Unrest for 2nd day: 7,000 hold anti-govt protest in Moldova

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Posted: Jan 21, 2016 4:09 PM
Unrest for 2nd day: 7,000 hold anti-govt protest in Moldova

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Thousands of people held an anti-government protest Thursday in the Moldovan capital, a day after the legislature approved a new pro-European government.

Protesters gathered outside government offices and Parliament in Chisinau to protest Prime Minister Pavel Filip, the former technology minister and ex-candy factory manager, who presented his Cabinet of politicians and specialists to President Nicolae Timofti late Wednesday.

It was the second straight day of protests. Scuffles broke out Wednesday between police and the protesters who stormed the Parliament, injuring 15 people, including nine police officers. On Thursday, protesters blocked a main artery in the capital as they staged a peaceful protest. Demonstrators shouted "Down with the government! We are the people!" and "Early elections!"

Interior Minister Alexander Jizdan said Thursday that protesters had broken or destroyed tables, chairs, a metal detector, a computer, banisters and other objects when they stormed Parliament on Wednesday.

Moldova has been mired in political instability since 2014. Last year, Moldova had five prime ministers and there were weeks of protests about $1.5 billion that went missing from three banks prior to the country's November 2014 parliamentary election.

Many Moldovans are fed up with what they see as a corrupt ruling class and a drop in living standards in the impoverished Eastern European nation of about 4 million, where the average monthly salary is just 220 euros ($240).

Some Moldovans prefer pro-Russian parties as an alternative to the current government, which has been in power since 2009. Other protesters criticize the government, which has EU membership as a goal, as having failed to carry out reforms and tackle corruption.

"There is very real anger at the Moldovan political elite," said Daniel Brett, an associate professor at the Open University, adding that the protests were not about whether people were pro-Europe or pro-Russia.

"Politicians (in Moldova) have consistently sought to put their own interests ahead of those of the country. Opportunities to tackle corruption and the economic crisis have been missed, because tackling corruption threatens the interests of the elite," he said.

The parliamentary vote Wednesday ended a three-month standoff with Timofti. The president would have dissolved Parliament had it not approved a new government by Jan. 29. The previous government was dismissed in October over corruption allegations.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Thursday urged Moldova's new government to undertake reforms.

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Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania contributed to this report.