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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bloomberg.com about Moldova


Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin accused neighboring Romania of playing a role in a violent protest against the Communist leadership that left dozens injured yesterday in the capital.

Voronin said he temporarily shut the border between the two countries as he prepares to reintroduce visa regulations. Romania is part of the European Union while Moldova, which once formed part of Romania, is not. Romania’s ambassador to Moldova was ordered today to leave within 24 hours.

The influence of Romania is felt very strongly here, as is the hand of Romania’s secret services, 67-year-old Voronin, a Communist, said in an address aired by Romania’s Antena 3 television. Our patience has its limits.

Moldova, a nation of 4.4 million people located between Ukraine and Romania, is split between those with a pro-Russian sentiment, led by the ethnic Russian minority, and opponents who have advocated closer ties to the West since watching comparatively prosperous Romania join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in recent years.

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc said at a news conference in Bucharest today that his country had no involvement in the Moldovan protests, adding it’s unacceptable that the Communist powers in Chisinau transfer the blame for internal Moldovan problems to Romania.

Boc also said Romania will refrain from restricting travel by Moldovan citizens in Romania and won’t expel Moldovan diplomats.

The situation in Moldova is largely internal and will probably calm down over the next few days, though it has the potential to blow over into EU relations because of the dispute with Romania, said Nicu Popescu, an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations in London. A lasting solution for Moldova can only be achieved through mediation led by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, he said.

Any deal should include an agreement by all sides not to use violence, the replacement of the interior minister and prosecutor general, promises to recount votes, and liberalization of the media, Popescu said.

Protesters waving EU and Romanian flags stormed the presidency and Parliament buildings in the capital, Chisinau, and clashed with police yesterday during a demonstration prompted by the Communist Party’s victory in April 5 elections. Police arrested 193 people, including eight minors, and regained control today.

Several hundred protesters lingered today near the site of the unrest, shouting down with Communism, although Antena 3 said no violence was reported. At least eight people were hospitalized during yesterday’s demonstration, two of whom were in serious condition, Moldova’s state-run Moldpres news agency said.

Moldova had been the only former Soviet republic to have escaped election-related violence, Popescu said.

Eduard Shevardnadze
ruled Georgia for nearly three decades, until his government claimed it won parliamentary elections, sparking demonstrations and leading to his ouster in 2003. Similar protests took place in Ukraine over its 2004 elections and in Armenia last year. The protesters in Moldova included members of the opposition, civic organizations and some groups intent on violence.

Political analysts including Otilia Nutu, of the Romanian Academic Society in Bucharest, said yesterday’s protests and clashes aren’t likely to bring about a sudden change in Romania such as other protests in ex-Soviet states.

This has the potential to be another one of that style of revolutions but it really depends on the reaction to what has happened already and the degree of repression that may be used, Nutu said in an interview today. Both the EU and Russia have been fairly neutral and it seems they want to maintain the status quo.

The Moldovan president is in his second four-year term and is required by law to step down when it ends. The president is elected by the new parliament and is sworn in 45 days after legislative elections.

The galvanizing factor was a general feeling of unease with the fact that the elections were perceived as unfair because state media, police and law enforcement agencies were heavily biased against the opposition, Popescu said. The issue is Voronin. He is perceived as an authoritarian figure.

The Communists won a majority in parliament with 49.92 percent of the vote, giving them 61 out of the 101 seats. This would allow the party to consolidate control of the political system by electing the president, the speaker and the premier. Some commentators allege Voronin is seeking to stay on as a de facto head of state by becoming speaker, Popescu said.

About 10,000 people gathered in the capital April 6 to protest what they said were falsified vote tallies, an allegation the government denied.

Moldova is one of the poorest nations in Europe with an average monthly salary of $350. Opponents blame the Communists for low living standards.

About 13 percent of Moldova’s population is ethnic Russian. In 2005, the Communists said they had changed their pro-Russian stance to pro-European and seek a closer relationship with the EU. Natural gas from Russian state gas exporter OAO Gazprom is carried to the Balkans in a pipeline that runs through Moldova.

To contact the reporters on this story: Caroline Alexander in London at calexander1@bloomberg.net; Adam Brown in Bucharest at abrown23@bloomberg.net.

(Zoon Politikon)



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