Friday, October 08, 2004

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
8 October 2004

Poll Shows Armenians Cynical About Democracy, Independence

By Anna Saghabalian

Less than one in five Armenians believe that their country stands on the path to democratization and is truly independent almost 13 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to an opinion poll released on Friday.

The nationwide survey by the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS), an independent think-tank, suggests that as many as 70 percent of the Armenian citizens feel that major decisions taken by their government are dictated by foreign powers, notably Russia.

ACNIS pollsters said only 18 percent of some 1,500 people interviewed across Armenia think that it is on course to become a democracy. Almost two thirds of them do not expect that to happen in the next 25 years.

The survey also confirmed widespread public disenchantment with the independence, with early half of the respondents saying that they were better off in Soviet times and another 27 percent seeing no socioeconomic change in their lives. "The overwhelming majority of the public has felt no positive impact on their living standards over the past 13 years," said Stepan Safarian, a senior ACNIS analyst.

Consequently, economic hardship and "the formation of [government-linked] clans" were identified by most respondents as the most negative phenomena that have characterized Armenia's post-Soviet history. They also singled out the "falsification" of the presidential elections held since independence as well as the October 1999 terrorist attack on the Armenian parliament as the most significant factors that have hampered the country's progress.

When asked about Armenia's biggest post-independence achievements, 29 percent mentioned the creation of the national army while 18 percent pointed to the victory in the war for Nagorno-Karabakh. About a tenth of those polled singled out the country's closer ties with its worldwide Diaspora.

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