Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 39

Anti-Communist demonstrators gathered again yesterday in the central square of Moldova’s capital city of Chisinau. The majority of the protestors, for the first time, were adults rather than students. Many of them came from the countryside. With estimates in the broad range from “more than 40,000” to “nearly 100,000,” the crowd was in any case the largest by far since January 9 when the daily protests had begun. The date of this particular rally was chosen to coincide precisely with the first anniversary of the Communist Party’s electoral victory (February 25, 2001) that turned Moldova into the only Communist-governed state in contemporary Europe.

Parliamentary deputies of the Christian-Democrat People’s Party (CDPP, the former Popular Front) organized the event as a National Voters’ Assembly, in accordance with a legal provision that authorizes “deputies’ meeting with voters” virtually at the deputies’ discretion. Participants carried both national and European flags.

CDPP Chairman Iurie Rosca’s keynote address spoke of a “climax of the national liberation movement and of the European spirit in Moldova”–a significant addition to the traditional CDPP discourse, which had for years referred to the movement as one of “national liberation.” For his part, parliamentary deputy Vlad Cubreacov spoke of the “humiliation inflicted on the [non-Russian] national minorities when they are being reduced to the category of ‘Russian-speaking population.'” If these forms of discourse are adopted by more CDPP representatives consistently over time, they are apt to enlarge the social and ethnic base of Moldova’s protest movement.

The deputies and other speakers accused the Communist government of promoting linguistic re-Russification, reversing Moldova’s orientation from West to East, deliberately sabotaging privatization and discouraging Western investment, planning–and, in some cases, undertaking already–to renationalize privatized enterprises and recollectivize agriculture, suppressing local self-government through imposition of the Soviet, “rayon”-based administration that the Communist Party recently re-introduced.

The rally adopted a resolution announcing “total civil disobedience… in civilized and nonviolent ways” toward any unlawful or coercive measures on the part of the Communist authorities. It makes several demands:

–that Communist President Vladimir Voronin, the heavily Communist parliament and the cabinet of ministers resign without delay

–that pre-term parliamentary elections are held promptly

–that Russian troops are withdrawn and Russian stockpiles removed by the December 2002 deadline (which the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe stipulated in 1999 and is binding on Russia).

In the context of the OSCE deadline, the resolution appeals to Western governments and international organizations both to prevent “external” [read: Russian] pressures from being applied on Moldova, and to watch the internal political situation and support the efforts to prevent a “restoration of totalitarianism.”

The protestors approved a decision that demonstrations would continue on a daily basis “until the definitive fall of the communist regime.” A rally, intended to set a new record of attendance, is now scheduled for March 31. That date precedes the first anniversary of Voronin’s presidential inauguration by only a few days.

The resignation demands had been aired in the several days before yesterday’s rally, but by mostly youthful demonstrators. These demands mark a transition from language- and culture-related demands to comprehensive political ones. The problem, though, is that a democratic mechanism for ousting from power a political party one year after its lawful advent to power for a four-year mandate has yet to be identified. Negotiations–on the 1989 model of Poland and Czechoslovakia, for example–might offer a way out. For now, however, the CDPP and the Communist Party reject any negotiation. Both sides seem set for political confrontation, short of using force (Basapress, Flux, Reuters, February 22-24; see the Monitor, January 14, 18, 23, February 1, 7, 18, 20, 22).