There's a lot of talk these days about (re)banning the Communist Party.
In the early days of Moldova's independence, the Communist Party was banned, its very existence being considered a threat to the independence of the Moldovan state. Communists fought for the preservation of the Soviet Union, promoted the oppression of Moldovan culture and stood alongside the Transnistrian separatists as they took up arms to carve out their puppet state. As ideological descendents of Lenin, they believed in neither God, democracy nor the promotion of human rights.
The rehabilitation of the Communist Party began during the Presidency of Petru Lucinski, when a presidential order was issued to sidestep the ban earlier issued by parliament (note that the legal validity of this order is somewhat questionable). I guess Lucinski's rational was that, in a democracy, even people with distasteful and anti-democratic ideas have the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association.
In a sense the last eight years have proved the case presented by parliament in the early 1990s. The Communist Party, once in power, set about dismantling and undermining democratic institutions. They failed miserably to protect the human rights of the nation's citizens (as evidenced by the string of ECHR judgements brought against the country). Things got so bad that they ended up condoning the beating, rape and murder of their young opponents on April 7th.
So where does the line get drawn? To what extent do communists have the right to freedom of expression and association? Is that right unlimited? Can it be withdrawn based on either (a) past abuses, or (b) anti-democratic positions, statements and policies?
A tangential debate is the one initiated by Democrat deputy Oleg Serebrian earlier today. Wearing another hat as leader of a civil society group, he pleaded for the banning of all communist symbols, claiming support from the Council of Europe's recent condemnation of Fascism and Communism. Putting aside Serebrian's underlying purpose (to force significant change on the PCRM by destroying their 'brand'), such a move can easily be supported. Nazi symobols have been outlawed in Germany since the end of the second world war, with western powers turning a blind eye to the curtailment of freedom of expression that this represents. It would appear be an entirely reasonable extension of this policy were countries that suffered greatly under communism to introduce a similar ban on the hammer and sickle.
We are in for interesting times in the months ahead as Moldova figures out whether it is justifiable to use undemocratic means to safeguard democracy... I'd love to hear your views on this one.