Democracy Protests can Change the Future – Liberal Article
Pro-democracy protests have popped up around the world in recent years. Following the well-known Umbrella Movement started in Hong Kong in 2014, people around the world have flocked to the streets demanding freedom and democratic rights. Recently protests in Belarus and Thailand, in which prominent student protester, Parit Chiwarak, has been arrested, have attempted to alter their government’s methods. The main question is; have these protests actually created change?
In my opinion, no. As of right now, very little progress towards greater democracy has been seen. Even though protesting has been on and off in Hong Kong for over 5 years, China’s new security law has stripped individuals of demanding greater rights and democracy. In Belarus, the main opposition to Alexander Lukashenko’s regime was forced to flee the country to escape conviction. As people are outraged, we have seen greater police brutality against protesters.
Protesting is a great way to make noise, but with so little action afterwards, it is difficult to understand its value. However, we must not give up. Without the people speaking up against an actor, regime, policy, etc. we will simply sit by and let it happen.
The people always have more power than the regime, although this is not always obvious. The ability to create change through an organised movement can be overpowering. The hardest problem is finding unity. Although a large percentage of people want freedom and rights, those who thrive off of autocracy do not want change. Their ability to alter the course of a movement through their influence, money and manpower can be devastating. They can drive a wedge into society, splitting the minds of the population and creating doubt.
Ideally, other governments should not intervene in domestic politics (in a perfect world they wouldn’t need to!). Countries are unlikely to invade a country over this topic. If they did, we would see a new invasion every day! But pressure can be applied from the outside. Actions like imposing sanctions or cancelling trade deals can force dictatorships to cave in and crumble. The pressure can create serious economic issues. This forces the autocracy to change something to please those who can take deals off the table.
It isn’t always this easy though unfortunately. Sanctions imposed by the UN are difficult to push through, as seen recently from the US attempt to impose sanctions on Iran. Alliances between nations are a curse and blessing, depending on what side you are on. Russia is unlikely to allow the Security Council to impose these barriers, due to their long alliance and friendship with Belarus. These types of deals and relationships hurt the UN’s ability to create actual change.
I hope that I’ve not put everyone off from protesting. Voices need to be heard. Democracy has proven that it can create peace and freedom, as well as economic prosperity. It has to be done right though. A united front is the best way to not be dismantled.
Lastly, it is important what happens afterwards. We do not want to see a repeat of the Arab Spring revolutions, which overthrew dictatorships but in some cases were simply replaced by another one. Guidance by established democracies has been attempted but struggles. Democracy takes time and I hope that eventually, it will prosper where it is wanted.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Charlie Papamichael
Point of Information
We need to sustain the noise of protests – a Labour Response
On the face of it, I certainly agree with the premise of Charlie’s article. Very little change has come as a direct result of the mentioned pro-democracy protests. This is a sad truth. But a truth that needs to be realised.
Normally with protests, a lot of noise is made initially, but the ‘echo’ slowly dwindles. This results in no real long-lasting change. This has sadly been seen far too often, most recently with the Black Lives Matter protests. People immediately turned to protest, but forget that these issues exist beyond protesting.
Charlie thoughtfully considers the role of the people in achieving change, specifically with regards to pro-democracy protests. I agree with Charlie that the power of the people is not always obvious, and that unity is a difficult thing to reach. But it is certainly achievable. The people have significant influence over government and fundamentally over every part of society, regardless of attempts to shush them from the likes of Lukashenko.
You may be thinking there is a rather large risk of hypocrisy here. How can we say the people hold so much power, yet simultaneously deem protests as pointless? This is not what I am getting at, nor do I believe Charlie is. People need to recognise their power and use it beyond protests. Protests are incredibly important, but only when the noise continues afterwards.
In an earlier response to an article on the Belarusian protests, I suggested that global media coverage of the protests would have unfathomable influence over Lukashenko. I stand by the success likelihood of this for the majority of pro-democracy protests. Combine the power of the people with the power of the media and you have a notably better chance of being heard. It is about creating noise and sustaining it through the means of global media.
I too hope that the people can recognise their power, and democracy will prosper.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Abi Clargo
The power of the vote will become more prominent – a Conservative Response
Thank you, Charlie, for bringing up such a prominent issue and I do agree with the majority of your points in your article. Democracy protests echo what the people want to hear but do not necessarily enforce change. Governments acknowledge their mistakes but do not necessarily act upon them. One extremely prominent example being the 2003 15th February anti-Iraq war protests. The noise was created but politicians did not enforce change. Canada was the only anomaly as they did not send troops to Iraq as a result of the protests.
The people have found other ways to voice their anger against the government by coming out in force to go against the government’s wishes. This can be seen with the EU referendum in 2016.
People had had enough of austerity being enforced upon them to clear up the economy after the global economic recession. Immigration, housing, jobs and healthcare also played a part in the people making the decision to go against the Conservative government’s wishes. This is, of course, a very vague point which I would love to go into more detail about but that will have to come in an article of mine. Other factors such as poor campaign planning by both sides had effects on the voting and the turnout.
I do agree with Charlie’s example of Belarus and the difficulty we face in influencing organisations such as the UN for change. But to say that other countries should not get involved with domestic politics is a contentious point to make. I would agree with your point in some sense, especially with France’s involvement in Rwanda during the atrocious genocide. France’s military operation “Turquoise” did not help save lives, it actually made the situation worse. Countries should only get involved in domestic politics when absolutely necessary.
However, Charlie has made some extremely valid and agreeable points throughout this article which should not go amiss. The power of the vote will become more and more prominent as the people begin to realise how much power it holds.
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, Max Jablonowski
I am a second year student currently reading International Relations and Modern Languages at the University of Exeter.
I’m Abi! I am a liberal, political enthusiast from the Welsh valleys. Since I was young, I have been captivated by politics. I used to spend so much time watching the morning news before school, and have paid close attention to political campaigns for as long as I can remember. It was a lot later that I decided I wanted to pursue politics academically. Now, I have just finished my second year studying Politics and International Relations at the University of Exeter.
I am Max Jablonowski, a second year student studying French and Politics at the University of Exeter, and I am about to go on my year abroad to Paris to complete two internships. I was Academic Events Manager of the Politics Society in Exeter and I was privileged enough to organize events such as Question Time, co-host the 2019 General Election Hustings with MWEXE and host the Rt. Hon. James Brokenshire MP, the current Minister of State for Security.