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News 04 Jun 15

Croatian Youth Losing Faith in Democracy, Poll Shows

New research conducted in Zagreb reveals a high level of disillusion with parliamentary democracy among young people - and growing openness to authoritarian political systems.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Map of Europe where MyPlace research was conducted. Photo: Myplace

Results of the research MyPlace, published on Wednesday and conducted in two Zagreb neighbourhoods, shows that young people are showing growing dissatisfaction with parliamentary democracy and feel open to more authoritarian alternatives.

Myplace, is an EU-funded project that started in July 2011 and ends next month. The research was conducted by scientific institutions in 14 countries: Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia,    Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Spain and the UK.

The project surveyed views of people aged 16 to 25 in two neighbourhoods of the same city, which have a different class, ethnic and religious background.

In Zagreb, Podsljeme is almost wholly Croatian and home to people of a higher social class. Locals in Pescenica have lower incomes and a more diverse ethnic and religious background.

On parliamentary democracy, in Pescenica 36 per cent of respondents expressed dissatisfaction and only 18 per cent showed satisfaction. About 55 per cent of interviews from both neighbourhoods positively valued a political system run by “a strong leader not controlled by the parliament”.

Additionally, 32 per cent of interviewees in Podsljeme and 25 per cent in Pescenica would consider a military regime as “somewhat positive or very positive model of running the country”.

Some 93 per cent interviewees in both neighbourhoods pointed to Croatia’s independence war in the 1990s as the country's most important historical event. EU accession came second and the period of Fascist rule in World War II came third.

The sociologist who coordinated the research, Marko Mustapic, said the results from Croatia were not “much more dramatic from those in other states.

“Those seeking a ‘strong leader’ are those with have no trust in the political system and the political elites and are seeking forms of political alternatives,” he explained.

Of all the countries surveyed, interviewees from Georgia were most in favour of “a strong leader not controlled by the parliament”, while those from Croatia came second and those in the UK, third.

“The interviewed youth from this project, with smaller deviations, are very disappointed with political elites and have no trust in political parties and politicians,” Mustapic explained, adding that this was process that had lasted years.

He added that the context of Georgia, where a third of the country is occupied by other power, and Croatia, which recently endured a bloody war for independence, must not be taken for granted.

The survey chimes in with other polls on youth attitudes. The Croatian Institute for social, IDI, research did its own research in 2013, which showed that interviewees between 14 and 27 held more conservative values than those polled in similar research conducted in 1999.

Asked if the MyPlace results could be connected to the IDI research, Mustapic pointed to the different methodology but agreed that “social values had shifted” in Croatia.

“Values have changed since the context has changed. Earlier generations were born and raised in a totally different social, political and economic system," he said.

"A new generation has been raised in a country forged in war, now an almost ethnically exclusive national state, instead of a multiethnic federal state like Yugoslavia,” he added.

He explained that the process of "re-traditionalization" was clearly present, adding that religion and nationality were seen as more important now than some 30 years ago in former Yugoslavia.

“Interviewees valued more positively all historical events which they percept as more closely related to Croatia. They are relatively ethnocentric in this sense,” he replied, when asked to comment on their rating of historical events.

“When you ask them about the fall of the Berlin wall, they think ‘Who cares?’,” he concluded.

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