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COMMENTS 

From Indyref to Indignados: how passions and politics mix

As Scotland heads to the polls, this piece discusses the extent to which emotions have arrived at the heart of contemporary politics – yet we still hesitate to admit it. Emotions can neither be banished nor ignored when we discuss what constitutes political communities, how political decisions should be made and political action springs into being. Yet to embrace the rise of emotional politics without acknowledging how intimately it is and should be entangled with reason equally risks undermining just political action.
Dr Uta Staiger
18 September 2014
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Starts: Sep 18, 2014 12:00:00 AM

10 things you need to know about what will happen if Scotland votes yes

As the Scottish independence referendum draws closer the outcome is hard to predict. Both Westminster politicians and the wider public are asking what – in practical terms – would happen if the Scots were to vote Yes. Robert Hazell offers a 10-point overview of what the road to independence might look like.
Professor Robert Hazell
9 September 2014
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Starts: Sep 9, 2014 12:00:00 AM

The truth is, Scandinavia is neither heaven nor hell

The Nordic countries have received exceptionally good press in the UK - at least until earlier this year, when British travel writer and resident of Denmark, Michael Booth, claimed to dispel the of Scandinavia as the perfect place to live. Many are now confused. Is everything we believed about the social ideals of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland a lie? Well, not entirely but we’re not all drunk serial killers either.
Dr Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen
19 August 2014 More...

Starts: Sep 8, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Ukraine's protests gather pace

Publication date: Dec 3, 2013 10:21:50 AM

Start: Dec 3, 2013 12:00:00 AM

As protests in Kiev are about to enter their third week, the ruling party is losing key members and morale. So what happens next?
Dr Andrew Wilson
December 2013


The protests in Kiev are now almost two weeks old. They began after the Ukrainian government first decided to suspend negotiations with the EU on 21 November, but have gained new intensity after President Yanukovych left the Vilnius Summit on 28-29 November empty-handed, without signing the key Agreements. But the attempt at violent dispersal of the crowds on his return, on Saturday the 30th , only led to bigger demonstrations on the Sunday. At the time of writing (Monday the 2nd), the protestors were looking more embedded – literally so, as several buildings have been occupied and barriers set up in the centre of Kiev. The stakes are especially high because the OSCE Ministerial Council is due to be held in Kiev on 5-6 December – the opposition want to keep the protest going until then, the authorities want to stamp them out. The ruling party is losing key members and morale. So what happens next?

  • One of the most depressing features of Ukraine’s many failures after the Orange Revolution in 2004 was that people lost the will to protest. Political demonstration even became an entirely artificial affair, with being-paid-to-protest becoming big business in Ukraine. So the return of real protests changes things dramatically. Participants at the first big demo held up signs saying “we are not paid”. The authorities are relying on the tired and discredited narrative that this is an artificial protest, ‘”paid for” by domestic oligarchs or foreign powers. At least in Kiev, everyone knows this is false.
  • So how will the authorities react? They have already tried violent dispersal of the demonstrators and it didn’t work. There is no iron law saying it wouldn’t work a second time; but the likely human cost now looks high and the regime’s ranks are far from united. The President has lost his Chief of Staff; the head of Kiev City Police has also gone. Yanukovych’s natural instinct, however, is not exactly negotiation. The authorities have been building up their defences since 2010. The use of thugs and paid provocateurs against demonstrators is still a real prospect – so the West should be wary of any Black PR that the demonstrators used violence first.
  • Yanukovych has phoned Barroso and promised to send a delegation to Brussels to “look at” key aspects of the EU-Ukraine Agreements. There will be severe disappointment in Brussels if they arrive without the power to negotiate. The EU was possibly saved from a bad agreement in Vilnius if it had acceded to some of Ukraine’s more outlandish demands. The authorities are no longer in a position to make such demands, so the ideal scenario of an Agreement without them may ironically be more possible now than it was last week.
  • Some demonstrators are calling for Yanukovych’s resignation and for “revolution”; but the real point of pressure is on the government. A dozen MPs have quit the ruling Party of Regions already and their parliamentary majority is under threat. Prime Minister Azarov could easily be the fall guy, and could be replaced with a compromise candidate. President Yanukovych would then be dangerously isolated, however, so will resist such a scenario as strongly as he can.
  • How will Russia react? Putin has invested heavily in sabotaging the Eastern Partnership across the board; but the great victory that Russia was celebrating at the end of the Vilnius Summit now looks potentially hollow. Even more fundamentally, Putin thought he had inoculated Russia, Ukraine and the surrounding states against any repeat of the kind of protests seen in 2004. Now they, or something like them, are happening again.

  • Dr Andrew Wilson, Reader in Ukranian Studies, UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies

First published on the European Council on Foreign Relations website.