Chisinau Demonstrators Protest Decision To Void Mayoral Election

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Thousands Of Moldovans Decry Mayoral Vote Annulment

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in the center of Moldova's capital for another protest rally against the invalidation of last month's mayoral election.

The July 1 demonstration at Chisinau's Grand National Assembly Square was organized by opposition, pro-Western party leaders and figures of the civil society.

They called for the election victory of Andrei Nastase, leader of the Dignity and Truth Platform, to be recognized and for the opening of criminal cases against the seven Supreme Court judges who invalidated the results.

The protesters chanted slogans such as "Down with the mafia," and held posters showing pictures of the judges under the words "List of shame."

Nastase took 52.5 percent of the vote in the June 3 runoff, defeating Socialist Party candidate Ion Ceban, who favors closer relations with Russia.

But a court on June 19 voided the results, saying that both candidates had used social media to call on voters to turn out on election day, which it ruled was illegal campaigning.

Thousands of Moldovans protested against the ruling for days, but an appeals court upheld the court decision on June 21.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal on June 25, ruling that social-media communications with voters illegally affected the outcome of the race.

And the Central Election Commission on June 29 confirmed that court's decision and ruled that the election will not be repeated.

The protesters chanted slogans such as "Down with the mafia," and held posters showing pictures of the judges under the words "List of shame."

The decision to annul the local election was harshly criticized by both the European Union and the United States.

Under Moldovan law, the mayoral post is to be filled by an acting mayor until the next election in 2019.

The participants in the July 1 demonstration in Chisinau also spoke against a controversial new electoral law introducing a mixed electoral system.

The bill was approved by lawmakers and signed into law by Russia-friendly President Igor Dodon a year ago despite mass protests in Chisinau and criticism from the EU and the United States.

The new legislation provides for half of the lawmakers to be elected on party lists and another half in individual constituencies.

Critics say the reform favors the country's two largest political parties -- the ruling pro-Western Democratic Party and the opposition Socialists. They say the Democratic Party initiated the changes in an effort to do better in the parliamentary elections scheduled for this autumn.