But thousands of protesters, who had dispersed before the police stepped in, have vowed to resume mass rallies on Wednesday morning.

They say Sunday's parliamentary election was rigged and some have demanded the resignation of Voronin, who is due to step down on Tuesday anyway because of constitutional limits on a third term.

Violence condemned

Thousands protested in Chisinau claiming that Sunday's election was rigged [AFP]
Opposition leaders condemned Tuesday's violence and appeared taken aback by protests initiated by groups of youths rather than established political factions.

But they said such actions would continue until their demands for fresh polls were met and their supporters said they would join the protests on Wednesday.

Vlad Filat, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said he and other
opposition leaders had held talks with the government but failed to reach agreement on their main demand for a recount of the election.

"We have not received an official answer. Therefore our action will continue and we call on our supporters to behave in a civilised fashion and not give into provocation," he said.

Voronin said opposition leaders had embarked on a "path to the violent seizure of power" and vowed to "show that in Moldova there is a power which will act strongly to protect the country's statehood from a handful of fascists drunk on anger".