Citizens Demand — from Kiev to Singapore

When we look back on what the past five years has brought,  and which is perhaps only starting, we’ll see a marked turn in the course of human history — much as that of the late 18th century with the diminishmen and in some cases destruction of absolute monarchies.  What we are seeing now is the rise of popular resistance to entrenched political overl0ards, whether the military dictatorship in Egypt or the new, elected, leadership in the Ukraine.  The rise in the youth demographic, in symbiosis with new technologies which enable great individual knowledge and wider and easier sharing of ideas and calls to action means that youthful dreams have gotten leverage on the elders in power, and bent on protecting it.

The problem is, of course, that youth and enthusiasm are no guarantee of right results. One thing is certain, without long-term organizing and shared values, spontaneous movements will find charismatic leaders to give them direction — which can be in any direction, forward in dignity and mutual aid, backward in scapegoating, resentment and retribution.  No known way to make sure the Mandelas get the call.

KIEV, Ukraine —Public protests thundered into a full-throttle civil uprising in Ukraine on Sunday, as hundreds of thousands of protesters answered President Viktor F. Yanukovich’s dismissiveness with their biggest rally so far, demanding that he and his government resign.

At the height of the unrest on Sunday night, a seething crowd toppled and smashed a statue of Lenin, the most prominent monument to the Communist leader in Kiev. The act was heavy with symbolism, underscoring the protesters’ rage at Russia over its role in the events that first prompted the protests: Mr. Yanukovich’s abrupt refusal to sign sweeping political and free-trade agreements with the European Union.  NY Times

People surround a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin, which was toppled by protesters during a rally organized by supporters of EU integration in Kiev, December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Maks Levin

People surround a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin, December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Maks Levin

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BANGKOK — A call for new elections by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand on Monday failed to quell antigovernment demonstrations, as tens of thousands of protesters massed outside her office and vowed to expel her powerful family from the country.

… Among the heaving mass of protesters on Monday were employees of the national carrier, Thai Airways; a large contingent of graduates from the country’s most prestigious universities; members of an ascetic Buddhist sect; ultra-royalists; and many people from southern Thailand, a stronghold of the opposition.

The problem is that the government is very popular in parts of the country,

Because of the deep affection that the governing party has in the north and northeast of the country, scholars say, it would be very difficult for the Democrat Party to reverse its two-decade losing streak in national elections.

In the last elections, held in July 2011, the governing party received 15.7 million votes, compared with 11.4 million for the Democrats.  NY Times

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In Singapore — yes, Singapore!– the equation is somewhat different.  The unrest is not among the citizen, but the large numbers of foreign, exploited, workers.

SINGAPORE — A crowd set fire to vehicles and clashed with the police in the Indian district of Singapore late on Sunday, a rare outbreak of violence in the city-state.

According to various reports, the disturbance began after a private bus struck and killed a foreign worker in the Little India area….

Little India is usually crowded on Sundays, with construction workers from Bangladesh and India gathering on their day off.

The disturbance is likely to fuel concerns about discontent among low-paid foreign workers. Last year Singapore had its biggest outbreak of labor unrest in years when bus drivers from China went on strike illegally. NY Times

And in India, though not seen in street protests (yet) an earthquake shook up the governing Congress Party, which lost the majority in 4 states, to the ultra-nationalist BJP.  In Dehli, a brand new party, Aam Aadmi (Common Man,)  spun off from the widely reported anti-corruption campaign (India Against Corruption), picked up a good number of seats, 23 of 70, and just behind BJP which had 27.

“It is a substantial defeat for Congress,” the historian Ramachandra Guha said as results were announced on Sunday morning. “Congress itself may learn nothing; they firewall their senior leadership from criticism even internally. But what we are learning is that the charisma of the Gandhi family is basically more or less gone,” he said, referring to the family that has dominated Indian political life for decades.

The results, he added, represented the voice of “a much younger group of voters who do not remember the contributions or sacrifices, real or imagined, of Indira Gandhi, the martyrdom of Rajiv Gandhi.”  NY Times

The AAP is so knew no track record exists.  Those who ran on its slate, and its announced goals make it look very interesting.

Many of its candidates – some of whom defeated Congress and BJP heavyweights Sunday – were first-time politicians with a background in public service, journalism and teaching. In a country where a third of lawmakers have criminal cases pending against them, the AAP vowed party candidates wouldn’t be allowed to run for office if evidence of wrongdoing against them was presented to the party.  WSJ

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