Anti-government Protests

Nov. 8, 2019 Weekly Graphs

Massive demonstrations in Chile over the past three weeks have resulted in the deaths of 15 people, with hundreds injured and thousands arrested. Chile joins several other countries experiencing widespread protests in 2019. This week, V-Dem’s Variable Graph illustrates the strength of anti-system movements between 2000 and 2018 in some of these countries.

The Civil Society Organization (CSO) Anti-System Movements indicator measures whether there are any movements based in the country that are organized in opposition to the current political system. The variable is measured on a scale from 0, anti-system movements are nonexistent or very minimal, to 4, a very high level of anti-system movement activity, posing a real and present threat to the regime.

The current protests reveal deep problems in Chile, a country that is often considered a model in Latin America, with stable democracy and prosperous economy. As the graph shows, anti-system movements in Chile have not posed much of a threat to the regime during the 21st century. There was a decline in CSO anti-system movement activity in 2018, which points to the unexpectedness of the ongoing mass demonstrations. 

Yet, Chile is also the most unequal country in the OECD and has a high cost of living. Austerity reforms have deteriorated the quality of life of the population. On October 6, the Chilean government raised 30 pesos (circa 4 cents of euro) in metro fares during peak hours. This became the fuse igniting massive demonstrations across the country that are still on-going. President Sebastián Piñera has declared a state of emergency and ordered the army onto the streets to deal with the protests. This act of repression raised popular dissatisfaction and provided additional momentum for the demonstrations. Piñera later revoked the raise in the metro fares and called for his ministers to resign. In the face of uncertainty, he was also forced to cancel three major international events in Chile: COP-25, the APEC Summit, and Copa Libertadores final.

The Variable Graph also illustrates patterns for other countries currently experiencing anti-regime protests. Bolivia went from really high scores in 2004 to lower ones in 2015, but has had an increase in CSO anti-system movements in the past few years. This reflects growing dissatisfaction with autocratization under the rule of Evo Morales, Currently, Bolivia is experiencing widespread protests against the disputed 20 October elections, which awarded Morales a fourth term with 47% of the popular vote. Meanwhile, Hong Kong had a small increase in anti-system movement strength over the past few years, but scores remained closer to one. Similar to Chile, until 2019, anti-system movements were not a significant threat to the regime in Hong Kong. It has been undergoing massive protests since March 2019. So far, over 2,600 people have been arrested. Finally, Lebanon has had comparatively high scores for anti-system movements, but since 2015, they have been on the decline. Protesters there are now demanding the resignation of political elites in response to economic decline and corruption.

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