Arab survey reveals growing concern over effectiveness of democracy

A survey of nearly 23,000 people across the Middle East and North Africa revealed growing concern about the ability of democracies to deal with their problems.

The Arab Barometer poll, commissioned by BBC Arabic, found that Tunisians and Iraqis in particular were the least convinced that democracy could improve their countries’ economies and provide stability.

The survey has been conducted through interviews in eight countries and the Palestinian Territories over several months since late last year.

“Tunisia, Lebanon and Iraq are the countries in the region where elections have been the most significant over the past decade, each having experienced a change of government depending on the results at the polls,” the report said. ‘investigation.

“Yet their collective experience clearly demonstrates that democracy has not been the panacea for their respective challenges.

“Tunisia’s GDP per capita is now lower than it was in 2011, Lebanon has faced financial collapse and Iraq has suffered from significant internal instability.”

Tunisia’s democracy, established after the overthrow of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, is currently on hold pending a referendum on a new constitution proposed by President Kais Saied.

In Iraq, where democracy was established after a US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, a political stalemate has left the country without a new government since the last general election in October.

Lebanon is also awaiting a new government after elections in early May as politicians negotiate over a cabinet acceptable to all groups under the country’s sectarian power-sharing system.

Tunisia showed the biggest drop in confidence that democracy would lead to a better economy. Seventy percent of Tunisians surveyed agreed that “in a democratic system, the country’s economy is weak”, up from 39% in 2018.

Survey results released last week showed that 70% of Iraqis, 66% of Tunisians and 60% of Libyans and Lebanese agreed that “democratic systems are not effective in maintaining order and stability”. .

Less than half of respondents in Jordan (46%), Mauritania (38%) and Morocco (34%) share this view, while 52% support it in Sudan and the Palestinian Territories.

The Arab Barometer is a research group co-founded by Amaney Jamal, Dean of the Faculty of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and Mark Tessler, Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan, both in the United States .

Despite the potential problems associated with democracy, the survey showed that respondents still consider it the best system of governance, particularly in Lebanon (81%) and Jordan (77%).

“Citizens in the Mena region realize that democracy may not be perfect, but a clear majority continues to say it is better than an undemocratic system,” the report said.

Updated: July 11, 2022, 1:27 p.m.

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Sara H. Byrd