Americans just started a new presidency but in China, Russia, France, Iceland and Britain, some leaders already fear that the worsening global economy will result in calls for new governments with new leaders and ideas.
Protesters in Rusia’s eastern most industrial hub and seaport, Vladivostok, called this week for new government leaders because of the economic down turn.
The protest was peaceful; but more protests are planned. And previous protests like this one in Russia ended in violence and the police making dozens of arrests.
The crowd called for the replacement of Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, Russia’s top leaders, for mismanaging the economy.
On Saturday protesters held demonstrations throughout Russia, offering largely subdued, but pointed criticism of the government’s economic policies as the country continues to sink deeper into an economic morass, the New York Times said.
In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is under fire. He is currently taking heat for a jobs and rights protest that stems from his pledge that “British jobs need to be British.”
Thousands of workers across Britain have walked off their jobs following protests over the use of foreigners at a Lincolnshire oil refinery.
On Saturday, the number of strikers multiplied, with hundreds of energy workers across the UK protesting — and with lines of police around them.
And millions of Chinese have gone home for the Spring Festival or New Year and told not to return to their jobs. China is so worried about domestic unrest that it has started its largest anti-democracy crackdown ever: specifically targeting the media and Internet.
“People have this psychology of crisis,” said Victor Yuan, chairman of Beijing-based consultant Horizon Research Consultancy Group, which does polling for the private sector and the government.
Horizon’s latest survey showed consumer confidence at its lowest since the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2003.
“The real, real winter for the Chinese economy hasn’t come yet,” said Chen Jian, chairman of Hangzhou Hengwei Investment Co., which has business in restaurants, real estate and trading.
In France, President Sarkozy can’t get away from the jeers and shouts of protestors when he makes public appearances. He has taken to firing public officials that don’t keep protesters far away from the President’s ears.
A crowd of 300,000 protested in Paris this week in the largest protest in 10 years, some said.
Countries such as France and Greece have been hit by riots and strikes as militant unions demand protectionist measures to keep out foreign rivals.
And both Germany and China expressed fears of American protectionism this week. Angela Merkel of German told audiences at the economic conference in Davos that the U.S. auto bailout hurts the global economy and spells a new era of protectionism from the U.S. China’s Hu Juntao told President Barack Obama that the “buy American” provision in the stimulus was rank protectionism and needed to be scuttled.
The economy has made the entire world more tense.
The French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said, “We’re facing two major risks: one is social unrest and the second is protectionism.”
“We need to restore confidence in the systems and confidence at large,” she added.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the world body needs to be reorganized in view of the economic crisis.
“The current architecture of managing global affairs is broken and needs to be fixed,” Annan said.
The worldwide economic recession has exposed a “crisis of global governance” that can only be addressed by the radical reform of the United Nations, said Mr. Annan.
And Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called on world leaders to set about reforming international financial institutions to prevent a repeat of the circumstances that led to the current financial crisis.
“We’ve got to be far bolder and far more imaginative,” Brown said. “We want to create a global society. But we need to have global institutions that work and the problem is the institutions we built 60 years ago are out of date.”
By John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia
The BBC on Russian Protests:
Oil refinery strikes: Protests over foreign workers