Protesters stormed parliament in the eastern state of Moldova today smashing windows and setting fire to furniture in a violent demonstration against what they said were fraudulent elections.
Police fired water cannon on the protesters, but were unable to stop them breaking in.
Around 30 police officers and protesters were injured in the clashes, which came two days after the Communist Party won re-election in one of Europe’s poorest nations.
The violence started after at least 10,000 protesters gathered outside the parliament building, demanding new elections and shouting “Down with the Communists” and “Freedom, freedom.”
The mainly young crowd of protesters carrying European Union, Moldovan and Romanian flags, broke through police lines and a small number stormed the Parliament and the presidential office.
They smashed windows on two floors of the presidential office and set fire to furniture inside.
Later, police used tear gas and stun grenades to hold back a second surge by 2,000 protesters.
The Communists, in power since 2001, won about 50% of the vote in what international observers said was a fair election.
But Chisinau Mayor Dorin Chirtoaca suggested the official voter turnout of about 60% was inaccurate, saying he believed some voters had cast multiple ballots.
“The elections were fraudulent, there was multiple voting,” Mr Chirtoaca, who is also the deputy leader of the opposition Liberal Party, said. “These are people who don’t know what democracy is”
More than 600,000 Moldovans are working abroad, and most did not vote. Chirtoaca said that means 80% of eligible voters in Moldova cast ballots, which he called an improbable figure.
Opponents blame the Communists for low living standards and for preventing the former Soviet Republic from closer ties to the European Union.
Moldova, with a population of 4.1 million, remains one of Europe’s poorest nations with an average monthly salary of £240 (€266).