Toward Political Accommodation
New parliamentary elections were held in Moldova on February 27, 1994. Although the election was described by international observers as free and fair, authorities in Transnistria refused to allow balloting there and made efforts to discourage the inhabitants from participating. Only some 7,500 inhabitants voted at specially established precincts in right-bank Moldova.
The new Parliament, with its Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova majority, did not face the same gridlock that characterized the old Parliament with its majority of Popular Front hard-line nationalists: legislation was passed, and changes were made. President Snegur signed the Partnership for Peace agreement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in March 1994, and in April Parliament approved Moldova's membership in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and in a CIS charter on economic union. On July 28, Parliament ratified a new constitution, which went into effect August 27, 1994, and provided substantial autonomy to Transnistria and to Gagauzia.
Russia and Moldova signed an agreement in October 1994 on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria, but the Russian government balked at ratifying it, and another stalemate ensued. Although the cease-fire was still in effect at the beginning of 1995 and further negotiations were to include the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations, there was little hope for progress in the near future toward settling the dispute and getting the Russian troops to leave.
In March and April 1995, Moldovan college and secondaryschool students staged a series of strikes and demonstrations in Chisinau to protest the government's cultural and educational policies. The students were joined by segments of the local intelligentsia and later by workers and pensioners who were protesting for economic reasons. The most emotional issue was that of the national language: should it be Moldovan, as named in the 1994 constitution, or Romanian as most experts agree?
In an April 27 speech to Parliament, President Snegur asked Parliament to amend the constitution and change the name of the language to Romanian. The government's final decision was postponed until the fall because of the stipulation that six months must pass before a proposed change to the constitution can be made. The student demonstrators declared a moratorium on further strikes until September 6.
In 1995 Moldova was still faced with substantial domestic social and economic problems, but it seemed to be on the road to making progress toward the ideal of an open-market democracy. The country's complex ethnic makeup and the political legacy of the Soviet period continued to contribute to the government's difficulties, but the fall from power of the extreme nationalists in the 1994 parliamentary elections lowered ethnic tensions and allowed compromises to be made with the major ethnic groups. With Russia now a partner in negotiations on Transnistria and with pledges by the new government to respect the rights of the country's Russian-speaking populace, the threat of international hostilities has been greatly reduced.
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