Restive diplomatic, security situation belie Moldovan calm
|Publisher||Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty|
|Publication Date||9 April 2009|
|Cite as||Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Restive diplomatic, security situation belie Moldovan calm, 9 April 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/49e4433bc.html [accessed 27 December 2014]|
April 09, 2009
Protesters gesture during a rally near the government building in Chisinau on April 8.
By Vasile Botnaru, Eugen Tomiuc
CHISINAU/PRAGUE (RFE/RL) – The street protests in the Moldovan capital that briefly gave way to vandalism and dramatic violence have subsided as signs emerged that authorities and the opposition are taking steps to reduce the political tensions behind the confrontation.
Moldova's Central Electoral Commission has agreed to allow opposition parties disputing the ruling Communists' election victory to check voter lists after days of mass protests.
The election officials' pledge represents a concession to Moldova's three main opposition parties, who had made checking voter lists one of their central demands.
Meanwhile, the street protests that spun violently out of control on their second day, April 7, have trailed off since Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin's accusation that neighboring Romania was trying to effect a "coup d'etat" to unseat his government.
Preliminary results suggesting a majority win for Voronin's ruling Communists had triggered opposition complaints of irregularities in the April 5 voting for a new parliament and sparked the subsequent demonstrations.
The Central Electoral Commission made its decision to share the voter lists shortly after it announced the final vote.
The official results give the three main pro-Western opposition parties – the Liberal Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, and the Our Moldova Alliance – some 30 percent of the vote. Those parties accuse the Communists of manipulating the poll, including casting false ballots in the name of the hundred of thousands of Moldovans living abroad.
The opposition leaders demanded a recount, or at least permission to check the voter lists against the number of actual votes. The latter demand now appears to have been fulfilled, as election officials said the opposition has four days to perform the checks.
Fears Of Retaliation
Calm appears to have returned to the streets of the capital, Chisinau, with virtually no sign of protests.
There were no protesters and just two policeman evident outside the government building's entrance, where a mob had forced its way in and wrought considerable damage just two days earlier, according to RFE/RL's Moldovan Service.
There were no indication that government detractors had planned any demonstrations, and no such announcement was made when a group of chanting protesters called it quits on the evening of April 8.
President Voronin raised the stakes with his charge that opposition leaders were plotting to depose the government, possibly keeping some demonstrators away.
Unconfirmed reports were circulating that suggested security forces had arrested and dealt harshly with suspected protesters or rally organizers.
Videos of unclear origin were circulating on the Internet that purported to show young people searching for acquaintances outside the presidential offices and confronting individuals they accuse of helping round up or beat protesters. The videos then go on to show small bands of men attacking some of those young people and leading them away.
The final election results gave the ruling Communists just under 50 percent of the vote, or 60 mandates in the 101-seat parliament. That is one seat less than preliminary results indicated and leaves the Communists one short of the 61 votes needed to elect a new president after Voronin's term, which technically expired on April 7.
Voronin, who is serving his second term, is not allowed to run again under Moldova's constitution.
Romanian officials have vehemently dismissed Voronin's allegation that Bucharest was involved in masterminding the violence, which caught officials and the international community off-guard.
Meanwhile, Voronin's accusations have sparked a major diplomatic confrontation with Bucharest. Moldova was part of Romania until World War Two.
Voronin and his government declared Romanian Ambassador Filip Teodorescu persona non grata, expelled him, and instituted a unilateral visa regime against EU member Romania. Borders between the two countries have been selectively closed, with Moldova refusing access to Romanian journalists and to hundreds of its own citizens who have been studying across the border.
Three Romanian journalists were about to be reportedly expelled from Moldova for "activities incompatible" with national law.
News reports say that Ukrainian authorities have arrested wealthy Moldovan businessman Gabriel Stati after a request from Chisinau on suspicion that he helped finance the street protests.
Voronin has directly accused the three opposition parties of being on the payroll of Romania and plotting with Bucharest against what he called Moldova's "statehood," after some of the protesters displayed the Romanian flag on the presidency building.
Both Romania and the Moldovan opposition have dismissed the accusations as "aberrations."
Vlad Filat, who heads the Liberal Democratic Party, has claimed that government provocateurs started the violence in order to be able to pin blame for the unrest on Romania.
"This was an irresponsible statement, which had been prepared well in advance," Filat said. "After all the insults that [Moldova's] Communists hurled at Romanians, I don't think they can [go] any further. They are ignoring the fact that Romania is a European Union and NATO member. It was clear that some of the actions were thought up and implemented by provocateurs."
The European Union, the United States, and the OSCE have called for restraint on both sides.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov said the European Union and Romania must act to ensure that "Romanian slogans and flags" do not undermine the sovereignty of Moldova.
Russia has some 1,000 troops in Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region and has sought in recent months to step up its already considerable influence over the Communist government in Chisinau.