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'Orange Evolution' More Likely in Moldova

(Washington DC--April 7, 2005) In the wake of Moldova's March 2005 parliamentary elections and the Orange and Rose Revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia respectively, two prominent non-governmental activists forecast that their country would see an evolution, rather than a revolution, towards democracy. Igor Botan, executive director of the Association for Participatory Democracy, and Angela Sirbu, executive director of the Independent Journalism Center in Chisinau, Moldova, told a recent RFE/RL audience of the continuing challenges in Moldova to developing a strong civil society that includes a free media and a transparent democratic process.

According to Botan, the relationship between civil society and Moldovan authorities is "cold but not antagonistic." The strength of Moldova's civil society, according to Botan, is similar to that in Georgia and Armenia, but weaker than in Ukraine. Levels of trust, as measured by the Institute of Public Policy in Moldova, estimate that 30 percent of the citizenry find non-governmental organizations and civil society trustworthy, while the church is trusted by 75 percent of the population, the office of the President by 60 percent and mass media by 40 percent of Moldovans. According to Botan, the current Communist Party-led government applies the policy of "vertical power" to remain "a step ahead of civil society," by creating parallel pro-government structures and controlling all electronic mass media, thereby maintaining a monopoly of power.

In the March 6, 2005 parliamentary elections, although the Moldovan Communist Party received 46.1 percent of the national vote (down from the 50 percent it won in 2000), opposition parties gained only one percentage point over their result in 2000 but did not lose any parliamentary seats. Sirbu said that the Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, created by a coalition of 200 non-governmental organizations, monitored media access during the election campaign and will continue with voter education programs to promote future transparent and democratic elections.

Botan said that, although civil society gets a "hesitant welcome" from the government, "the government seeks civil society's support" for its political initiatives in defense of Moldovan sovereignty. In 2003, President Vladimir Voronin championed Moldova's independence by refusing to sign the so-called "Kozak Memorandum" between Moldova and the Russian Federation. This document claimed to federalize the problem of the breakaway Trans-Dniester region, but according to Botan would have undermined the Moldovan government's authority in the region. Although it seeks the support of civil society on such issues, Botan said, the Voronin government does not seem ready to embark on the domestic reforms needed to modernize Moldova.

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