terror'

In a strongly worded speech on Tuesday, Romanian President Traian Basescu again denied any involvement in the protests and called for a European inquiry into Moldova's subsequent "repression" of those who took part.

Moldova map

Romanian and other foreign journalists have been expelled or barred from entering the country and human rights groups have complained that dozens of young people have been detained, denied legal assistance and possibly beaten.

"The absence of the rule of law, ethnic discrimination, reprisals against opponents, censorship, attacks against Romanian culture, the use of poverty to create dependence on the authorities, the threat to use force against its own citizens... creates an atmosphere of terror," Mr Basescu said.

"If the repressive measures continue, Romania will look into humanitarian aid and protection measures for people who are in physical danger."

A senior European Union official said on Wednesday it was considering sending a fact-finding mission to Moldova.

Mr Basescu said Romania, which joined the European Union two years ago, would not allow a "new Berlin Wall" to separate it from Moldova, Europe's poorest country.

But in a move bound to ratchet up tension, he called for speedier procedures to allow Moldovans to be granted Romanian passports, BBC European affairs correspondent Oana Lungescu says.

It is estimated that at least half a million people - one in eight Moldovans - have already applied for Romanian citizenship, a move that would give them access to the rest of the EU.



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