‘An act of resistance or rebellion; a revolt’.
Events in Hong Kong have once again thrust this idea into the international consciousness and the world has looked on as thousands have joined the protests against China. Looking back at previous movements however, the success of such efforts can be questioned. Is change ever truly possible to achieve or are these countries forever chained to the injustice that has plagued their history?
The past decade has witnessed the escalation of political upheavals across the globe, with varying degrees of success. Born out of determination to propel their nation in the direction of fairness, mass gatherings have sprung up, with thousands of individuals pushing for change.
Looking to Europe, Ukraine has often been at the forefront of such movements, with the ‘Orange Revolution’ being one of the most significant. Following the Presidential election in November 2004, thousands took to the streets to protest against Viktor Yanukovych’s victory, claiming electoral fraud and demanding a re-vote. The subsequent election was deemed to be ‘fair and free’. Ukrainians had got the result they wanted. In theory this result was meant to be Ukraine’s turning point: an opportunity to move towards becoming a democratic state. Yet in the years following, change seemed slow moving and those who were involved in the revolution became increasingly disillusioned. Confidence in the newly elected President waned and not long after taking up office he was forced to sack his Prime Minister over allegations of corruption. Relations with Russia also became increasingly strained and the economy was hit hard during the recession that rocked Europe in the late noughties. The Ukraine that existed post ‘Orange Revolution’ was a far cry from the one envisioned by the thousands who demanded change. The lack of profound change was laid bare by the result of the 2010 presidential election when Viktor Yanukovych claimed victory, six years after he was denied victory in the previous election. The legacy of the ‘Orange Revolution’ calls into question the chances of genuine success following an uprising.
Ukraine is far from being the only country to experience an uprising in recent years. The Arab Spring movement shook the Middle East for almost two years and saw many leaders ousted from power. Perhaps the most significant of these revolts was in Egypt, where thirty million people took to the streets. The end result saw President Mubarak resign, bringing an end to his near thirty-year rule of the country. Similarly to Ukraine, this outcome led many to hope for profound change. But three years on from the uprising Egypt has struggled to make the transition to democracy. The country’s first civilian president, Mohammed Morsi, was removed from power after only a year and many fear that Egypt’s current President will oversee a return to the authoritarian approach that prevailed under Mubarak. Long gone is the optimism that intoxicated those who took to the streets and with two elections in three years, political stability in Egypt appears a long way off and democracy even further.
The legacy of past uprisings leads us to question such movements. Temporary change may be achieved but long lasting political stability and democracy is an elusive goal. The equality that so many desire is often lost in political battles and it’s the people who suffer in the process. Uprisings are an important movement and peoples’ voices are heard however it’s often the aftermath that speaks the loudest.