Students Protest in Square

Disputed Moldovan elections lead to peaceful Harvard Square protests

More than 90 students and activists from Harvard, MIT, and the Greater Boston area hoisted picket signs in Harvard Square on Friday afternoon to protest the incumbent Communist Party’s victory in Moldova’s general parliamentary elections last week.

Accusations of electoral fraud sparked peaceful protests throughout the former communist satellite state the day after the election, but the situation quickly escalated to violent riots and retaliations by authorities.

By Tuesday, Moldova had reached a state of unrest that remains perilous to citizens and journalists, according to media reports.

Friday’s demonstration in Cambridge, organized by members of Harvard Romanian Association and the Romanian Student Association at MIT, occurred simultaneously with protests in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chisinau, the country’s capital city.

“Above all, it’s a collaboration between the students and the people in the Boston community,” said HRA President Rares N. Pamfil ’10. “The organization usually hosts events on campus, and this is something beyond that.”

The former soviet state’s Communist Party reportedly won 49 percent of votes on Sunday, April 5, far more than either the Liberal Party or the Liberal Democratic Party, which won 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

International observers cautiously called the elections free and fair, but following the post-election violence President Vladimir Voronin, who is a member of the governing Communist Party, has submitted to calls for a vote recount.

Pamfil, a native of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, said he believes that being vocal about the issues in Moldova will improve conditions.

“This might be an important turning point for Moldova, an opportunity to actually change things,” Pamfil said. “The West has been slow to push for that. What’s happening in Moldova is one thing, but the voices that come from...Washington are also very important.”

Harvard Kennedy School student Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said he attended the rally to show solidarity with Moldova as well as with his home country of Azerbaijan, which gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

“My country is also facing similar election irregularities and going through the same process,” Hajiyev said. “Post-Soviet countries...we need to support each other.”

Pamfil, Hajiyev, and other supporters who were present on Friday emphasized that change requires action, and action requires consciousness.

“I think the consensus, especially among the people abroad, is that this is an opportunity to change the government,” Pamfil said. “No action of the communist government is, by itself, obvious enough or violent enough to lead to the concerted international response that is necessary in this situation. We want it over with the Communists. People want to come out and say that.”