April 23, 2009

After a Thaw, East Bloc Democracies Face New Freeze

The fledgling democracies of Moldova and Ukraine are struggling with new political and economic challenges.

In Moldova, young protesters stormed the national parliament building in a show of anger over April 5 elections they believe were rigged in favor of the ruling Communist Party, the BBC reports.

President Vladimir Voronin dismissed the protestors as “fascists,” and election observers said the vote was fair. Yet doubts remain among students and opposition parties.

Communists have ruled the nation since Mr. Voronin was elected in 2001 by older Moldovans disillusioned by post-Soviet reforms, creating a schism between young voters seeking quicker change and reform, reports the Associated Press.

Yet little has changed since then, with Moldova remaining one of the poorest nations in Europe.

In nearby Ukraine, optimism from the peaceful Orange Revolution of 2005 has faded and approval ratings for the pro-Western leader they elected have sunk to a low of less than four percent, reports the Washington Times.

In 2004, Viktor Yushchenko, backed by thousands of nonviolent student protestors and surviving an attempted poisoning that left him physically scarred, successfully challenged what was widely considered a rigged pro-Soviet vote.

Although Yushchenko has worked to integrate Ukraine with Europe and NATO, and has expanded media freedoms, his government has been bogged down in a public dispute with a former political ally, drawing complaints about a lack of leadership during the worsening ecnomonic crisis.

Such concerns could cost Yuschenko his job in the upcoming October 2009 elections.

–Julia Hengst/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Frustrated youth and nostalgic pensioneers stoke political feuds in Moldova”
Chicago Tribune, April 12, 2009

“Ukraine’s Orange Revolution fades into disillusion”
The Washington Times, April 16, 2009

“Police retake Moldova parliament”
BBC, April 8, 2009

“Bringing Ukraine Into the European Club”
The Moscow Times, April 21, 2009

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