Something Will Happen

For this post I'm going to indulge my inner political junkie. I hope not do this too often.

More than twenty three years ago the Philippines was facing its own election crisis. Despite reports of widespread election irregularities, President was declared the winner. His rival called for coordinated strikes and mass boycotts of the media and other businesses owned by Marcos's cronies. Despite the popularity of these efforts, the turning point of the crisis was when certain government and military officials broke with the Marcos regime and set-up headquarters at two military camps in Manila. Goaded on by the local Cardinal/Archbishop, protesters congregated outside the military camps to act as human shields. Soon the crowds swelled to hundreds of thousands. A contingent of marines approached the camps but were blocked by people in the streets. This scene has been immortalized by photojournalists - nuns kneeling in front of tanks while the crowd around them lock their arms in order to block the troops. The marines retreated without firing a shot. This event was followed by a series of military defections which swelled the ranks of the opposition and inexorably led to the end of the Marcos regime.

Three years later protesters gathered at Tiananmen Square in Beijing to demand for more democratic reforms. Despite attempts by the police to disperse the crowd, their numbers soon swelled to a hundred thousand. Many of these protesters were college students, but they were strongly backed by working class people tired of government corruption. The protests at Tiananmen Square were mirrored in local college campuses and other public protests in other cities throughout China. The government was initially divided on how to deal with the protests. Attempts were made to negotiate with student leaders. But after seven weeks the Peaple's Liberation Army was sent into Beijing in the early hours of the morning. After a tense standoff the military fired on the protesters. The Square was cleared and the military continued to effectively block any attempts to enter it. The events after the crackdown were immortalized in images captured by journalists also unable to enter the Square, but watched from hotel balconies: A lone unidentified man successfully blocked a line of tanks before he was pulled away by the police. Despite demonstrations from other places in reaction to the crackdown, particularly Hong Kong, the government had effectively squashed the popular uprising.

At this time things have reached crisis levels in Iran. Reports of widespread election irregularities have been accompanied by massive street protests. Not suprisingly, Supreme Leader Ayatollah has sided with incumbent and fellow conservative President . He's endorsed the election results and condemned the street protests (here). There seem to be no legal means left to challenge the election results. A crackdown seems imminent. I'm no expert in Iranian politics, so it's not clear to me where the sympathies of the Iranian army and police lie. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps are presumably with Ahmadinejad. But they don't constitute all of the army. Nor do I know the extent of the opposition's overall influence. If the military is ordered to fire on civilians, and if the opposition receives no support from within the establishment, then the street insurrection could end very soon.