Mar-01-14 - by Rosendo Fraga
1. In Europe the fall of President Yanucovich in Ukraine posed a strong uncertainty about the future of the country. President – who fled with unknown destination- was seeking to align the country with Russia due to Putin’s political pressures and economic and energy needs, as a result, talks for integration into Europe were suspended. The pro-European opposition won the streets, especially in the capital of the country (Kiev), the repression was bloody and left dozens of dead and hundreds of wounded people, hastening the end of the pro-Russian Ukrainian Government. The President of the Parliament (Turkovich), ally of the main opposition leader (Timoshenko), who was released after years of imprisonment following the departure of Yanukovich, has taken over the Administration. Self-defense groups organized by the opposition in recent weeks to confront repression protect the new Government. Anticipated elections were called for May 25 and holding them will be a priority. But the divisions make it difficult to form a Government. The US and European economic support given to the new Ukrainian Government will be the key to its feasibility, in a country deeply divided between those who are in favor of Russia and those who are from Europe. The loss of control of the streets was the key to the fall of Yanukovich.
2. Turning to Asia, since November 30 when the political crisis broke out in Thailand, the protests of the opposition have taken a toll of 17 lives and around 800 wounded, including policemen. The country is deeply divided. Since 2001, when Taksin Shinawatra – a former police officer turned into a telecommunications billionaire- took over, Thai politics has been divided between his supporters and his detractors. Based on a populist model, he managed to create a solid base of support in the popular sectors, confronted with the middle class and the elites. He was sacked for corruption and from exile in 2011 managed to win an election, naming as Prime Minister the youngest of his nine brothers, gaining two years of relative stability without affecting the interests of the King, his court and the Army. But the opposition - organized around the traditional democratic party- won the streets and came to lock in permanently the capital city (Bangkok), besieging the Government and forcing it to operate in semi-secrecy. The Government called early elections which were held on February 2. The opposition boycotted them and prevented the vote in some regions. Although the turnout was very low, the Government attributed the triumph whose outcome was unknown to the opponents. In the last week of February, the Government called complementary elections for April and fighting in the capital city and the interior of the country has escalated, claiming lives and wounding people. The stability of the Government of Prime Minister Shinawatra is uncertain. Street control will possibly determine the evolution of the political crisis that the country is experiencing.
3. Moving on to Africa, in the largest country of the Arab world -Egypt- violence and division on the streets are key to the political process. When at the beginning of 2011 with the beginning of the so-called "Arab spring", Mubarak was dismissed under the impetus of the protests in the streets that were epicentered in Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital (Cairo), a seasoned political analyst argued that the country had only two forces capable of exercising power: the Army and the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter came to power through free elections following the victory of President Morsi. In the early months, he governed in a line of moderate Islamism and without colliding with the Army and Justice, structures that he failed to modify. But during 2013, Morsi turned more radical and the secular and moderate opposition began to gain the streets, the court issued rulings against the Government and the Army showed reluctance to be summoned to suppress. It is in this context that the military, with the backing of Justice, dismissed Morsi, who was imprisoned, tried, and replaced by a civilian Government controlled by the Army, which resigned on 24 February surprisingly. In this process, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood won the streets calling for the release of Morsi, dealing first with supporters of his dismissal, then the military crackdown. Dozens of people have died in these incidents and hundreds have been injured while radical Islamic groups -some linked to Al Qaeda- have carried out terrorist actions. The head of the Army (Sisi) has emerged as the strong man and announced that it will be presented as a candidate for President in elections that would take place in the coming months. The loss of control on the streets was the key in Morsi’s fall and Sisi’s consolidation.
4. In the case of Latin America, the political crisis affecting Venezuela confirms the importance of the control of the streets as the key for the political stability of Governments. Since Hugo Chávez came to power at the end of 1998 and consolidated it with a populist left-wing model, the country was divided into those who were for and against the model. The presidential elections held after the death of Chavez last year ratified in his successor, Nicolás Maduro, in power. In the elections the opposition had a single candidate (Capriles), who won 50% of the votes and the Government --with a similar percentage-- claimed victory in disputed elections. Since then, the economic situation has deteriorated strongly, with inflation exceeding 50%, a large exchange rate gap, shortages and recession. During February, the opposition demonstrations -with a predominance of middle class and students- won the streets and were repressed violently. Leopoldo López, the leader of the radical wing of the opposition, appeared before after a Government-issued capture warrant, accused of terrorism and murder. But the opposition reunited and continued to dominate the streets, as Maduro steps up repression with para-police groups that have caused 14 deaths and almost 150 wounded, while at the same time censorship is enhanced. On 22 February, sensing that his stay in power was in danger, Maduro convened a national dialogue conference seeking to relax tensions. But most of the opposition rejected dialogue with him, demanding the end of repression and the release of detainees. Possibly control of the streets will remain the determining factor of the Venezuelan crisis.
5. To conclude:
a) Although social networks rule the world of communications, politics and protests and street control are an increasingly determining factor for government stability.
b) In four medium-sized countries (Ukraine, Thailand, Egypt and Venezuela), political crises are defined around rulers’ and opponents’ abilities in controlling the streets.
c) In Ukraine, the president stepped down harassed by protests and in Egypt, Morsi was toppled when the same Tahrir Square, which claimed Mubarak’s destitution in 2011, was now calling for his leaving.
d) In Thailand and Venezuela political crises show uncertain outcomes as the opposition takes the lead in controlling the streets and governments pay the cost of repression.