By Emil Danielyan
The majority of Armenians feel that their country is on the wrong track and do not expect its forthcoming presidential elections to be free and fair, according to a new U.S.-funded opinion poll.
The nationwide poll, conducted by the Armenian Sociological Association last month, is the latest in a series of quarterly surveys designed and coordinated by the Gallup Organization. The U.S. International Republican Institute (IRI) began commissioning them last year with the aim of gauging public opinion on key issues facing Armenia.
According to the pollsters, 54 percent of some 1,200 people randomly interviewed from July 5-12 said that they believe Armenia is going in the wrong direction. The same answer was given by a similar percentage of people questioned in the previous IRI-funded polls.
Lingering socioeconomic problems appear to be the key factor behind the gloomy mood, with only 23 percent of respondents saying that they and their families are better off than they were early this year. And only about third of them saw an improvement in the country’s overall economic situation over the past three months, despite continuing economic growth. Fifty percent said it has not changed.
Accordingly, socioeconomic problems top the list of Armenians’ concerns, with 35 percent singling out high unemployment. The unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and rampant corruption were two other major problems mentioned by respondents. Their most common answer to the Armenian government’s perceived failings was a lack of results in the stated government crackdown on corruption. Rising consumer prices, controversial privatization deals and a “lack of attention to the people” were listed as other major government failings.
The survey also found that most Armenians remain dissatisfied with the development of democracy. According to it, more than two-thirds of them believe that the parliamentary elections held in May were not free and fair, and 60 percent think the upcoming presidential election ballot will not be more democratic.
Nonetheless, only 20 percent of those polled were found to be pessimistic about Armenia’s future. Forty-two percent described themselves as optimists.