MIDDLE EAST For the Arabs, democracy ‘weakens’ the economy; China as a model

These are the results of the Arab Barometer survey, carried out at the end of 2021 and in the first months of 2022 in seven Arab nations and the Territories. According to the majority opinion, democracy does not guarantee stability and development. There are more and more people “frustrated” by the living conditions and the worst situation is in Lebanon.

Beirut () – The Arabs are losing confidence in the democratic system as a pillar to guarantee economic stability and development in the Middle East and North Africa. This is what emerges from a survey commissioned by the Arab section of the BBC experts from the Arab Barometer (linked to Princeton University and the Center for Political Studies), which surveyed almost 23,000 people in nine countries in the region and in the Palestinian Territories. The majority of those surveyed consider that in a democracy the economy is “weaker”, which confirms a substantial failure of the revolts related to the Arab Spring.

Michael Robbins, director of the Arab Barometer, one of the coordinators of the survey, which was carried out between the end of 2021 and the spring of 2022, confirms that there has been a “remarkable change” in opinions about the value of democracy since the last 2018/19 survey. “There is growing awareness that democracy is not a perfect form of government,” he says. On the other hand, the number of people who “go hungry, seek bread and feel frustrated by the system in which they live” is growing.

In all the countries that participated in the study, more than half of those surveyed say they are more concerned with the “effectiveness” of government policies than with the form of government, which turns out to be less important. In seven nations and in the Palestinian Territories, more than half believe that their country needs a strong, authoritative and charismatic leader who can “break the rules”, if necessary, to execute projects and ensure development.

The economic issue represents the biggest challenge, followed by corruption, political and social instability, and the Covid-19 pandemic. In only two countries is the economy not a priority or the most critical issue: Iraq, where citizens are most concerned about corruption, and Libya, where the key element is instability.

In every country surveyed, at least one in three people say they ran out of food in the last year before they had enough money to buy more. The struggle to put food on the table is most acute in Egypt and Mauritania, where more than 65% of those surveyed say that they often experience situations of deprivation or need. The survey was largely produced before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, which further aggravated food insecurity throughout the region, especially in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, which are heavily dependent on the area’s grain exports. in conflict.

The experts dedicate a special section to Lebanon, which occupies the last place among all the countries analyzed. Less than 1% of Lebanese surveyed say their current economic situation is “good.” Referring to Beirut, the World Bank described the economic crisis as “one of the most serious” since the mid-19th century. In general, most people do not expect the situation to improve in the coming years, and less than a third of those surveyed are confident of a positive turnaround in the next three years. The future is “uncertain”, concludes Robbins, and citizens in the region may be tempted to look to “alternative” political systems, such as the Chinese model, an authoritarian one-party system, which, according to those surveyed, “would a large number of people out of poverty”. And it is this “rapid development” that “many seek”.

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