MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION PARTY CAPITALIZES ON A LEADER’S DISAPPEARANCE.

Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 62

Vlad Cubreacov, a leader of the Christian-Democrat People’s Party (CDPP, the renamed Popular Front), disappeared on March 21 and is still unaccounted for. Many in Chisinau think of the murdered Kyiv journalist Georgy Gongadze and fear the worst for Cubreacov. He is second only to Iurie Rosca in the CDPP’s hierarchy, and is one of the very few who has managed to stay at Rosca’s side since the Moldovan Popular Front’s 1989 inception. Throughout these years they led the Romanian-minded rump of the formerly broad-based Front.

Cubreacov is the CDPP’s vice chairman, is the top lay official in the Metropolitanate of Bessarabia–a branch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, rival to the Russian Orthodox Church’s Moldovan branch–and has for years been a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Cubreacov has had considerably more Western contact than Rosca, is more sophisticated as a politician and adds a European dimension to Rosca’s more narrow, national-Romanian discourse.

The Cubreacov drama has powerfully reenergized the CDPP. Its anti-Communist rallies, attended mainly by the very young in downtown Chisinau since January 9 and culminating on February 24, ran out of steam soon afterward. The CDPP leaders then staked everything on preparations for a rally to be held on Sunday, March 31, in hopes of a record turnout and a decisive push against the Communist authorities. It is now widely believed in Chisinau that Cubreacov’s disappearance, possibly through kidnapping or worse, will help boost that turnout.

Speculation is rife about the perpetrators and their motives. Theories include a political crime planned and ordered from on high, an unauthorized action by rogue elements within the Communist authorities, an operation by Transdniester security agencies to discredit and help unseat President Vladimir Voronin–who is Tiraspol’s implacable enemy–or at least to set the CDPP at Voronin’s throat, a fake disappearance timed by CDPP leaders to set the stage for the March 31 confrontation, an ordinary crime of robbery or kidnapping for ransom, and some more private scenarios. All of these possibilities are being seriously considered in Romania’s press and political circles, where the CDPP had long enjoyed greater sympathy and benefit of the doubt than it did in Moldova itself.

Rosca and the CDPP’s press hold Voronin and the Chisinau security apparatus responsible for Cubreacov’s plight. CDPP leaders are using the situation to redouble their calls for the Communist regime’s abdication. The stated goal of the March 31 demonstration is to force the president, parliament and government to resign, and new parliamentary and presidential elections to be held. In that case, the CDPP hopes to garner considerably more than its usual share of under 10 percent of the votes cast.

Whether the CDPP leaders take this scenario seriously is not certain, however. There is no democratic mechanism available for that change of political power. The Communist Party holds seventy-one parliamentary seats, to the CDPP’s eleven in the 101-seat parliament. Opinion surveys and electoral forecasts generally suggest that the Communist Party would win any parliamentary elections if these were held this year, barely fifteen months after the Communist electoral landslide. The Communist-dominated parliament would then elect again a Communist president as it did last year. CDPP leaders–partially excepting Cubreacov–continue as always to resort to demonstrations as a substitute for policy expertise. While thriving on the politics of confrontation and street action, they operate even there at a disadvantage because of their narrow social base.

The demonstration planned for March 31, dubbed a Grand National Assembly, is a conscious throwback to the identically named events in the final Soviet years, which were the Popular Front’s heyday. Grand National Assemblies were held in Chisinau’s central square in August 1989, December 1990 and August 1991. The turnout for each was approximately half a million, or one out of six Moldovans each time. The first demanded legislation to give the “Moldovan” language the status of state language and switch it to the Latin script from the Cyrillic. The second Grand National Assembly demanded that the parliament place on its agenda the goal of independence and separation from the Soviet Union. The third Grand National Assembly demanded the immediate proclamation of the independent state of Moldova. All three events achieved their goals on the strength of mass support.

Today, however, the CDPP is only a small remnant of the Popular Front. Its current leaders have whittled the original mass movement down to a relatively small, disciplined party of a vanguard type, based primarily on the Romanian national idea in a multiethnic country in which one tenth of the population possesses a Romanian national awareness. That awareness may well be higher among the young generations, but is far from a critical mass yet. The February 24 rally, largest in a decade, gathered some 50,000 people, largely college and secondary school students. The fourth Grand National Assembly on March 31 can only succeed if CDPP leaders offer a convincing platform of socioeconomic demands, and if they broaden their appeal in both ethnic and generational terms (Flux, Basapress, March 21-27; see the Monitor, February 22, 25, 27, March 6, 11, 18).

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