By Armen Dilanian in Prague
Most Armenians believe that their country is moving in the wrong direction and do not expect next year’s parliamentary elections to be democratic, according to a U.S.-funded opinion poll released on Wednesday.
The survey commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development was conducted in late April and early May by three Western non-governmental organizations, including the U.S. International Republican Institute and Gallup. Some 1,200 respondents across Armenia were asked to express their opinion on a broad range of issues, including democracy building, the economy and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Fifty-five percent of them said Armenia is on the wrong track and only 32 percent claimed the opposite. The critical evaluation appears to primarily stem from lingering socioeconomic problems which, according to the poll, top the list of ordinary Armenians’ preoccupations.
Nearly half of those polled described high unemployment as the most pressing challenge facing the country. The overall socioeconomic situation was the second most frequently mentioned issue, followed by the unsolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the near-term resolution of which is considered “very important” by about 80 percent of Armenians. By comparison, only 4 percent singled out the need for international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide.
Although 42 percent of respondents admitted that the economic situation in Armenia has improved in recent years, only 23 percent said they and their families have become better off as a result.
The poll also exposed popular concerns about political problems such as vote rigging and human rights abuses, with 58 percent seeing a serious lack of democracy in the country. Its findings also suggest that Armenians widely distrust their government’s assurances that the next parliamentary and presidential elections, due in 2007 and 2008 respectively, will be more democratic than the ones held in the past and strongly criticized by the West. Seventy percent of them do not think that the 2007 elections will be free and fair, according to the survey.