Saturday, April 11, 2009

NYT: Protests Wane in Moldova as Vote Recount Is Announced

April 11, 2009

CHISINAU, Moldova — Standing in the lobby of the presidential palace, where graffiti and broken windows spoke of this week’s violent protests, President Vladimir Voronin announced Friday a recount of votes in the disputed parliamentary elections last Sunday, saying it was the only way “Moldovan democracy will emerge from the existing political deadlock.”

But he dismissed the complaints of the anti-Communist opposition, saying shortcomings in Moldovan democracy “have no relationship to the events of the 6th and 7th of April.” He said the authorities could prove that Romanians had helped prepare for the demonstrations by consulting with opposition leaders, mobilizing young people and characterizing the protests in Romanian news media as “just and revolutionary.”

More than 10,000 Moldovans in their teens and 20s gathered to protest in the capital this week, after Communists had performed better than expected in parliamentary elections. On the second day of protests, a portion of the crowd grew violent and ransacked Parliament and the presidential palace.

Protests called for Friday drew only handfuls of supporters after an aggressive government effort to discourage turnout. A college professor, Anatoly Marin, 43, said that after he accompanied students to a rally earlier in the week, an administrator warned him that he could be prosecuted under a law against involving children in politics. Dimcea Dana, 26, said police officers visited classrooms this week to make sure all students were present, and they warned students that they could receive a 15-year sentence if they were arrested in further actions.

“Everybody is afraid now about everything and anything,” she said. “We live in a Stalinist period.”

The authorities, as well as local and Russian news media, have cast the protests as an attempt to violently overthrow the government. Mark E. Tkachuk, a close adviser to Mr. Voronin, said in an interview that the state had taken extraordinary measures to prevent the antigovernment protests from spreading to “the other part of our young people.”

“It’s frightening business,” he said. “We have told parents to keep their children in school. Because this is not about 3,000 people; it’s about hundreds of thousands. We stopped the flow of transportation to the Moldovan capital from the provinces. When we saw what happened at Parliament, what happened at the presidential palace — well, this means civil war, which cannot be allowed.”

Political players here have traded accusations about what touched off the violence on Tuesday. On Friday, Interfax reported, Moldova’s Secret Service issued a written statement denying allegations that its agents had deliberately sparked violence in the crowd, calling it “an attempt to mislead the country’s public and poison the informational environment.”

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