After 11 consecutive days of peaceful protests dubbed “Merzhir Serzhin” (Reject Serzh), Armenians have finally managed to dethrone Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan. Widespread jubilation across Armenia’s cities followed the announcement of his resignation. Sargsyan’s ouster on April 23 does not mean that democracy or economic prosperity will immediately arrive for the nation in the South Caucasus. However, it does mean that there is a renewed prospect for political openness and growth.
Over the course of the past two years, onlookers have been confounded at the speed with which Poland, a darling of shock therapy economics and liberal institutionalization, has spiraled towards illiberal democracy. Since the 2015 parliamentary election, the country has made a dramatic political U-turn, which has hurt its diplomatic efforts and eroded goodwill as it now faces the possibility of EU sanctions.
In the two months between Vladimir Putin’s virtually assured victory on March 18 and the presentation of the new government in mid-May, Russia’s president will need to address three very different economic proposals. He’ll need to oversee enough change to satisfy the public without alienating an elite that has done exceedingly well through corruption and insider access.
On March 18, a significant number of Russian voters will go to the polls with mixed feelings. On the one hand, they want to vote for Putin—at least out of habit—but they are not very happy with the idea that Putin’s reelection means nothing will change in their lives for the subsequent six years. On the other hand, they are afraid to vote against Putin because they think that without him everything will come crashing down in Russia.
Russians are growing frustrated with poor healthcare, underfunded schools, and increasing poverty, a recent poll shows. As President Vladimir Putin prepares for his fourth term, he is making promises and boosting pensions. But he has a mixed record delivering enduring social goods. And in the past, benefits like pensions were often reversed soon after the vote.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly promised to tackle corruption. But in his new term, corruption is likely to get worse, not better. The rot of corruption in Russia is no failing of the system – in many ways it is the system working as intended.
Most Russians would be forgiven for skipping this month’s presidential election. With less than two weeks until polls open, we can say with strong confidence that Vladimir Putin will win his fourth term in office. Officials are taking no chances to ensure turnout isn’t embarrassingly low, however, mobilizing students and workers, plastering the regions with pro-Putin materials, and seemingly handpicking the other candidates allowed to run.
The current protests throughout Iran are unprecedented in its post-revolutionary history. They are driven primarily by a popular sense of economic indignity borne of decades of mismanagement, rampant cronyism, low oil prices, and tough sanctions; in other words, the catalysts are not ideological. The protests are spread across the country, remarkably making their way to the capital, rather emanating from it. They are at present leaderless, unlike 1979 or 2009. And distinct from the latter year’s Green Movement, when perhaps less than one million Iranians possessed smartphones, over 47 million now have them at their disposal. When the revolution eventually comes, it will be streamed.
Whether you get your news online, on the radio, on television, or in print, there is no way to escape the recent spate of revelations of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault that have taken place in every industry and at every echelon. Powerful politician, billionaire media mogul, tenured professor, it makes no difference; the Harvey Weinstein scandal (rather than the countless sexual disgraces associated with our Commander-in-Chief) provided the watershed moment that now has our country engaged, at least for the time being, in this important, albeit uncomfortable, conversation.