- I am a former Moldovan diplomat
- former Head of NATO Directorate, former Deputy General Director of Euro-Atlantic Security Department.
- I was dealing with Transnistrian separatist conflict in Moldova
- I am a former negotiator in both Conflict resolution commissions.
- Three times member of OSCE Missions.
I am a democrat. I write these notes from the streets of Moldovan capital, Chisinau. We are protesting the communist frauded elections. Here are my chronicles:
Moldova: Chronicles of a Post-Electoral Day
April 8, 2009; 14.00hrs Moldovan time
Vlad Lupan, Independent expert ( GSM +373 79 372020)
This is an extended chronology of the events viewed from the street and from conversations with the opposition party high-ranking officials
Protests, clashes and destruction are the result of the Moldovan elections. The citizens are divided and antagonized. The opposition is threatened and allegedly blackmailed. The events that unfolded are presented as coup d’etat by one side or as a planned destabilization scenario to discredit the opposition by the other. The evolution of the events was an important indicator that supports some of these scenarios.
Background and developments up to devastations
On April 5th, 2009, Moldova voted in the elections. Some opinion polls showed that the popularity of the communist ruling party was high, of about 35 per cent, while the three Moldovan liberal parties were supposed to come close to the same figure. The announced result of the elections were strikingly different –the Central Electoral Commission, presumed to be supporting the communists, announced 50 per cent of the vote went to the communists and they gather enough votes to get exactly 61 places in the new Parliament. This figure of 61 seats was the exact number of places they needed to elect the President and then form the new government without liberals blocking it.
The Liberals announced that they believe that these figures are a fraud. They brought to the attention of the local and international community that on the very day of the elections there were certain irregularities. From the point of view of the voting procedures themselves, those irregularities were less visible. However, they stated that a number of people were issued by the state authorities the necessary papers to vote repeatedly, dead people were on the voting lists and allegedly some of them “voted”, a number of ballots were printed ahead of the elections and then allegedly destroyed, while citizens were rumoring that a number of election officials in poor rural areas were bribed by the communists with as much as 60-70Euros.
Parties also reminded about the fact that the so-called public media – apart from Russian public channel, the only media with national coverage and credibility in the entire country – worked for years to support exclusively the ruling communists. The communists managed to build a Kremlin-like “vertical of power” legally prohibiting their future rivals to form a pre-electoral coalition, raising the electoral threshold, managing to ensure a tight grip over the judicial system, police, prosecution, initiated criminal cases against the liberal opposition leaders, state budget was used for the purposes of electoral campaigning. Communists were opening schools and presenting road repairs, announcing them as achievement of communist “stability” that should be supported and voted again in the next elections. Local administration units, where people voted in 2007 for non-communists, were cut off from the budget and did not receive such incisions.
Through all these actions and long-term preparations the elections, liberals say, were stolen from the outset. This brought to massive protests that started these days in Moldova and had some unfortunate side-effects that are supposed to be possibly also triggered by the Communists.
Yesterday, two of these protests overlapped. A number of youth NGOs and movements went out in the streets at the same time with the Liberal Democratic Party, one of the most vociferous protesters of the election results. A massive youth presence generated a lot of energy and desire to actively protest in the masses. From the Governmental building they were suddenly suggested by a number of unknown people, some of them had their faces covered, to move to the nearby Presidency and Parliament – the two institutions, which after eight years of governance, were widely associated with the communists.
In front of the Presidency and Parliament, two buildings facing each other, the same face-covered people started to instigate the youth to storm the buildings. Liberal-Democrat leaders moved quickly from the Government to the Presidency to temper the crowd that left their protests. The masses were already heated up, their repulsion towards the communists reached in the streets the climax, and despite the desperate attempts by the liberal-democrats the politicians were swept away.
What followed was, in fact, revealing to the intentions and possible scenarios muted by the local politicians and observers. After a brief and relatively sluggish response, the police withdrew and basically ceded the control of the Presidency. The same instigators suggested to overheated youth to smash the offices and shouted pro-Romanian slogans, popular with this segment of Moldovan population. They also waved the Romanian flag. One of these flags was quickly raised over the Presidency, in such a manner, as raising questions of how the person knew how to reach the top of this labyrinth style building. The Parliament was next, there was more police including special intervention forces. However, the response of the police was not very different. The law enforcement withdrew as “effectively” as in the case of the Parliament.
Most of the people between Parliament and Presidency were onlookers and not participants in the attacks. They were shouting anti-communist slogans. Political parties were constantly trying to stop the attackers and appealed to demonstrators to return to the main square.
Liberal-communist negotiations and first conclusions in the afternoon, April 7, 2009
After those provocations that lead to the incitement of the youth, and the ease with which police withdrew and finally to devastation of the Presidency, the Communists announced that all three liberal parties that disagreed with the results of the elections are “putchists” provoking a coup d’etat and will be held legally responsible. One should understand that from the legal viewpoint such an accusation has no cassation limit, being unlimited in time and presuming long term detention.
Until that moment, the other two liberal parties (Liberal Party and Our Moldova Alliance) were practically absent from the protests. In the afternoon the leaders of all three liberal parties appeared at the peaceful protests in front of the Government (including Liberal Democrats that was the only force that tried to tame the problematic situation). They declared they will enter negotiations with the Communist leadership.
Their requests were to finally obtain free access to the Moldovan Public TV, check the voters list and recount the votes, establish a day of new elections and to obtain guarantees that the communists will renounce to accusations against liberals for alleged organised coup d’etat. After hours of discussions, none of those conditions were met – it is important to note that the President was very intransigent to the fact that the liberals will not obtain any access to the national public media. He only stated that he might think of withdrawing his accusations, without giving any hint that he will actually do so. As for the other requests he directed the parties to the Central Electoral Commission.
Immediately after the negotiations the Speaker of the Moldovan Parliament, present at the discussions with the liberals, declared that the liberals are “putchists” – thus confirming that the communists were determined to quash the opposition leadership.
At that point the liberals left for a coordination meeting. While they counselled, the communist controlled media that has a great number of media posts, well funded and with good coverage, was propagating the idea that the liberals are responsible for devastations. The idea ended up flying over the crowd in the centre. In reality the Parliament and Presidency were already abandoned and a very few offenders were roaming free there right in the sights of a few police officers. Behind the Parliament there were at least two hundred policemen making no move. A few instigators were directly suggesting to a number of minors that appeared in the area to enter and destroy the offices, smash computers.
In the centre of the town, in absence of the liberal leaders, protesters from the peaceful crowd were less and less clear of what they should expect. Officials from the political parties confirmed that the entry in the town is prohibited – army and police brought up armoured vehicles and blocked the exit and entry in the Moldovan capital. People coming with buses to support the peaceful protest, not only younger public this time, was stopped and not allowed to enter the town. There was clear and credible information that people from various regional centres of Moldova are ready to come to the Moldovan capital, Chisinau. Liberals did not seem to react. They did not even bring water to the peaceful protesters, at least.
At that time the author knew that that some western embassies informed the liberal leaders that they disapprove the destruction, while supporting the right for the liberty of expression. That was understood as – no support.
Under these circumstances it became clear that the political parties wanted to dissociate themselves from the destruction – however, they managed to dissociate themselves from the peaceful protest as well. This was the protest that they wanted, but it turned out that at the end of the day the protesters wanted them close, while the liberal leaders became so over-cautious that
Second layer party members stated that their leaders were contacted by the Prosecution and Security and Information Service and threatened with immediate arrests if they do not give up on their requests and if protests are not withdrawn, although at that time there was only one protest, the peaceful demonstration in front of the Government.
The fact that liberals and a number of mainly youth NGOs consulted on an antic-communist movement, proved that party leaders understood they need to stay on their course and contest the election result. The communists do not leave them another way out. However, they also felt compelled to dissociate themselves from the destruction. They were threatened and blackmailed with arrests. They did not obtain aces to the nation-wide public media.
At this point the minors set on fire an office in the Parliament and that was copiously filmed on TVs. Two of the liberal leaders went to explain their actions and the situation to the third most popular TV station in Moldova, ProTV. This was around 21.00hrs. There were already less people in the crowd, their number closing to 2000, as compared to about 5-6 thousand in the morning.
The ProTV is a Romanian station that broadcasts local news bulletins and several local political shows that have a high popularity. Even pro-democratically and pluralist ProTV showed images of fire and of two political leaders seating in ProTV show. They felt for the image that someone wanted to create for those liberals – the image of people responsible for both devastation and now fire.
Exactly at this moment, the author of this lines was going behind the Parliament – there were six fire-machines standing there doing nothing to get in front of the building and fight the fire. No one already would have stopped them. They were waiting for the TVs to film enough dramatic footage. Although the ProTV finally managed to show the real situation with the fire-trucks, the damage was done. This further increased liberals’ predicament. They stated they will visit the crowd after the TV show.
After hours of expectations of a visible, well-known political person to lead them, the crowd was getting thinner. Liberal parties’ supporters started to grumble “they needed the TV more than they needed us”. The momentum of the street protest was lost, people started to leave the place.
At 22.50hrs, liberals were expected to appear in the centre – only Liberal Party officials appeared. They said the crowd “could” protest if it wishes. They returned again and again to the idea that the protests should be peaceful, if people wish to protest.
The author asked some of the party high ranks if they will only condemn the devastation, or will also confirm they continue to disagree with the elections results, further asking for their invalidation – will they protest these results, however clearly underlining them peacefully? They answered that they were concerned about the fact that the protests started by one liberal party would be blamed on another. They remembered the statements of the western ambassadors.
Instead of conclusions in evening of April 7, 2009 and morning of April 8, 2009
- The protests continue now, form 10.00hrs of April 8.
- Foreign journalists were allegedly banned from entering the country. Those who came by planes were asked to leave immediately with the same aircraft. Land-borders are blocked for the foreign journalists. It seems the only way through is via separatist Transnistria in the east of Moldova, although it might be that this is risky as well.
- The messages or conclusion coming from the latest events are clear:
1. The fact that the devastation occurred, showed that the liberals did have a role in it.
2. Their lack of clear action-plan proved they did not plan a coop d’etat. Their lack of coordination was just another clear signal on that.
3. The very well visible and organised provocative actions, were, instead, well organised. It is clear that despite the fact that the liberals did not have a development scenario, the communists did.
4. The liberals are cornered by the Communists. There is no outside support. They are alone against the communist machine – media propaganda, police, security services, professionally organised instigators; even army was brought in to block the entries into and out of town – clearly in defiance to the liberty of expression, so clearly asked by the Western ambassadors. Some people in other towns were beaten up and dispersed by the police, after they attempted similar protests in their locations.
5. The liberals also understood that the communists are not going to back down – the semi-autocratic regime in Moldova is not going to be softer than in Belarus with opposition.
6. At the end of yesterday the Anti-Communist Coalition announced it will further organise peaceful protests, in the name of teachers associations, student NGOs, political parties and citizens, subscribing to the Coalition demands – basically the same demands that party officials asked from the communists (fee media access, exclusion of “dead souls” that voted from the graves, recount of the electors, no coup d’etat accusations, etc).
Thus, the liberals are now in a dilemma – they want to dissociate themselves from the destruction, while in parallel they do not recognise the electoral results.
The fact that the Communist party increased pressure and is basically showing no mercy, reduces any illusion that the Communists will leave the opposition alone; or that the Communists will organise by free will fair elections.
A few days ago, ahead of the protests, the author of these lines was invited to speak in front of the EU Ambassadors in Moldova – they were told that the liberals might have three options – accept the election results that they believe were long-frauded, attempt a protest scenario as in “orange revolution” in Ukraine or protest and slowly fade away, like in Belarus. A good number of Ambassadors laughed when they’ve heard about Moldovan opposition organising protests like in Ukraine, diplomats basically showing there will be no support for such a scenario. Many of them, probably, are rethinking this scenario now – one thing is clear, they were far behind the events.
The signals of lack of support that the West is now giving to Moldovan liberals are read by the Communists in one simple manner – they feel their impunity to orchestrate any scenario and get away with it. Just like in the times when the West left the Belarus opposition alone.
The liberals are now feeling somehow abandoned, maybe even afraid. They want a rule of law Moldova, they do not want destruction and they wish no connection with it. However, they need to take a final decision and they understand that they are left with no way back. Its “or – or”. Its: Europe or Belarus.
Let’s hope that Europe will not be far behind the events at least this time.
I am going to a meeting of the civil society experts to make a joint NGO statement on the events. Wish us luck.