Tens of thousands rallied in Chisinau’s central square on March 31 demanding the abdication of Moldova’s communist regime within 48 hours, and announcing the start of a nonstop protest in the square. The Christian-Democrat People’s Party (CDPP, the former Popular Front) had organized the event, termed Grand National Assembly, and party chairman Iurie Rosca led it almost singlehandedly. The CDPP’s second most senior leader, Vlad Cubreacov, has been missing since March 21 and is presumed kidnapped or dead. His plight significantly added to the impetus behind the rally.
Local journalists sympathetic to the cause estimated the attendance at 80,000 to 90,000–equivalent to the same journalists’ estimate of the February 24 rally, which had been the largest in the series of protests that began on January 9. Western independent estimates were 40,000 to 50,000 for the February 24 event, but are not available for yesterday’s.
The authorities tried sporadically to stop bus convoys en route to the Chisinau rally from the provinces. They also publicized appeals to college and secondary-school students to stay away from the protest. On the whole, however, it seems clear that the great majority of those wishing to attend the rally managed to do so. Police presence was minimal, and both sides continued to behave peacefully as they have since the beginning of the protest movement. The authorities made a public address system available to the CDPP organizers.
Strictly speaking, the rally was unlawful because Chisinau’s City Hall did not authorize it. The mayor, Serafim Urecheanu, is currently rated as the most popular “centrist” Moldovan politician, and thus a rival to both the CDPP and the Communist Party (PCM) for the mainstream Moldovan electorate countrywide. Urecheanu declined the CDPP’s invitation to address the rally and was then accused by Rosca of sabotaging the event.
In the keynote address, Rosca conceded that the Communists had regained power democratically through the free elections of a year ago. However, he went on to say, the PCM proceeded to enthrone its own ideology as a guide to governance, usurping and monopolizing state power in the process. Rosca, and after him the resolutions adopted by the rally, charged that the Communists had undermined the democratic state institutions and the separation of powers, recentralized public administration, tried to turn back economic reforms and the market economy, damaged Moldova’s relations with international financial institutions, discouraged foreign investment, caused tensions with the Gagauz autonomy, “deepened the conflict with Tiraspol,” and introduced Russification measures. “We want to be part of the civilized world. We don’t want to be dragged back into a Soviet-type system,” Rosca concluded.
The main resolution, drafted primarily by Rosca and adopted “unanimously,” gives the parliament, the cabinet of ministers and President Vladimir Voronin 48 hours to give up their powers. The Communist-dominated parliament is also being asked to enact a legal ban on fascist and communist parties and ideologies. Voronin is being asked to call pre-term parliamentary elections immediately, before resigning himself as president. An accompanying resolution blames the disappearance of Cubreacov on the Communist authorities as “either perpetrators or accomplices or, just as gravely, incapable of solving this crime.”
On this occasion, CDPP leaders de-emphasized the Romanian national rhetoric and symbols. Placards and slogans referring to Moldovans as Romanians and to the Republic of Moldova as “Bessarabia” were still present in the square and in Rosca’s and other speeches, but not as heavily as before. In any case, the movement remains a monoethnic affair in a multiethnic city and country.
At the end of the Grand National Assembly, a tent camp was installed in the main square outside the main government building. Several thousand protesters are staying in the square for the next 48 hours, professing to await the voluntary resignation of the Communist regime. Rosca and other CDPP leaders are declaring that the protest will continue nonstop “until the Communists quit power.”
The CDPP has created a National Council for the Defense of Democracy (Moldovan acronym: CNAD) as a “representative organ of the Grand National Assembly,” apparently designed to lead the continuing protests and possibly to negotiate what the CDPP seems to envisage as a transfer of power. Completely dominated by Rosca and the other CDPP leaders, the CNAD also includes representatives of pro-CDPP nongovernmental organizations and three splinter parties (which are rivals to the CDPP for the “right-wing” electorate, resented the CDPP’s initiatives since January 9, but finally jumped on the bandwagon). One of the three is a remnant of former president Mircea Snegur’s personal party, now calling itself Liberal. The CDPP has not yet clarified whether Snegur himself has joined the protest movement.
On the eve of the rally, the weekly Jurnalul de Chisinau, one of the last remaining Romanian-language democratic newspapers, editorialized that the success of the action would largely depend on whether the organizers can propose to the country a viable program for overcoming the economic and social crisis. In a similar vein, the weekly economic commentary of the news agency Basapress remarked that no opposition force has been able to offer a coherent alternative to the Communists’ economic program. The Grand National Assembly has not corrected that failing of the opposition (Flux, Basapress, Infotag, March 28-31; see the Monitor, February 22, 25, 27, March 6, 11, 18, 28).
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