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Europe’s Corner of Despair

In early April, a disputed election victory by Moldova’s ruling Communists triggered protests that left three floors of the country's parliament building a charred ruin and hundreds of demonstrators, including opposition leaders in jail or under criminal investigation. But the real problem is not only Communist vote-rigging, but a no-hope economy that many Moldovans want to flee.

CHISINAU Three floors of Moldova’s parliament building are a charred ruin. So is democracy in Moldova, a former Soviet republic that is now Europe’s poorest country. Of Moldova’s 3.5 million people at the time of independence, 15% have already left the country to seek better lives elsewhere. More than 63% of Moldova’s young people say they want out.

In early April, a disputed election victory by Moldova’s ruling Communists triggered protests. Political opponents and disaffected people, many of them young and with few prospects of finding jobs, took to the streets. A violent few broke into the offices of the country’s president and its parliament building, which was set on fire.

In response, the Communists blamed the violence on the opposition political parties, which it called “fascists,” and on Romania and Romanian irredentists in Moldova. The police cracked down on young people and took hundreds into custody. Several died, apparently from beatings. President Vladimir Voronin later granted the detainees amnesty. Nevertheless, many remain in detention and Voronin continues to hurl accusations at the opposition and Romania of organizing a coup d’état. Legal proceedings have been opened against opposition parties.

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