Monday, December 12, 2011

The People's Will: "мы требуем честных еревыбров!!!"

Above flickr photo by I.P75 (no other name given) and
below a yahoo image of teachers (unhappy with pay cuts)
joining the protest. 
"We demand a fair election," this sign says, one of many that floated above the tens of thousands of people who protested the recent fraudulent parliamentary elections in Russia that qualified Vladimir Putin to run for president again.  Street protests in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and other Russian cities exposed "an unexpected public fury."  The sheer numbers astonish.

That’s why Putin’s strategy of blaming Hillary Clinton, who questioned election procedures along with other electoral observers, sounded hallow.  Her comments, indeed,  simply echoed those of former president Mikhail Gorbachev, who lamented widespread fraud and called for new elections. “The results do not reflect the people’s will," he said (BBC news report on yahoo, 7 December 2011).  

"The people's will."  It is showing itself around the world, an unprecedented outpouring of discontent with political and economic ruling elites, wherever they are. 

"The Tunisia effect."  The Arab spring.  Rage finding its voice. Spreading like wild fire. It toppled Mubarek in Egypt. It's overtaking Europe.  It's come to America through the "Occupy Wall Street" movement.  It's everywhere.  A rolling chorus of thunderous voices, fueled further by the power of the internet and the ubiquitous social media, calling for change from the bottom up.  The technological revolution has spawned social and political revolutions around the global village.

Will Putin pay attention? Or is he, like other old guard leaders, totally out of touch with the people? Lilya Shevtsova, a noted Russian political analyst, said that Putin "can crush the protests, but that can't save him in the historical perspective: recent events have delegitimized his power...We are witnessing the decline of Putin's epoch." (quoted in Timothy Heritage, "Protests Open Pandora's Box for Putin," Reuter's article, yahoo news, 8 Dec. 2011).  Actually we are witnessing the delegitimization and decline of old-fashioned political rulers everywhere in the world.

Certainly Putin, a former KGB spy and president for over 12 years before he had to give up the office to the current "puppet" president Medvedev, still has lots of power, over the media, the armed forces and the state apparatus including the  the police.  It's scary.  But journalist Jim Heintz made a good point:  "Hopefully he'll have much to lose if he goes for the usual strategy of repressing the opposition."

The Russian people are showing tremendous courage in the face of formidable odds. But Russia's ruling elites, like ruling elites everywhere, are on the way out.  A new order is emerging, a new paradigm of social change. It's just a matter of time. Who knows where it will lead?

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