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Hundreds Rally In Moldova Against Electoral Changes


Moldovans Protest Electoral Changes
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WATCH: Moldovans Protest Electoral Changes (natural sound)

Hundreds of protesters rallied in Moldova after parliament approved controversial changes to the electoral system that critics say favors the country's two largest political parties.

Protesters carrying Moldovan and European Union flags gathered in front of the parliament building in the capital, Chisinau, on July 30.

Demonstrators in the former Soviet republic chanted "Thieves! Down with the dictatorship!"

Protesters have staged several rallies since lawmakers approved the changes on July 27, including lowering the threshold for political alliances to enter parliament, creating new constituencies, and requiring candidates to declare their assets.

Critics say the changes will squeeze out smaller parties and benefit the two main political players – the ruling pro-Western Democratic Party and the opposition pro-Russia Socialists. They also claim there was a lack of public debate and input before the vote.

The leaders of several small pro-European parties were expected to address the crowd.

There were no reports of violence at the rally.

Andrei Nastase, leader of the opposition Dignity and Truth Platform Party, has accused the Democratic Party of colluding with the Socialists in a "cartel" to squeeze out other groups.

The Venice Commission, a body which rules on rights and democracy disputes in Europe, has also voiced opposition, saying individual constituency lawmakers could come under pressure from business interests.

Supporters of the changes say the new rules will make politicians more accountable.

Moldova has had three governments since 2015, after the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system sent the country into a political and economic crisis.

Moldova holds its next parliamentary elections in 2018.

With reporting by Reuters and AP