>Ask a silly question….


The Czech Republic’s Centre for Public Opinion Research issues a regular series of press releases on its findings (all in Czech), which often find their way pretty much unedited into the Czech press. Some are, however, more informative than others: recent CVVM research tells us that, shock horror, many Czechs don’t like with democracy.

Indeed, headline grabbingly 32% want (or tend to want) the abolition of political parties and the dissolution of parliament; 24% think they would be better off under an (unspecified) non-democratic regime and another 22% think authoritarianism would be allowable in certain circumstances (which we don’t know because this quanaitaive polling); 14% would like a return to Communist one party rule, with 1% more wanting a authoritaran rule who makes quick decisions. In keeping the Czech army traditionally apolitical role and lack of social prestige, however, only one percent want a military dictatorship.

At this point the traditional anguished response would be to say what shallow roots democracy has in the CR, how exaggrated its democratic tradition is etc etc… However, the polling is frankly meaningless, as no such alternative regime choices or party-less democracy is on the agenda and most respondent obviously knew it. A mere 9% thought it likely that parties and partliament would be wound up in the next five years and only 1 per cent though one-party rule or dictatsorship would return. In other words the responses are simply an expression of frustration and general pissed-off-ness pretty much common to all democracies. Predictably, it is the poor, old, less educated and Communist Party voters who are most ‘undemocratic’ in their views.

In other, slightly more meaningful polling CVVM measures Czech attitudes towards foreigners and tolerance towards minority and disadvanatged groups. Most Czechs, quite sensibly do not want to live next door to alcholics or drug users, people with a criminal record or mental illnesses. Gays are the next least favoured group of potential neighbours (29%) followed by black people (26%), although dislike of gays next door has dropped sharply from 42% in 2003. Tellingly, Roma do not seem have been mentioned in the survey, but the suspicion must be that they would the poll pretty high up the Czech list of undesirables.

Czech views on foreigners living in the CR are stable and lukewarm to hostile. Public opinion on allowing foreigners to saettle the country have softened slightly over the past five years, but are evenly divided, but – as five years – the overwhelming majority (68%) want immigrants if they come to adapt to Czech customs not ‘partly’ but ‘as much as possible’. Interestingly, a clear majority are against (49%: 37%) are against favouring EU citizens over other foreigners, although this a little more welcoming to fellow EU-ropeans than in 2003. Most – in the best West European traditions – see immigrants as a threat to local workers and what them restricted to shortage professions or barred from working in areas of high unemployment.

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