Careful with that spark!

Nadia Pryshliak
19:50, 20 July 2018
Ukraine
540 0
Opinion

The other day, a friend of mine drew my attention to the fact that the Headquarters of Trade Unions badly burnt during the Maidan uprising in 2014 has almost been refurbished, and both presidential and parliamentary elections are looming. Could this all be the sign that the new Maidan is coming?

I took his observations as a cruel joke. But, if we look at protest moods and recent poll results, it doesn't seem that we're facing another Revolution.

In July, Social Monitoring Center and Oleksandr Yaremenko Ukrainian Institute for Social Research conducted a public opinion polling in regional centers and large cities with a population of more than 100,000, which most often become initiators of protests along with the capital. The poll showed that, despite over 60% of respondents considering the political situation in Ukraine tense and 24% believing that the situation is critical and explosive, only 11.4% of Ukrainians are ready to participate in actions of civil disobedience.

That is, according to Chair of the Ukrainian Institute of Social Studies, Olha Balakireva, "the political temperature in society is rising." However, the majority of respondents are not rushing to take to the streets. After all, according to sociologists, 38% of citizens support mass rallies, 37% support them without intending to take part in them personally, and only 21% support them and are also ready to rally. Besides, it should be borne in mind that the majority tends toward "intelligent" protest - signing of various petitions and appeals, voting in social networks, going for peaceful strikes, blocking roads or government institutions.

However, the increase should also be noted in the number of Ukrainians who are ready to take up arms. Among those surveyed by sociologists in July, there was 5.2% of them although previously various studies showed a much smaller figure – there has never been more than 2% of such radical respondents.

According to Chair of the Ukrainian Institute for Social Studies Olha Balakireva, "the political temperature in society is rising." However, the majority of respondents are not rushing to take to the streets

Of course, such a radicalization can be partly explained by an increase in the number of weapons "at hand" and public dissatisfaction with the fact that the authorities who took over following the Revolution of Dignity were allegedly supposed to be "cleaner," but corruption is still there as well as nepotism, while many officials from the Yanukovych era have somehow adapted to the new realities like chameleons. Besides, it must be taken into account that the intention to take up arms does not necessarily mean fulfilling such intentions. After all, judging from some posts in social networks, there are many "heroes" talking the talk, but in fact, there are not many of those out there who are actually ready to do what they claim they're capable of.

Thus, in the current situation, it seems that the authorities can somewhat relax, because there is not enough "crazy violent" guys out there yet. The people seem to have "swallowed" various "reforms," tariff hikes, etc... As they say, officials could survive the elections with the help of some food packs presented ahead of the vote to the most vulnerable electorate. After all, the poorer the voters, the easier it is to buy them off.

However, all this calm is rather deceptive. If we recall the two previous Maidans, none of them were "over food." They emerged over the people's hope for better life and against injustice. Besides, those rallies initially had no real mass support. In early November 2013, a small group gathered on the Maidan, while Yanukovych's reversal on signing an association agreement with the EU had little effect on most Ukrainians. The turning point was the brutal beating of peaceful protesters by the government security forces. That is, hundreds of thousands of protesters filled Kyiv's central streets as a reaction to that injustice...

So, is the third Maidan possible in the near future? Sociologists say it's not.

On the other hand, if we look at the polls conducted five years ago, there were no predictions of a Maidan back in 2013, either. For example, a study conducted in May 2013 by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, along with the Razumkov Center, showed that a quarter of Ukrainians had not intended to personally take to the streets to take part in protest actions (today the figure is 21%), 36% did not see themselves at any kind of demonstrations, while another 25% believed that it would not be worth participating in any street actions. The main factor that, according to respondents, could have encouraged them to take personal part in protests, was a deterioration in their own social and economic situation. Five years ago, the trends showed that for Ukrainians, the importance was gradually increasing of such "noneconomic" reasons for taking to the streets as oppression of democracy or the need to support the early resignation of President Yanukovych. However, as early as November, everything turned out to be different.

On the other hand, if we look at the polls conducted five years ago, there were no predictions of a Maidan back in 2013, either

Today, the situation is quite similar. The authorities are also trying to come up with various restrictions, including on the media (through the possibility of shutting down websites without a court order or by pushing through a decision to limit journalists' presence in the Verkhovna Rada). The Presidential Administration HQ on Bankova Street has long been closed down to the public eye. Living standards of Ukrainians have been decreasing. And the desire of the authorities to stay for the second term has been growing, too. That is why there is still no new Electoral Code. That is why the Central Election Commission has not yet been upgraded. There's still a chance to step on the same rake. And I don't really want the turmoil of 2013-2014 to repeat. After all, one might call a Kremlin lover anyone who loves Ukraine but doesn't approve of certain moves by the authorities, but it is almost impossible to predict which spark may cause fire. And, given the ongoing war, this would be a disaster.

Nadiia Pryshliak

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