Are protests over auto-import tariffs turning overtly political?
Paul Goble has an interesting post
over at Window On Eurasia on the subject that is well worth a read.
The Russian government announced the import tariffs in December, claiming they were necessary to support the domestic auto industry. The move sparked demonstrations
in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, where imported cars from Japan are extremely popular and where the imported used car business is a key part of the local economy. The protests quickly spread to other cities
Now, some of the protest leaders are calling for a general strike against the regime on January 31 if the tariffs are not revoked. And a new group, called TIGR (a Russian acronym for Fellowship of Active Russian Citizens), is trying to turn the protests into a political challenge against the ruling elite.
The group, which uses a Siberian tiger as its logo, is making the following demands on its website
1. A reduction of auto import duties
2. No ban on right-side steering wheels
3. A reduction in gas prices
4. No increase in charges for utilities and housing services
5. Increased salaries for workers
6. Increased pensions
7. An end to mass layoffs
8. The dismissal of the government
9. The restoration of freedom speech
10. Ending limitations on protests
11. A reversal of judicial reforms limiting jury trials and expanding the definition of treason and espionage
12. Respect for the Constitution
13. A reduction in the size of the bureaucracy
14. The adoption of serious anti-corruption measures
15. The restoration of the right for citizens to vote "against all" candidates in elections
16. A restoration of free elections for governors and regional leaders
As Goble notes, too little is known about the group at this point to know for sure if it is a "genuine expression of civil society or whether it is either a stalking horse for some political party or a provocation organized by the government to justify a crackdown."
Nevertheless, this situation is worth keeping an eye on.
-- Brian Whitmore