Moldovan police and protestors…out of steam?

Already Friday morning in Moldova, this report is in time for Thursday afternoon news reports in America.

As the protests began to die down, the wider picture, both of the destruction, and the reasons for the uprising have become clearer. Much of population in Chisinau, the capital of Republic of Moldova have no faith the results of the elections which were won by the Communist party. Especially on the streets it is obvious that the young people of Moldova believe the elections were rigged.

 

On Tuesday people began gathering at the National Square mainly with the same cheers as Monday, but this crowd had grown to around 50,000 people. At some point, the crowd split and while many remained in the National Square in front of the Government offices, the other part went to the Presidential Palace and the Parliament buildings.

Before Noon the government had closed all radio stations except for “Vocea Basarabiei” which was transmitted government news about the events.

Demonstrators began to hurl rocks at the police and the Moldovan Army special forces “Scut” formed a human line from the Parliament to the Presidency (both of the buildings are situated on the Stefan cel Mare boulevard and were facing one another) and began to attack protesters with bats and water canon. 

 

Water canon has long been the staple of governments controlling street demonstrations. Yesterday (Thursday) however, the police ran out of water. Fortunately the protestors seemed to have run out of steam also. One has to wonder if Moldovans are just tired…or will they be back tomorrow because today’s reprieve was a result of everybody running out of water.

 

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At first the events were peaceful but when police began to block journalists and then began to turn protestors away from the National Square that tempers began to flare.

By Wednesday afternoon most Internet and cellular communications had been cut off and only the government TV and radio stations were broadcasting. 

Moldova has imposed a visa regime on Romania, expelled its ambassador and denied entry to more than 19 Romanian journalists. It says the measures are needed because Romania is threatening its sovereignty, a charge that Bucharest dismisses.

 

Among those detained in Chisinau was Natalya Morar, a Moldovan citizen and reporter for Moscow-based New Times magazine who was expelled from Russia last year after writing about alleged Kremlin corruption. Officials said that Morar had been charged with “calls for organizing and staging mass disturbances.”

 

The suspected mastermind of the violent protests, Moldovan businessman Gabriel Stati, has been detained in Ukraine, and Moldovan prosecutors have asked for his extradition. Stati’s father is the owner of the ASCOM company, which produces gas and oil in Kazakhstan and a number of African countries. Moldova is ethnically two-thirds Romanian and only one-eighth Russian.

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A Twitter revolution in Moldova?

They’re calling this one the “Twitter uprising” as anti-communist protests are taking place right now in Moldova. Using the internet site to mobilise supporters and organise a demonstration in the country’s capital of Chisinau, activists apparently used the tag #pman on their tweets to build a network of supporters.

One woman was killed and over 100 were injured in ex-Soviet Moldova on Tuesday as protesters rioted in the capital against the ruling Communists and demanded a recount of Sunday’s election, won by the Communist government.

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Evgeny Morozov, author of the net.effect blog for Foreign Policy magazine, writes: “No, ‘pman’ is not short for pacman; it stands for Piata Marii Adunari Nationale, which is Romanian name for the biggest square in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital.

The Moldovan protesters ransacked the president’s offices and the parliament Tuesday in violent protests over parliamentary elections that President Vladimir Voronin said amounted to a “coup d’etat.” The Russian news service RIA-Novosti reported that the authorities and opposition leaders agreed late Tuesday to a recount of votes cast in Sunday’s parliamentary election, which was easily won by Voronin’s Communist Party.

Protesters overwhelmed riot police protecting both the president’s office and the parliament — located opposite each other on the capital Chisinau’s main boulevard — and poured into both buildings through smashed windows. They heaped tables, chairs and papers onto a bonfire outside parliament, and fires could also be seen in some of the building’s windows.

Voronin said in a television address late Tuesday that opposition leaders had embarked on a “path to the violent seizure of power.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had already congratulated Voronin on his party’s election win when about 10,000 demonstrators massed for a second day in the capital of Europe’s poorest country to denounce the vote as rigged. They hurled computers into the street while police took cover behind riot shields.

Moldovan state television said one young woman choked to death from carbon monoxide poisoning in the parliament building and a senior doctor at Chisinau emergency hospital said that many more protesters had been injured. Almost 100 police officers have received treatment for injuries.

Official results put the Communists in front with close to 50 percent of the vote. The parliament elects the president, and the Communists appeared very close to securing the 61 seats they need in the 101-seat assembly to secure victory for their chosen candidate.

Most of the protesters are students who see no future if Communists keep their hold on the former Soviet republic of 4 million people — located on the European Union’s border but within what Russia sees as its sphere of influence.

“We must stop this violence,” Dorin Chirtoaca, leader of the Liberal Party and mayor of Chisinau, said. “We must secure the right to a recount of all the votes. And we demanded the right to stage peaceful protests.” Vlad Filat of the Liberal Democrats said the opposition, which stands broadly for closer ties with neighboring Romania, was demanding the right to check all electoral lists.

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Much of modern day Moldova is made up of former Romanian provinces which were broken off to form a new country by the Soviet Union. Many of the protestors are ethnic Romanians who want to return to closer ties to Romania or even to merge back into the Romanian fold.

Meanwhile the Moldovan government has recalled the Romanian Ambassador to Chisinau. Ambassador Lidia Gucu was summoned for consultations with the Moldovan government according to a just released statement from the Moldova Foreign Affairs Department press office.

The unrest in Chisinau prompted comparisons with popular post-election revolts in ex-Soviet Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004, which brought to power pro-Western governments in those countries. Governments’ fear of such revolutions has become a major factor in the politics of the former Soviet Union.