Bulgarians have an ambiguous attitude to democracy

An Open Society survey presented to the public on 7 June shows that Bulgarians’ attitude to democracy is ambiguous. Around one third of respondents do not think that democracy is the best form of government. The share of people who say there is no better alternative continues high, though it has dropped by 7 percent down to 45 percent over the past three years.

The survey was presented at the opening of the Active Citizens Fund in Bulgaria. The Fund is part of the European Economic Area (EEA) financial mechanism, and it will be used by the donor countries – Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – to support citizens’ initiatives aimed at promoting democratic participation, active citizenship, human rights and empowerment of vulnerable social groups.

The results of another major survey were presented a week ago – the European Values Study. According to this study, more than 82 percent of respondents in Bulgaria say that democracy is a “very good” or “fairly good” form of government. The conclusion drawn then was that, on the whole, Bulgarians like democracy but their confidence in democratic institutions is comparatively low. More than two thirds of respondents are still certain that their fundamental civil rights are protected, around 75 percent do not expect to wind up in jail without trial or sentence next year and 67 percent say they are not likely to be the victim of police brutality.

According to the Open Society survey however, the majority of Bulgarians regard representative democracy and equality before the law as an unfinished project. Large portions of society do not think they are represented at the elected state or local authorities, are not members of any party or organization and do not agree with the assertion that the laws in the country are applied equally to each member of society. A mere 8 percent of Bulgarians agree that the laws are applied in equal measure to everyone, while almost ten times as many disagree. No more than one third of the respondents say that the laws are fair, double that number say they are not. Only 14 percent agree that the laws are clear and understandable, 67 percent say they are not.

At the same time discrimination plays a considerable role. At local elections, for example, 70 percent say they would not vote for a mayoral candidate who is a Bulgarian citizen of Roma origin, 65 percent would not vote for a candidate who is gay, 63 percent would not vote for a candidate who is of Turkish origin, Open Society says. The survey results also indicate that citizens’ involvement in organized forms of community life continues negligible with 4 in 5 respondents stating they are not members of any public organization. Close to 22 percent say they have confidence in NGOs, 30 percent say they do not, and the biggest share – 48 percent state they cannot say.

Еditor: Stoimen Pavlov

English version: Milena Daynova

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