Young Moldovan voters get the last tweet

Youth-driven effort to unseat Moldova's Communist Party succeeds in its second attempt.

Gleb Garanich/Reuters
Moldovan citizens fill out ballots at a polling station in a Moldovan village on Wednesday.

MOSCOW – Remember Moldova's "Twitter Revolution," when thousands of tech-savvy young people took to the streets of the capital Chisinau in April to protest an allegedly rigged parliamentary election?

The last time we checked in, it appeared that the uprising had failed – quashed by a harsh police crackdown and the insistence of foreign election monitors that the Communist Party's slender victory was legitimate.

But the ground appears to have shifted again this week with the victory of four anti-Communist parties in snap elections. They won enough seats to form a new government and some analysts are saying that means the power of the tweet prevailed after all.

"I think it worked, because those [revolutionary] events in April heavily influenced the way people voted on July 29," says Arkady Babaroshiye, executive director of the independent Institute for Public Policy in Chisinau.

"Moldova's political preferences have changed, and people are tired after eight years of Communist rule," he adds. "The youth were very active in the [Twitter Revolution], and we see that the liberal and democratic parties have now won thanks largely to the support of young people."

Communists lag behind opposition parties
With over 99 percent of the votes counted by Thursday evening, the four largest opposition parties had garnered 50.7 percent of the votes against a Communist tally of 45.1 percent, according to Moldova's Central Electoral Commission.

That puts the liberal parties on track to win about 53 seats in the 101-seat legislature, enough to form a governing coalition but about 8 seats short of the super-majority that's required to elect a new president.

Moldova, a tiny state of around 4.5 million that was part of Romania until 1940, is Europe’s poorest country and potentially one of the most unstable. It remains deeply divided between the ethnic Romanian majority and the Slavic breakaway statelet of Transdniestr, which has maintained its def acto independence, backed by Russia, since winning a bloody civil war in the early 1990s.

Despite their victory in April's elections, the Communists faltered and proved unable to muster the 61 parliamentary votes required to elect a replacement for outgoing leader Vladimir Voronin, who has held Moldova on a generally pro-Russian foreign policy course since coming to power in 2001.

'Twitter Revolution made the difference'
The public discontent aroused and publicized by the April street revolt may have been the decisive factor in hobbling the Communists and compelling them to agree to fresh elections, say some analysts.

"The Twitter Revolution made the difference," says Sam Greene, deputy director of the Moscow Carnegie Center. "One of the key lessons here is that in this modern information world, it's very difficult to rig an election. Even in Europe's poorest country people have access to all sorts of unofficial sources of news and information."

But Moldova isn't out of the woods yet. The Communists will remain a powerful force and the liberal parties, who have many disagreements of their own, may have difficulty forming a government or finding a mutually acceptable figure to replace President Voronin.

And a pro-Western government might find a $500 million loan offer from Russia and $1 billion loan offer from China, both currently being negotiated with the Communists, taken off the table.

Moldova's politics 'more competitive' than most ex-Soviet states

Moldova's average monthly income is just $350 and the tiny country's gross domestic product is projected by the International Monetary Fund to plummet by as much as 9 percent this year.

The Transdniestr Republic, which is effectively under Russian control, also remains a key impediment to any effort to move Moldova into closer alignment with the West. Moscow has used breakaway regions as a means of reining in other post-Soviet countries, particularly Georgia.

"Moldova's political forces are going to need to find some sort of accommodation," says Mr. Greene. "No one will want to have another election."

He says it's likely that a compromise will be found. "Moldova is one of the more competitive political environments in the former Soviet Union, it's got a basically democratic system, and I wouldn't underestimate the potential for pragmatism."

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