Politicians across Asia are getting streetwise. Why go through messy and muddled constitutional procedures in parliament, when you can make your presence felt with street demos? Philippine president Arroyo got the ball rolling recently when the middle class poured out on to Manila's flyovers to overthrow Joseph Estrada in a replay of People Power '86. Estrada had tried to manipulate senate votes against his impeachment, but the military switched allegiance to Arroyo and that was that. This week Estrada was arrested for plunder, and on the flyovers history is repeating itself as a farce as Manila's poor pour out in support of their Robin Hood screen hero who is actually a real-life crook.
On the streets of Jakarta, Gus Dur's hire-a-mob supporters are fighting pitched battles with opposition protesters who want the president impeached for corruption. The idea in both Manila and Jakarta is to flex political muscle by showing strength in numbers on the streets. Here at home, our own comrades from the UML's left alliance appear to see no reason why they can't do the same. But they have to keep the momentum of protest up through artificial respiration. They brought parliament to a standstill, they brought traffic to a standstill, now they want to bring schools to a standstill. Democracy doesn't stand a chance when the motto is: "Nobody move, or else."