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Meet The Activists Who Have Tapped Into Moldova's Frustration

Andrei Nastase is one of 14 people who have spearheaded the biggest protests in Moldova's post-Soviet history.
Andrei Nastase is one of 14 people who have spearheaded the biggest protests in Moldova's post-Soviet history.

CHISINAU -- The Dignity and Truth civic movement has galvanized much of Moldova's electorate with its focused condemnation of corruption and the fecklessness of the country's political parties in coping with it.

It has organized four major demonstrations in Chisinau, including one on September 6 that brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets in the largest protest in Moldova's post-Soviet history.

Now Dignity and Truth has established a "Freedom Town" tent camp in the center of the capital that it says will stand until the president resigns and the government agrees to hold new elections.

The organization's February platform manifesto says Moldovan society "has lost the sense that it lives under the rule of law" and accuses the pro-European ruling coalition of "mimicking reforms for the last five years."

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The main goal of Dignity and Truth is to "overcome the captivity of the state" and to "genuinely anchor Moldova on the path of European integration."

The statement was signed by the 14 politically unaffiliated civic activists who form Dignity and Truth's collective leadership. Since the platform was created, these people have shared the duty of speaking for the movement, with none of them emerging as a clear figurehead.

Below are quick introductions to the 14 leaders, presented in alphabetical order:

(Click photos to enlarge)
(Click photos to enlarge)

Angela Arama is a prominent journalist and television producer. She served in parliament as a member of the leftist Christian Democrat People's Party.

Asked in a 2011 interview whether she plans to return to politics, she said: "There is a saying that God laughs out loud when he hears us making plans, so I don't make plans. What is important is self-realization and, if in order to do this I have to return to politics, then -- time will tell."

Igor Botan is a prominent political analyst and commentator. He contributes to RFE/RL's Moldovan Service. In the early 1990s, he worked as an adviser to the Moldovan president.

Since 1999, he has been executive director of the Association for Participatory Democracy (ADEPT), one of Moldova's most-respected nongovernmental organizations.

"We are a group of people who do not formally belong to any organizations," Botan said in an interview with RFE/RL's Moldovan Service on September 7. "But we have a common goal. We are appealing to the citizens to help return Moldova to a normal life. We say the following: Fellow countrymen, we have created a civic movement in order to free the country from oligarchic rule and we call on you to join us."

Alexandru Cozer is a popular and witty political blogger. In 2012, Moldovan magazine VIP named him one of the 55 most influential bloggers in the country.

Cornelia Cozonac is an investigative journalist and the director of the Center for Investigative Journalism in Chisinau. She specializes in reporting on corruption and contributes to RFE/RL's Moldovan Service. She is a founder of a website that aggregates the best reporting on corruption in Moldova.

Valentin Dolganiuc is a former member of the Moldovan parliament from the Popular Front of Moldova (1990-94) and a former deputy prime minister. He is currently a political analyst.

In an interview with RFE/RL on September 7, he stressed that Dignity and Truth does not intend to destabilize the political situation in Moldova or divert it from its course toward European integration.

"We see our future exclusively in Europe because democracy is in Europe, because in Europe a court system exists for the citizen and in the interests of the citizenry, because in Europe a government cannot be captured, because in Europe state institutions are not threatened by excessive politicization," he said. "Just look at what has happened in Moldova. We have no ministers -- only commissars appointed by political parties to carry out their agendas."

Mariana Kalughin is a lawyer and vice president of the Center for the Analysis and Prevention of Corruption. She specializes in corruption in the law enforcement and judicial systems.

Mihai Manole is a former finance minister and a former ambassador to the United States.

Andrei Nastase is a prominent lawyer who has been particularly critical of Moldovan oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc.

Speaking with RFE/RL, he said the Dignity and Truth movement will remain a civic organization that was created to promote a broad dialogue, but that a political movement could emerge from it.

"This civic platform -- which remains a civic platform -- has significant potential," he said. "But it has discussed and agreed upon all the criteria, all the principles -- according to which the most suitable people will be selected for the creation of a political platform."

According to some media reports in Moldova, Nastase is the godson of controversial businessman Victor Topa, who is the target of an Interpol warrant on suspicion of corruption.

Vasile Nastase, Andrei Nastase's brother, was a deputy from the first parliament of Moldova. In an interview in August, he emphasized that the government is "captive" to private interests.

"Currently, we are marking the 24th anniversary of Moldova's independence," he said. "Everyone who voted for this independence is saying loud and clear that this is a day of mourning… Independence Day is a requiem for a failed state."

Oazu Nantoi was a founder of the Social Democratic Party in 1990. He served in parliament in 2009-10, and was considered as a presidential candidate in 2011-12.

He is currently a political analyst. In July, he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Chisinau in the bloc of former Prime Minister Iurie Leanca.

Stanislav Pavlovschi is a prominent jurist and a former judge at the European Court of Human Rights. He has advocated for anticorruption reform in Moldova's judicial system.

"My optimism [for reform] diminishes with each passing day," he said in a 2014 interview with RFE/RL. "I am generally always optimistic, but in this case it would mean ignoring all the evidence and that does not give me hope. I would very much like to believe that our foreign donors and development partners, sooner or later, will make order in our country."

Dinu Plingau is the head of the Young Moldova nongovernmental organization.

At a press conference announcing the creation of Dignity and Truth in February, Plingau said: "A citizen of the Republic of Moldova cannot presently defend his rights on his own because our systems are very weak. I mean the judicial, financial, and even health systems."

Olesea Stamate is a co-founder and president of the Association for Efficient and Responsible Governance. She has written widely on corruption prevention.

In a 2013 interview, she said that corruption is "a fundamental impediment" to the principle of justice.

"We need professional judges who are independent of any political or other outside influence," she said.

Vasile Zgardari is an engineer by training. He was a member of Moldova's first parliament (Communist). From 2002-05, he was minister of transportation and telecommunications.

RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson contributed to this report from Prague

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