The world is paying more attention to the former Soviet republic of Moldova – and they’re doing it 140 characters at a time.
Thousands of people in Moldova and its capital, Chisinau, have taken to the streets in protest the Communist government’s win in elections on Sunday – and they’ve used social media to power and raise awareness of the protests.
First, a little background – in elections on Sunday, the Communist party won about half of the votes, which is enough to give them control of Parliament and the ability to elect a new president, Communist Vladimir Voronin who is required by the Moldovan constitution to step down. The results were better than expected for the Communists, and there have been accusations of voter intimidation, harassment of opposition leaders and voter fraud. (Independent observers have preliminarily concluded the elections were fair, although they did cite a number of problems.
But the situation began getting worldwode attention once opposition groups began using Twitter, facebook and other social media to organize and draw attention to their concerns. The New York Times is among the worldwide media writing about this today. The small number of Moldovans (estimated at as few as 200 when the protests began) created a hashtag on Twitter – #pman, which is shorthand for the name of the central square in the capital of Chisinau, and have used the tool very effectively to generate worldwide interest.
(To see more images of the protests like this image above, visit Unimedia.info).
The protests inspired young people from across Moldova to come to the capital, and encouraged young Moldovan workers who were living in Romania and elsewhere in Europe, to come and join the protests.
And yesterday, those protests turned violent, with fires in the central square, rocks being thrown and riot police using water cannons to fight back. Romanian television and other media are sharing their images of the events on YouTube and elsewhere. By Wednesday morning, the square is quiet, but Twitter was still buzzing, being used to share stories of border closings, and accusations that government agents actually incited the violence in an effort to make the peaceful protests of the election look bad.
A great way to follow it all is on the application Twitterfall, which I have discussed before, to follow the #pman and Moldova streams.
Is this a “Twitter Revolution”, as Evgeny Morozov titled it in Foreign Policy? Hard to say whether protesters actually are using Twitter to communicate (especially once Internet service failed in Chisinau on Tuesday), and there are skeptics.
But there is no doubt that Twitter and Facebook are driving interest in a part of the world relegated to the back pages and the world briefs of many publications.
And we should be paying attention – noting not just where Moldova is on the map, but how what is happening there affects politics both there and worldwide. Right now, social media is helping to do that.