Moldovan Protesters Storm Parliament in Orangey, Twittery Revolution

Moldova ProtestA 10,000 strong demonstration by (mostly) pro-Western, pro-Liberal protestors in Moldova has turned into an opportunistic storming of the Parliament building in Chisnau and the whiff of revolution is in the air.

The demonstrators were upset that the Communist Party appear to have just scraped past the 50% required to take complete control of Parliament and to elect the the country’s next President.  They claim that the result was rigged.

Another Orange Revolution?

I’ve already seen quite a few people (and news organisations) drawing parallels with Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.

It’s far from clear what’s going on in Moldova at the moment, but it’s clear the situation is very out of control and pretty much everyone’s been caught on the hop. Although few think that Moldova’s Communist Party are above a certain level of electoral fraud, I don’t think anyone seriously believed that the election was a complete con. And, as a result, I think no-one expected anything more than the usual half-hearted protests from the losers.

So to see a full scale protest, complete with a ritual storming of Parliament, is quite a shock.

But, given the closeness of the election result, the genuine popularity of the Communist Party compared with their nearest rivals (the Communists got around 50%, while their nearest rivals struggled to get past 12%) I’m not sure we’ll see a dramatic revolution.

I’m going to stick my neck out, though, and predict that we’ll see a recount that gives the Communists less than 50%, and some kind of token coalition government with the opposition parties – perhaps they’ll even get to appoint a President.

The Twitter Revolution

If you really want to draw a parallel with the Orange Revolution, perhaps the best one is with the way the protest was organised, and spread like wildfire.

As Foreign Policy Blog notes in Moldova’s Twitter Revolution, protests in Ukraine were organised using cellphones and text-messaging. And, todays demonstrations have been organised using social media, like Facebook, and the latest darling of the Revolutionati – Twitter.

If you bothered  to check the most popular discussions on Twitter in the last 48 hours, you may have stumbled upon a weird threat of posts marked with a tag “#pman” (it’s currently listed in Twitter’s “Trending Topics” along with “Apple Store”, Eminem, and Easter).

No, “pman” is not short for “pacman”; it stands for “Piata Marii Adunari Nationale”, which is Romanian name for the biggest square in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital.

[…] The related posts on Twitter are being posted at a record-breaking rate – I’ve been watching the Twitter stream for the last 20 minutes – and I see almost 200 new Twitter messages marked with “pman” (virtually all of them in Romanian, with only one or two in English). In the last few hours there have also emerged several “smart” aggregators of posts on the subject, like this one – they have to contextualize what exactly is happening — and this one for YouTube videos. Many blog posts are also being updated in real-time – minute by minute – check this one. There are also a plenty of videos on YouTube and photos, including those uploaded to Facebook.

There are also a few moving English-language Twitter posts like this – “in #pman  a grenade thrown by the police has torn apart one of the protester’s leg”-  that would surely be perused by foreign journalists.

Twitter is certainly how I found out about today’s protests. But I do wonder how much Twitter has really been used to generate the protests. More likely, I think, it’s been used (and used brilliantly) to get the word out to people outside of Moldova, and to make the world sit up and take notice.

By the way – if you’re looking to keep tabs on events in Moldova, I recommend visiting the two hashtags (twitter search queries) and three users below:

You can view all of their updates without joining Twitter.

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19 Responses

  1. copydude says:

    Moldova has been played rather cynically for a few years.

    Or more. Going back to Soviet times, it was horribly exploited in agricultural terms, resulting in fairy terminal land use strategies and soil pollution. More recently, Moldova was subjected to the same kind of wine embargoes as Georgia.

    When the US was into buying new friends in Eastern Europe, Moldova believed it would be one of the number. I notice today there are many EU flags flying and Moldovans claiming to be part of Romania. Trouble is, Romania is one of those countries queuing at the IMF for a handout and the last thing the EU Central Bank or IMF wants is another destitute country.

    There’s a lot of uncertainty for all the East European countries but certainly Moldova has been cut adrift in the modern version of the Great Game by East and West. All rather sad.

    copydude´s last blog post..The Russians Aren’t Coming

  2. Copydude

    As to be expected, some salient points from you.

    Soviet mismanagement aside, Moldova hasn’t fared particularly well since independence.

    Your observation of pro-union with Romania sentiment in Moldova differs from the pro-Russian sentiment to be found in the disputed former Moldavian SSR territory of Pridnestrovie. This relates in part to the historical differences between the two (this includes Pridnestrovie having a more lengthier time in affiliation with Russia and Ukraine – when they were part of a single entity – as opposed to Moldova’s period as part of Romania).

    As reported in the mass media at large, the Western monitoring of the just completed Moldovan vote expresses the view that although problematical, the process was acceptable in overall terms.

    Moldova is of varied minds. A recent RFE/RL commentary from a Moldovan non-Communist source acknowledges the relatively high popularity of Putin in Moldova.

    Seeking full EU membership versus receiving it aren’t necessarily the same. Meantime, life goes on with Moldovans having to consider the best available options.

    Michael Averko´s last blog post..Gov. David A. Paterson: An Embarrassment To New York

  3. Chris says:

    Isn’t Moldova already pro-Western?

    This psychological need on the part of Western and Eastern commentators to see every upheaval in the post-Soviet space as part of a West vs. East struggle must stop.

  4. During Voronin’s presidency, Moldova has been seen as drifting between Russia and the West.

    Matters pertaining to former Soviet space shouldn’t be exclusively seen in the manner of choosing between either Russia or the West. This point reminds me a bit of the Cold War era created non-aligned movement.

    It’s incorrect to suggest that Moldova is “pro-West” in terms of automatically being against Russia. In the lead up to the just completed Moldovan election, Voronin made pointed comments that could be seen as critical of some mainstream Western attitudes, while being Soviet nostalgic. A counter spin to that view would say that he’s pursuing a balanced policy that takes into primary consideration the best interests of Moldova (whether one completely agrees with his views is another thing).

    As an EU and NATO member, Romania is considered part of the West. Of late, the Communist led government of Moldova shows signs of being on better terms with Russia than Romania. At the same time, the Moldovan government isn’t against Moldova becoming an EU member – as it remains in the CIS. Moldovan enthusiasm for joining NATO isn’t as great as seeking EU membership.

    Michael Averko´s last blog post..Gov. David A. Paterson: An Embarrassment To New York

  5. Aleks says:

    I was just listening to the beeb report on Moldova. They had Baroness (Emma) Nicholson complaining that the european election observer report on the elections was too nice and that they should have waited a bit. Que? No hablo ingles? We do know that organizations like the OSCE are not above massaging their election reports when they are in the european interest to declare them ‘free and fair’ even if there was orange like skullduggery at work, so why didn’t these ‘european observers’ do so in this case?

    Normally both the protestors and european observers would be in step on this particular propaganda front. This leads to several questions such as is this a cocked up OrangyBuggery revolution? If so, someone either screwed up the coordination or the european election observers were caught out by the protests and thus failed to capitalize on them (this seems to me what Baroness Nicholson was moaning about, they blew the opportunity). Or, maybe it was a case of “if we start it, everything will fall into place” plan by the opposition or just an opportunistic action by the demonstrators only made possible by a fairly massive failure in intelligence and policing? The only thing I can predict is that several people (from the latter services) will loose their jobs over this.

  6. Andy says:

    @Copydude – I’d imagine that the last thing Moldova wants is another destitute country, too!

    @Chris – I admit it, I was lazy to call them pro-Western, and shouldn’t have done it. A little bit of me curls up and dies every time I use shorthand like that. Mostly because it’s usually inaccurate (at least partially) and often distracts from the real issues.

    @ Aleks – Interestingly Baroness Nicholson (who was one of the OSCE observers, by the look of things) is saying that the OSCE had a “very, very strong feeling” that the election had been manipulated, but that they couldn’t prove it. Sounds like damage control to me…

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7989360.stm

  7. Aleks says:

    “very, very strong feeling” indeed! Almost all that has been needed in the last two decades to assign the national sovereignty of one country (i.e. the ‘other’) to the dustbin whilst retaining one’s own sovereignty… For all the right reasons of course.

  8. ‘Damage control” plays into this subject well.

    Around the time of the so-called “Orange Revolution” and before Moldova’s last presidential election, Voronin shifted to what’s perceived as a more Westward leaning direction. Pro-Orange supporter Ruslana campaigned for Voronin.

    In more recent times, he took a noticeably different route, as the Orange Ukrainian and Rose Georgian experiences have waned a bit.

    Michael Averko´s last blog post..Gov. David A. Paterson: An Embarrassment To New York

  9. copydude says:

    Chris wrote:
    This psychological need on the part of Western and Eastern commentators to see every upheaval in the post-Soviet space as part of a West vs. East struggle must stop.

    Well, it is how it was played, certainly in the Ukraine.

    And, you are right, it hasn’t stopped. Following the last couple of demos in Moldova and Georgia, it is a large part of the commentary. The promise of joining the cash-strapped West is currently not looking so attractive to some while others are rueing the loss of traditional markets and revenue . . even in terms of money sent home from Georgian expats in Russia.

    These small economies need a foot in both camps to survive. You might even argue now that the Baltics and Poland would have fared better if they had been allowed this luxury. But it was all about ‘spheres of influence’ and stuff the peasants who actually lived there.

    Feel free to shoot me down . . . I don’t understand much about Ukraine . . . but it looks like a country that has got very little out of playing off Mum against Dad. The question is whether it was actually put in this untenable position . . . like Georgia certainly was . . which unravels fairly fast the minute the economy goes south.

    copydude´s last blog post..The Russians Aren’t Coming

  10. Re: http://tinyurl.com/chqfc7

    Excerpted from the above linked RFE/RL article:

    “Former Moldovan President Petru Lucinski told RFE/RL’s Moldova Service that there is no need to look further to explain the unrest.

    ‘I see it as an unorganized youth movement,” Lucinski said. “On the 6th, it was OK, but on the 7th there were more people coming and they could not be controlled. They didn’t have any leaders. One part went in one direction, a peaceful one. And another part took a violent turn’.”

    ****

    IMO, this is very plausible. It caught many by surprise. The Moldovan Communists, the organized political parties opposing Voronin, as well as the Western election monitors, who initially were content enough to declare the election as passable.

    In the Orange Ukrainian and Rose Georgian situations, the street demonstrators were in sync with the political grouping opposed to the existing status quo. There was also a clearer case of Western based support for the Orange and Rose supporters.

    For now, Romania seems to be a factor in terms of the stated political leanings of some of the protesting Moldovan youths and the support they receive from elements in Romania. It’s not out of the realm to believe that Voronin might be embellishing the degree of Romanian involvement. Then again, this issue brings up Romanian government versus non-Romanian government involvement from Romania. The latter is the diplomatically more acceptable. I sense the latter might be more of an actual issue. Then again government versus non-government involvement can get murky. This is sometimes intentional for the reason stated in sentence four of this paragraph.

    I’ve caught some increased commentary on the idea of Moldova becoming part of Romania. Besides, the Moldovan Communists, I suspect there’re other Moldovan political elites who are apprehensive of becoming part of a larger entity – where they stand to lose clout. Slovakia’s elites opted out of Czechoslovakia with this in mind. Their Czech counterparts like Klaus agreed because they saw Slovakia as an economic albatross for the Czech Republic. This point might play into why some in Romania might not be so keen on having Moldova as part of Romania.

    BTW, if Romania and Moldova were to reunite, Gagauzia can legally separate from Moldova. A Romanian-Moldovan reunification probably lessons the chance of Pridnestrovie coming together with Moldova.

    Michael Averko´s last blog post..Barack Obama Panders To Muslims

  11. Last sentence above should read as “lessens.”

    For now, the issue of Romanian-Moldovan reunification should be understood as something that’s hypothetically interesting but distant.

    Michael Averko´s last blog post..Barack Obama Panders To Muslims

  12. A more fine tuned version of What I expressed at this link:

    http://talk.guardian.co.uk/WebX?14@319.pvilfSOaFIf@.7760b692/1429

    Apologies to Andy & co. I find subject matter like this one to be of analtyical interest.

  13. That’s “analytical.”

    I was thinking more about the Romania-Moldova reunion issue.

    Offhand (will have to check) I don’t think there was much Moldovan opposition to Moldova being part of Romania during that period (between two world wars) – especially when compared to the situation of Ukrainians in Poland and Croats in Yugoslavia, at the same time in question.

    Between the yay and nay reunion with Romania points of view among Moldovans, I sense there’s a sort of swing vote that can lean towards either of these two views. The determining factor being how Romania and Moldova each develop over the course of time. Like I said, for now, it’s an interesting topic – but not the lead point in relation to the Moldovan political situation.

    Michael Averko´s last blog post..Barack Obama Panders To Muslims

  14. We should live like in peace and friendship, not like vicious birds of prey. These are the conclusions I draw from the Twitter Revolution.

    http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/2009/04/11/twitter-terror-moldova/

    Da Russophile´s last blog post..Twitter Terror in Moldova

  15. AK

    Wow and must read.

    Michael Averko´s last blog post..Barack Obama Panders To Muslims

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