Ukraine: Power to the People?

Euromaidan NessaGnatoushMatt Steele on what the Ukrainian protests really mean for the power of the populace around the world.After a bloody and casualty-heavy fight in the centre of Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, protesters successfully overwhelmed the state’s security forces on 22 February, effectively taking the city, and forcing President Viktor Yanukovych to withdraw to an unknown location. His impeachment by the Ukranian Parliament effectively ended his Presidency. As of now, the Speaker of Parliament, Oleksandr Turchinov, is acting as Interim President whilst the country prepares for fresh elections and attempts to secure itself amidst increasing tensions between the east and west of the country. These clashes in Ukraine over the future of the country, and whether it turns east, or west, were a further illustration of the growing power globalisation has given to 'the people' to demonstrate against corruption and oppressionThe Arab Spring, which saw regime change in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen, showed that the power of the people was stronger than ever in the age of globalisation. With the advent of new technologies, ordinary people now have the ability to more closely observe the oppressive nature of authoritarian regimes. This in turn allows those in the international community to see and understand what is truly happening within a country. And after the international community assesses the situation, pressure can be mounted against regimes that are both repressive, and which are undermining the freedoms of their own people. With such international pressure, sanctions are likely. It will become much more difficult for oppressive leaders to continue ruling. This is one of the first lessons globalisation has taught us, and because of it the world has become a slightly better place.To start with, the various ‘Springs’ that have happened throughout the world have shown us that if a large enough group of people want to make their government more transparent, creating a protest movement against the government is possible and —crucially— can lead to success. In this regard, people have realised the power they have to fight against corruption at a fundamental level. Events such as this will force governments around the world to be more transparent and open to genuine dialogue. The belief that this power of the people is actually realisable makes the aims of globalisation, which have always been questioned for their sincerity, more laudable. When people realise that they do in fact hold this type of power, their ability to change the world for good might make it a more enjoyable place in which to live.As optimistic as this vision may sound, such protests as those in Ukraine have shown that this is possible. Though there are certainly caveats that must be considered. Protests cannot be made for disingenuous reasons, as they sometimes are. Grievances with this or that matter are not necessarily enough to constitute protest movements. Defining the moment when protests are acceptable in overthrowing the government is not easy, but acceptance of such protests by the international community are generally good indicators.The most difficult problem posed by such ‘springs,’ however, is their propensity to cause sectarian violence. As we have seen in Egypt and Ukraine, sectarian violence is a real possibility, and one that is not simple to resolve. If the power of the people is to be utilised, it must take these things into consideration. Otherwise, further chaos may ensue, and that would make the success of any initial protests irrelevant. Matt Steele Image Credit: Nessa Gnatoush