The leadership of the Christian Democrat People’s Party (CDPP, the renamed Popular Front) has modified the tactics of its anticommunist campaign in downtown Chisinau. Hundreds of hardened protesters are now picketing the parliament and the government building round the clock in a permanent location. They have installed some seventy tents on the terrain–which they term a “communism-free zone”–situated between those two seats of Communist authority. CDPP leaders continue relying mainly on college and secondary school students to keep the protests going, with no end in sight.
From January 9 until early April, the protests had taken the form of quasi-daily, roving rallies and demonstrations, held during midday hours along the city’s main avenue, with attendance ranging from several hundred to several thousand, and on a few occasions tens of thousands. March 31 was a turning point, however. On that date, a mass rally demanded that the Communist president, parliament, and cabinet of ministers schedule new elections and leave office within 48 hours.
The demand has found support neither with the country nor with European institutions. The latest opinion surveys corroborate local analysts’ projections that the Communist Party could repeat its 2001 electoral landslide, were pre-term elections to be held now. CDPP leaders hope, however, that the economic situation will deteriorate by June, when the government must pay US$75 million worth of Eurobond debt to its creditors or, alternatively, go into default. That would force the government deeply into arrears on the payment of salaries, pensions and social allowances. Financial insolvency could then quickly dissipate the Communist Party’s popularity.
Even before that moment of truth, Moldova’s Communists and their most consistent–indeed, virtually sole–external supporter, Russian President Vladimir Putin, face a severe embarrassment on May 25-26, when the CIS summit is scheduled to be held in Chisinau. CDPP leaders will do their utmost to keep the protests going at the very least until that date, and use the event for maximum publicity to their cause.
Meanwhile, the protest movement remains severely handicapped by the CDPP leaders’ image with the general public and by their national-Romanian discourse. The movement’s political base is confined to the Romanian-minded segment of the capital city’s population, and even within that segment it relies primarily on the very young. Resolutions drafted by CDPP leaders are passed “unanimously” at the rallies.
CDPP chairman Iurie Rosca, leading the protest movement almost singlehandedly, is forced to resort to unusual devices in order to hold these youthful ranks together. Rosca has proclaimed the birth of a political organization dubbed “The New Generation,” describes this would-be organization as “the new elite,” and is presiding over initiation-like rituals, in which he hands over New Generation membership cards to groups of youngsters on stage in the square.
For their part, the Communist authorities appear relieved at the inability of protest leaders to articulate any economic and social program, and the consequent lack of interest displayed by the populace toward the protests. In their Communist fashion, the authorities have begun organizing “from above” rallies of their supporters in provincial districts and towns. Significantly, these rallies are only being held in ethnically Moldovan localities, because the Communist Party takes the support of non-Moldovans for granted. The protest movement will remain confined to a narrow sociocultural environment in the capital, a minority even there, as long as protest leaders and the “centrist” Moldovan parties fail to appeal to the Moldovan majority in the countryside and to urban non-Moldovans (Flux, Basapress, Infotag, April 6-14; see the Monitor, March 6, 11, 18, 28, April 1, 5).
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