Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Moldova on June 11 to rally both for and against proposed changes to the ex-Soviet republic's electoral system that European rights experts have called "inappropriate."
The Council of Europe's Venice Commission, an advisory body of constitutional law experts, is set to consider on June 16 whether to accept a study by outside experts that says the planned changes could lead to undue influence by political or business interests, Reuters reported last week.
Several thousand protesters gathered in the capital, Chisinau, to protest the changes, which would introduce the election of some lawmakers in a "first-past-the-post" system rather than exclusively on party lists, as the system is currently set up.
Opponents say the changes are aimed at tilting the system in favor of the Democratic Party, which is headed by controversial tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc and is the largest partner in Moldova's pro-European governing coalition.
Proponents of the changes say the new system would improve the connection between lawmakers and the electorate.
Lilia Carasciuc, head of the Moldovan chapter of the anticorruption watchdog Transparency International, said that the protesters gathered to protect the country's "small and fragile democracy."
The demonstrators chanted "We will not surrender!" and urged European lawmakers, the Council of Europe, and the United States to help stop the changes from taking effect.
Smaller rallies supporting the changes were held in other cities in Moldova.
European lawmakers last month delayed the disbursement of financial assistance to Moldova after several political groups voiced concerns about the political situation in the country.
Popular anger over a massive corruption scandal in Moldova is widely seen as having helped propel Igor Dodon, the pro-Russian leader of the Socialist Party, to the presidency in November.