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Support for Democracy Declines in Eastern Europe

Support for democracy and free markets has fallen in Central and Eastern Europe as a result of the severe financial crises the new European Union members have experienced, a report by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) showed on Tuesday.

Antonia Oprita

The EBRD's Transition Report 2011, which analyzes data from a survey of around 39,000 people mainly from emerging Europe, shows that in Eastern Europe, the continent's crisis affected ordinary households much more than it did in Western Europe.

Popular support for democracy fell most in the more advanced countries in the Central and Eastern European region—it declined particularly sharply in Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary, with support in Slovakia falling by over 20 percentage points between 2006 and 2010.

"The findings of the report suggest that markets and democracy lost support in the more advanced transition countries because they experienced deeper downturns in this crisis than in earlier recessions in the early and mid 1990s," the EBRD said in a statement.

In Western countries, only around 11 percent of households reported reducing consumption of staple foods because of the crisis. In Eastern Europe, about 38 percent did so, the report found.

And while only 4 percent in Western Europe reported postponing or even skipping medical treatment altogether, almost 13 percent in the transition region did so, according to the report, which also shows that the percentage of households reporting delays in paying utility bills was also more than twice as high in the transition region.

Compared with their Western counterparts, households in the transition region suffered far more job losses and cuts in salaries and remittances—money sent by relatives and friends working abroad, according to the report.

Official safety nets such as unemployment or housing benefits were also weaker in most countries in the transition region, while pre-crisis borrowing may have left households in a vulnerable state, the report also showed.

But support for democracy and markets actually rose in some of the less advanced economies, especially in the former Soviet Union, the EBRD's report showed.

"This is particularly true of crisis-hit people in the CIS (Community of Independent States) countries who perceived a high degree of corruption. It may be that for those individuals, the crisis diminished any sympathy they may have had for state-led systems," the bank said in the press release accompanying the report.

Georgia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia—all belonging to the Community of Independent States (CIS)—were countries that saw support for democracy rise in the past four years, according to the report.

Contact Europe: Economy

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