CHISINAU -- Moldovan car owners have staged a protest against new government regulations that limit how long cars with foreign license plates can drive in Moldova, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.
As of April 1, cars without Moldovan license plates can drive in the country for just 90 days per year.
The government's new restriction triggered protests in the capital, Chisinau, where dozens of people took part on Tuesday April 12 in a car rally outside the main government building.
Several protesters -- many of them with dual Moldovan and Romanian citizenship -- told RFE/RL the restriction is unfair.
Officials said the restriction is needed because in the last two years nearly 3,000 car owners have registered their vehicles either abroad or in Moldova's separatist region, Transdniester, to avoid paying Moldova's registration taxes.
A foreign-registered car was previously allowed to drive in Moldova for 90 days and then must either leave the country and return or apply for local registration.
In practice, at the end of the 90 days most drivers crossed the border into Romania or Ukraine to have their passports stamped and returned right away for another 90 days of tax-free driving.
Some protesters said the government should lower the registration tax, which they say is much higher than in countries like Lithuania or Bulgaria -- where many Moldovans buy and register their cars -- and simplify vehicle-registration procedures.
The cost of registering a new car in Moldova varies depending on the size of the engine, but is prohibitively higher than in neighboring countries and quite expensive for most people in Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries.