Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"When the revolution comes..."

That's what we said back in the day, as they now say. My parents' generation spoke of in my day or in the good ole days. It seems young people always look forward as the old look back.
I find that the best way to hold on to youth is to join the younger set as they look forward. Jonathan Edelstein's post is a glowing example of bright, if ominous, expectations.

In case anyone was uncertain up to now, the events in Kyrgyzstan have made it crystal clear that the world is in its biggest wave of sustained grass-roots revolution since 1989. During the past two years, protesters in six countries have succeeded in driving governments out of office, with four of the incidents happening within the past six months. Not all of these have led to immediate democratization - the two Bolivian revolts have left the political system largely unchanged, and the jury's still out on Kyrgyzstan and Lebanon, but the idea that the people can overthrow a repressive government has taken firm root.

Which leads to the inevitable question: who's next?

Historically, waves of revolution tended to spread across regions. That pattern has broken down somewhat in the current wave given that television, fax machines and the Internet can spread the news of popular revolts around the world within minutes. Three of the six post-2003 revolts have taken place in the CIS [ed. Commonwealth of Independent States. Jonathan presumes the reader knows what this means.], but the others have been scattered as far as Latin America, the South Pacific and the Levant.

Still, there is some indication that the revolutions may be having a regional effect. Democratic movements throughout the CIS have been stirring, with the past week seeing an abortive demonstration even in quiescent Belarus. The Lebanese revolution may be having an even more dramatic effect, with up to 80,000 demonstrators taking to the streets in Bahrain in conscious emulation of the protesters at Martyrs' Square. There's more discussion of events in Bahrain at Chan'ad Bahraini, and the signs point to a real popular ferment.

Another clue to the next revolution may lie in this year's electoral calendar. Three of the six popular revolutions thus far have been catalyzed by stolen elections, while a fourth was triggered by a pre-election assassination and a fifth by post-election parliamentary maneuvers. Elections are potential flash points for several reasons: the public is politically energized during the campaign period, the aftermath of an election produces a sense of transition, and the legitimacy of elections and electoral processes critical to the legitimacy of the resulting governments. Countries are most vulnerable to revolution during the period immediately before and after an election, and the political calendar points to several potential hotspots...

He then ticks off likely candidates...Somaliland, March 29... Zimbabwe, March 31...Central African Republic, April 10...Togo, April 24...Ethiopia, May 15...Iran, June 17...Uganda, June 30...Azerbaijan, November...Haiti, November 13 to December 11...

Each of these is listed with a thumbnail summary of why it could be a candidate. He concludes by going on record.

So which is the most likely country for the seventh revolution? If I had to guess, it would be Bahrain, followed by Ethiopia and Haiti. On the other hand, an unexpected wild card might set off a popular revolt where it is least expected - possibly Belarus, Egypt or one of the Gulf states. The only firm prediction I'll make is that, by the end of the year, at least one more government will leave office after its people take to the streets.

Edelstein is one of the smartest people blogging today. His analysis of Lebanese politics is a premier work of excellence, not because he is clairvoyant, but simply because he does his homework, keeps it neat and orderly, and reports what he has learned in clear and understandable language that anybody can grasp if they take the time to read and pay attention.

I don't often blog about it, but his site is one of the most important places in my aggregator.

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