Saturday, April 19, 2014


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Is Mourinho Full Of It?

Does Jose Mourinho know what he's talking about?

Football coach Jose Mourinho sparked controversy after he blamed a Muslim football player's poor performance on his fasting during Ramadan.

Mourinho, the boss of Italy’s Inter Milan team, took midfielder Sulley Muntari off the field during a match against Bari last week, saying Muntari had low energy levels as a result of his fasting.

Like other practicing Muslims, Muntari -- who's from Ghana -- has abstained from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset during the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Mourinho’s remarks provoked angry reactions among many Muslims, including the leader of Italian Muslims, Muhammad Noor Dachan, who said “Mourinho could talk a little less.”

“A player who believes in Christianity, Judaism, or Islam will have a very calm psychological disposition,” said Dachan.

And he suggested a football player’s lack of energy had very little to do with an empty stomach.

Dachan’s own words have proven to be just as controversial.

The off-pitch match between Dachan and Mourinho has sparked debate on websites around the world about who is right and who is wrong

-- Farangis Najibullah

Tags:ramadan, football


Pigs At The Trough

Natalia Morari
What can you buy for 27 lei ($2.45)? Half a pack of Parliament cigarettes. Three ice cream bars. Six packs of Orbit chewing gum. A short ride in a taxi with a little left over to help pay for a ticket to the movies.

But spending a weekend in a village in northern Moldova completely changed my view of what 27 lei is. That’s exactly how much 1 kilogram of pig meat will earn you. That’s the price that middlemen have set for buying pork in the villages. They then take the meat to towns and cities and sell it for 90-98 lei.

Natalia Morari blogs for RFE/RL's Moldovan Service
Farmers are in a no-win situation. If they don’t sell for 27 lei, they won’t find any buyers for their meat. You won’t be able to go to a market somewhere and try to sell your meat for, say, 50 lei. They won’t let you in – all the market stalls are taken by the retailers working with the middlemen.

Anyone with the nerve to try to get a stall will soon give up the effort – either they won’t get a license or the health inspectors won’t sign their forms.

I was told that it takes from six months to a year to raise a decent pig. You feed it, take care of it. All that takes money and time and effort. After a year of work, you get about 300-400 lei for your pig. And the guy you sell it to turns around the next day and gets 1,200-1,600 lei for his “efforts.” Your average villager raises two or three pigs a year – that’s all he can afford to do.

I met a guy named Mircea, who is considered a prosperous farmer in his village. In addition to two pigs, some cows, and a couple dozen chickens, he has a pretty nice vineyard. In fact, he has no garden because all the land around his house is planted with grapes. He expects to produce about 60 buckets of wine this year. The best price he’ll get for the wine is about 10 lei a liter, meaning that his gross income on the wine will be 6,000 lei.

In other words, he tended his vines for a year and earned almost $1,000. He’ll take that money and buy some firewood, silage, and, maybe, something to eat.

I guess it is up to the proper government agencies to figure out if it is normal that rural dwellers earn kopecks while all the profits from their work go to middlemen. And they should look into this soon, inasmuch as almost 60 percent of the population lives in the country and works the land.

I’d really like to look in the eyes of those who for the last eight years talked of almost nothing except supporting the village and reviving the Moldovan countryside. It looks like they revived something else entirely.

Tags:moldova


The Triumph Of The 'Not Indifferent'

A "distorted generation"

Natalia Morari
I didn't really feel like writing about politics today, but it's impossible to avoid. We're a distorted generation -- we go to cafes and meet up in parks, but it only takes a few seconds before we are immersed in our favorite topics: the Communists, the opposition, is there a coalition or isn't there? You go to a club on a Saturday night and the first thing you hear is: Who did you vote for?

Why couldn't everything be simple, like it is for typical young people in Europe -- sex, money, celebrity? What more could you want? But no, we need forums for free discussion, democracy, and middle-of-the-night conversations about whether Moldova should align with Russia or the European Union. There's just something wrong with us.

Natalia Morari blogs for RFE/RL's Moldovan Service
That was the impression that some of the foreign journalists who came to Moldova last week to cover the elections seemed to come away with. They used to think that our country was pretty apolitical. If they heard anything about us, it was just from jokes about Moldovan girls and construction workers. And it's possible that nine years ago, that's about all there was. But not now.

I'm not talking about all young people, of course. But I am talking about a pretty important, if small, segment of the country's youth. I call them "not indifferents." And there are more of them now.

I remember when I enrolled at Moscow State University in 2002. None of the people my age that I knew could care less about what was happening in the country or what would become of it. Now, most of them still want to go abroad, but some of them -- OK, only a few -- are thinking that they won't leave for good. (They're basically thinking they'll try to earn some money abroad and then return.) But the main thing is that now they care about who wins elections; they care about the country and its future.

It may sound stupid to say, but the defeat of the Communists in the last elections (with all the well-known qualifications) was a necessary, fundamental event. Not least in the process of forming this newborn class of "not indifferents" and active youths whose childhood came after Moldova had already become independent and who are familiar with the Soviet mentality only through the stories of their grandparents.

The system has begun to change -- whether for better or worse, we'll find out soon enough. But it's begun to change, and that's the main thing.

Now we're entering a very difficult, but pivotal, time. This new class (in the future it will undoubtedly become the basis of an ordinary middle class, which hardly exists now) is forming the demand for a new political elite and new, effective policies. They are the demand for new, albeit harsh, reforms and decisions.

Yes, this is a difficult period. But we have begun moving in the right direction. Yes we can!

P.S. I was talking to some people I know who read this blog and I decided that in upcoming posts I will begin a discussion of the initial steps that need to be taken so that the words "developed Moldova" stopped just being empty sounds and a subject for jokes. I hope you'll join in. Who knows? Maybe someone will read us and find some of our ideas useful.

Putting Paid To Voronin?

In a post at Fistful of Euros, Douglas Muir places the outgoing Moldovan president well outside the pantheon of postcommunist strongmen.

Even his departure from power was second-rate. He tried to steal an election, bungled it, and backed off in the face of massive street protests. Then he held a second set of elections, tried to steal them even harder than before... and lost even worse. Milosevic would have tried to rally the secret police to fire into the crowds; Gamsakhurdia would have fled into exile, to return with an army; Iliescu would have prepared the groundwork for a few years in opposition before a triumphant comeback as a rebranded center-left democrat. But Voronin is just stumbling towards the door, whining and complaining as he goes.

Muir also makes the point that Moldova's political leaders still have a long row to hoe.

First, the coalition will have to elect a President. That's going to be very difficult, since the Communists control a blocking minority in Parliament, and are -- so far -- still insisting on their candidate. Then, they have to agree among themselves how to create a government; not easy, since the opposition consists of a number of parties, from liberals to former Communists. And then they'll have to make peace with Moscow, which will be no slight or easy task.... If Russia decides that it’s unhappy with the outcome, it has all sorts of options, ranging from "just enough interference to make a coalition impossible" to "crippling Moldova's economy with trade sanctions."

Still: we've probably -- ohhh, not certainly, but probably -- seen the last of Vladimir Voronin. And that's just wonderful.

-- Andy Heil

The Clock Is Ticking

Here's a reminder of the political timeline that Moldova's political leaders are facing from today, when the Central Election Commission was announcing the final results of the July 29 vote:

* Results must be sent and validated by the Constitutional Court within 10 days

* Complainants may challenge results before the Court of Appeals within those 10 days

* Once the results are validated, the president has 30 days to call the first session of the new parliament (so by August 28)

* The new parliament elects its leadership and begins work

* Although there is no explicit obligation to do so, parliament would "normally" elect a new president who would then propose a prime ministerial candidate after consultations with parliamentary parties.

Igor Botan, chairman of the Chisinau-based Association for Participatory Democracy and the source of this timeline, notes that much is up in the air and the president is not tightly constrained in nominating a prime minister.

-- Andy Heil

Opposition '7 or 8' Votes Short To Pick President

With 99.9 percent of the votes counted, the Communists look like they'll control 48 seats in the new parliament, while their political rivals will hold a combined 53 seats.

Under the Moldovan Constitution, choosing a president requires the backing of 61 of the legislature's 101 deputies.

"The president of the country designates a prime minister," Marian Lupu reminded journalists today, "but seven or eight votes are still needed [in order] to choose a president."

-- Lucian Stefanescu

Lupu Lists Key Priorities

RFE/RL's Moldovan Service says Lupu stressed five major points at his press conference this morning, and said he was seeking to form "a large coalition for democratic governance."

They are:

  • the importance of dialogue with the Communist Party
  • the advantage of Moldova remaining in the CIS
  • questions surrounding the conditions of Russia's offer of a $500 million loan
  • support for Moldova's neutrality
  • the benefit of "keeping our strategic partnership with our partners to the east"

-- Andy Heil
About This Blog
Our #moldovavotes blog followed the July 29, 2009 elections through the eyes of RFE/RL correspondents and editors, guest bloggers, and other contributors. The vote was called after the announcement of a lopsided victory by the ruling Communists sparked street protests in April in the capital, Chisinau, that came to be dubbed a "Twitter revolution" in some Western media. Thus the #.

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