Post-poll violence sweeps forgotten Moldova

8th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

It was the day Moldova, perhaps the least known country in Europe and uneasily positioned between the European Union and Ukraine, suddenly caught fire.

Chisinau -- Shards of glass scattered the ground outside parliament. Wounded police clutched head wounds to staunch the blood. A pile of furniture ripped from the building burned with a yellow flame.

It was the day Moldova, perhaps the least known country in Europe and uneasily positioned between the European Union and Ukraine, suddenly caught fire.

After parliamentary elections that had largely passed unnoticed abroad, thousands of young people responded to an SMS and Internet campaign by activists to throng the capital Chisinau.

Crowds of around 15,000 mostly young people gathered outside the administration of President Vladimir Voronin and the Moldovan parliament to denounce the sweeping victory of Communists in elections as invalid.

Amid the din of their wolf-whistles and the crash of breaking glass, they burned flags of the Communist Party, the Soviet Union and pictures of Voronin as well as shouting "Better be dead than be a Communist!"

Some proudly waved the flag of the European Union and the blue-yellow-red tricolour of neighbouring Romania. Others wrapped themselves in the Moldovan flag -- identical to Romania except with the national symbol of an eagle holding a shield.

"We are Romanians!" shouted the demonstrators, who also brandished an adjusted map of Romania presenting their country as a province of the new EU member.

Riot police in helmets and shields sought to block the protestors but were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the young protestors, many of whom appeared to be little older than school age.

The demonstrators flung stones at the windows of the parliament building, leaving gaping holes and the ground covered with glass. They also pelted the riot police, who took refuge by a nearby fire engine.

After storming the parliament, the demonstrators flung out documents, furniture and even office technology which they burned in a pile in front of the building.

Opposition figures like Liberal Democratic Party chief Vlad Filat looked on as the protest spiraled out of control, admitting that youth movements rather than political parties had been the prime mover in the protests.

"We did not think that out action would bring together 15,000 people," said one of the fresh-faced leaders of the protest action dubbed "I am an Anti-Communist", Gennady Brega.

"We are happy that the youth are supporting us and are sorry that our opposition parties did not start their protest actions earlier.

Another member of the group, Elena Zgardan, spoke out at the cautious approval given by international organisations for the elections.

"If they had gone to the ballot boxes first thing and then left them at the end rather than just staying five minutes," she said.

Moldova -- part of Romania in the interwar-period before being annexed by the Soviet Union in World War II -- won its independence in 1991 and until now its main instability has stemmed from the self-declared republic of Transdniestr.

This sliver of land between the Dniestr River and Ukraine broke free of Chisinau after a brief civil war in the early 1990s but its pro-Russian separatist government is not recognised internationally.


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