Russia protests and other 2011 uprisings: A year of yearning for clean government
On Dec. 24, tens of thousands of Russians plan to protest again over election fraud and other official corruption. The event will bookend a remarkable year of efforts, from China to India to Brazil, to rein in graft in high places.
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Mr. Putin, like other BRIC leaders, may be weighing whether to crack down on dissent or make concessions that might fuel dissent even more. He has seen leaders from Serbia to Ukraine to Egypt overthrown by protests in recent years. He witnessed the collapse of East Germany as a KGB agent.Skip to next paragraph
In China, the Communist Party leadership also appears worried about how to respond to the hundreds of protests, many of them driven by rising resentment toward local corrupt officials. In the city of Wukan this month, the entire population rose against land grabs by officials and the killing of a protest leader, Xue Jinbo. Party officials fled the city and a new government was elected. For now, Beijing has made concessions and accepts the elected leaders.
In India, a mass protest against corruption peaked in August when an ascetic, Anna Harare, led a public 12-day hunger strike. Parliament is now near passage of a measure to set up a semi-independent body to prosecute official graft.
In Brazil, small protests led by a lawyers’ group are only a small part of anti-orruption activity. A new president, Dilma Rousseff, has been forced to fire her seventh minister because of corruption charges. And more than 100 lawmakers are under criminal investigation.
As in other countries, public perception and worry about corruption has risen in Brazil. According to Transparency International, such concerns have nearly doubled in recent years. Brazilian industries cite a loss of about 2 percent of economic growth to the effects of bribery and other graft.
Protesters around the world in 2011 had many demands: human rights, democracy, and clean government. But it is corruption that usually hits closest to home for most, either in petty bribery, lost opportunities for education, or badly built roads. One of the first acts after protests lead to democracy is the prosecution of former leaders for corruption.
Humanity’s natural desire for honest and fair society was in full bloom this year. Perhaps 2012 can be a time for replanting and watering that desire in even more countries.