Support for democracy in Caucasus declining, finds EBRD survey

By bne IntelliNews December 14, 2016

Across the Caucasus, support for democracy has declined steeply over the past six years, a survey by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (RBRD) showed on December 13.

Only 50% of Armenians, 56% of Azerbaijanis and 53% of Georgians responding said that they believed democracy to be the best system of governance. The support declined particularly steeply in Armenia, where it stood at 76% in 2010. The share in Azerbaijan stood at 60% in 2010, while in Georgia it was 71%.

Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Georgians are among the least satisfied with the unemployment benefits their countries extend them, the EBRD "Life in Transition" survey also found. Thus, only 21% of the Azerbaijani respondents to the survey, 19% of the Georgians and 43% of the Armenians said that they were happy with the unemployment benefits their states extended them.

Conducted based on 59,000 surveys addressed at respondents in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus, the survey reveals that the gap in life satisfaction between Western Europe and transition Europe is beginning to close. Case in point, corruption, an entrenched problem in the Caucasus, is beginning to abate in Azerbaijan, according to 59% of the respondents that found there to be less corruption in 2016 compared to 2012. However, Armenians and Georgians did not appear to be in agreement. Only 15% and 29% of them believed corruption to have declined in the countries in the last four years respectively.

Conversely, the majority of Armenians and Georgians were happy with the healthcare services they received, with 63% and 77% of respondents respectively saying that they were happy with public healthcare. Meanwhile, in Azerbaijan, slightly over half the population found the services to be satisfactory.

Armenians are the least happy with the political and economic situation of their country, with a mere 13% and 11% of respondents respectively saying that politics and the economy were better in 2016 than in 2012. Furthermore, only 15% of them believed that corruption had declined in the same timeframe, and only one in five said that their living standards had improved.

Life satisfaction in Armenia is the fourth lowest in all of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, although the metric is elastic to income (higher income respondents are happier with their living standards) and age (younger people are happier).

Meanwhile, in Azerbaijan, 49% and 58% of respondents to the survey respectively answered that the economic and political situation had improved over the last four years. Overall life satisfaction has also risen from 42% to 53% over the last four years, particularly among lower and middle income respondents. Furthermore, Azerbaijanis remain optimistic about the prostects of their country, with 62% of respondents expecting their children to have a better life than them.

Just like Armenians, Georgians are rather critical of their country's progress in recent years. Only 16% and 21% of respondents believed that the economic and political situation had improved, respectively. Also, only 29% of respondents believed that corruption had declined in the last four years and only a quarter said that their living standards had improved.


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