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Only 56% of Portuguese believe in democracy

by CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]

Disappointment in democracy is on the increase in Portugal with only a little more than half of the population, 56%, believing democracy is the best form of government.

These were the conclusions reached by the first ever study on  the quality of democracy in Portugal which was presented in Lisbon on Thursday last week.

The survey, carried out in July, canvassed 1,207 people and revealed that 15% of the population admitted that, in some circumstances, an authoritarian government was preferable to a democratic one.

The study showed a lack of confidence among the Portuguese in their political class and leaders, and revealed that people thought politicians were the main defect in Portuguese democracy.

The justice system was the sector with the worst image among those questioned, with people believing it to be too slow and unequal.

Of the 12 main answer categories to one of the key questions asked, ‘What is the worst defect in Portuguese democracy?’, 19% pointed to a lack of confidence in politicians and the government, 11% blamed non-effective governments, 10% social inequalities, 10% corruption, 5% the crisis, 5% answered a lack of respect and each man for himself attitude, 5% believed that democracy didn’t work well, 4% blamed unemployment, 3% thought there was too much freedom and 3% reckoned the justice system was at fault.

When asked about the main problems in society today, 37% blamed unemployment, 16% pointed to poverty and social exclusion, 13% to the State’s debt, 11% blamed poor economic growth, 8% criminality, 6% taxes, 4% the future of the national health system and 2% Portugal’s possible future in or out of the European Union.

The study, by António Costa Pinto, Pedro Magalhães, Luís de Sousa and Ekaterina Gorbunova, entitled ‘The Quality of Democracy in Portugal – the Citizen’s Perspective’, was commissioned by the Democracy Quality Barometer in a model that is already being used in other European countries.

Sociologist Luís de Sousa said that there was an idea that democracy was seen as somehow  reducing the quality of efforts in society, a case in point being Italy which had “now resorted to a technocratic government”.

Luís de Sousa says that what happened in Italy was a sign of dissatisfaction in democracy and that that could even be useful.

The problem was knowing up to what point that was useful and to what point it represented apathy or even anger “as seen in the recent demonstrations from the military”.  

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