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- Written by Eman Jueid
- Category: World News
In the aftermath of the shocking elections that handed Putin’s United Russia party its poorest result in years, giving it only a slim majority rather than the outsize victory they have become accustomed to, protesters took to the streets. The chants - “Russia without Putin” - were remarkably close to those heard during the Arab Spring: “Tunisia without Ben-Ali” or “Egypt without Mubarak.” Protests were broken up by police, but with the help of social media, larger protests have been planned for later in December in Revolutionary Square, Moscow’s largest and most prominent public space (the equivalent of Tahir Square in Cairo).
As with the Arab Spring, economics is playing its part in Russia’s uprising. In Tunisia and Egypt, although not so much in Libya and Syria, early protests emphasised the deteriorating economic situation at home and the lack of jobs. The newly elected Islamist party in Tunisia, En Nahda, campaigned on the back of these very complaints, promising to create jobs and improve the economy. It is a similar story in Russia, where years of inefficiency and corruption were looked over as the high price of oil soaked government coffers with petro-dollars. But as the global economic outlook continues to sour and oil prices keep falling, balancing the budget and managing a system of corrupt patronage becomes much harder. The cracks in the economy can no longer be smoothed over.
The similarities continue. In Egypt we saw bloggers who had long lived in fear of Mubarak throw off that fear and let their hatred flow in a slew of attacks that protesters in the streets rallied around. We are seeing similar incidents in Russia, where, according to The Economist report, Putin was recently booed at a martial-arts contest, “a staggering idea only months ago.” As the public throws off its fear of Putin and reprisals, protests will continue to gain momentum and we could see dissent in Russia at levels unseen since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Still, in all likelihood we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. Putin’s grip on power in Russia is immense and there is little that can happen at this time that will prevent his return to the Presidency. In addition, in a recent four-hour long televised question and answer session, Putin made it plain that he was going to make no concessions due to protests, saying he was too busy learning to play ice hockey to pay much attention to the protests. This sort of derision continued throughout the interview and was mixed with the assertion that the protests are being organised by the West. In addition to the public face Putin is putting on he has ordered the police to continue to hound protesters and break up meetings, effectively clamping down on opposition movements. While Putin has had success with this modus operandi before, it is a risky game to play now and could ultimately broaden the support of the opposition movement.
The question remains whether we are about to see the Arab Spring go global, making its first stop in Moscow. While a Russian Spring may be long overdue it may not be coming as soon as one may think. Supporters of democracy, freedom, and equality will hold on to a glimmer of hope that perhaps the plates in Russia are shifting and a brighter future is on the horizon.By Jonathan Granby, Aslan Media Contributor
Photo Credit: max_trudo
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