Friday, May 11, 2012

Political Participation and Democracy in Azerbaijan

For a functioning democracy, democratic attitudes are important as well as basic political rights. Attitudes toward democracy and participation in political life show the extent of a population’s support to and the legitimacy of a democratic system. The 2011 Caucasus Barometer provides insight to what people think about democratic principles and the democratic process in Azerbaijan. The data shows that voting in elections and democracy (as a political regime) both receive approval by over half of the population. However, particular political actions such as participation in protests receive only little affirmation. Furthermore, the current political system in Azerbaijan is not perceived to be an effective democracy by most Azerbaijanis.

The survey shows that institutional forms of participation such as voting in elections are perceived to be important by 64% of Azerbaijanis. In addition to considering voting very important, 62% said they voted in the last national election and 74% said they certainly or most probably would participate if presidential elections were held that following Sunday.

However, less institutional forms of political participation such as protests receive little support. Only 7% of the adult Azerbaijani population strongly agrees and another 21% agree to the statement that, “People should participate in protest actions, as this shows the government that the people are in charge”. In contrast, 16% very strongly agree and another 32% agree that, “People should not participate in protest actions against the government, as it threatens stability in the country”. The data indicates that support for this type of political involvement is rather low in Azerbaijan.

Regarding general attitudes towards democracy, the data reveals that the majority of Azerbaijanis do not perceive their country to be a full democracy. As the chart shows, 14% do not consider Azerbaijan to be a democracy. 30% think that their country is a democracy but with major problems, and 31% believe the country is a democracy but with minor problems. Only 10% think the country is a full democracy.

Even though the general public opinion is that Azerbaijan is not a full democracy today, just over half of the population supports a democratic system. According to the data, 52% of the Azerbaijanis prefer democracy to any other kind of government. In contrast, 14% say there are some circumstances in which a non-democratic government can be preferable, and another 18% say it does not matter what kind of government they have.

Thus, the results indicate that institutional forms of political participation such as voting have more approval than less institutional forms such as attending protest actions. Furthermore, people in Azerbaijan seem to support the idea of democracy although the majority holds that their country is not a full democracy yet.

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