A rising populism across central and eastern Europe is cause for concern—but there is hope in younger generations, new polling findsby Goran Buldioski / November 10, 2019 / Leave a comment
Three decades since the dismantlement of the Berlin Wall, a new report by the Open Society gauges the attitudes of people born either side of 1989 from Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria on matters of democracy and their hopes for its future. Some of the answers make for sobering reading—but others offer an encouraging glimmer of optimism.
The worrisome findings first: Democracy is considered to be imperilled across all countries. In every country bar Germany over 60 per cent of people think that the rule of law is under threat and just over half of all younger generation respondents polled think that freedom of speech is similarly threatened in their own countries.
Only a quarter of over-40s think that the world is a safer place now compared to 1990, when half of the continent bore the fresh scars of dictatorship and conflict.
In a surprising and concerning development, nearly a fifth of Germans do not think their elections are free or fair. Digging deeper into the numbers, the poll found that 80 per cent of AfD voters endorsed this statement.
These results suggest that a growing number of German citizens that don’t believe in their country’s democracy are prepared to vote for a party that seeks to subvert, if not abolish, it.
A nativist trend
Considering the current trend of populism and nativism across Europe this may not come as a total surprise. Further dissection of the data reveals that distrust of the mainstream media and public information ranks even higher.
For example, only 21 per cent of Slovaks to 34 per cent of Czechs—the highest percentage in the East—trust these sources.
Germany fares a bit better at 40 per cent—but hardly encouraging, particularly as fake news and disinformation over the refugee issue has played into the hands of the German far-right.
Finally, an underreported movement of people that seems to trouble citizens of the former Eastern Bloc is emigration. As many as 67 per cent of Romanians are worried about people leaving their country. This is unsurprising knowing that between 1989 and 2017 20 per cent of Romanians have gone, making it the country with the second-highest diaspora in Europe according…