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Two Years Later, Most East Europeans Dissatisfied With Democracy

January 28, 1992

LONDON (AP) _ Two years after the collapse of communism, a majority of people in East and Central Europe are dissatisfied with democracy, a 10-country poll released Tuesday indicates.

Most deeply disillusioned are Russians and those who have been free longest - the Poles, Hungarians and Czechoslovaks - according to the poll commissioned by the 12-nation European Community.

″For these people democracy has become almost a chore or a bore. It is very worrying,″ Gordon Heald, managing director of the Gallup polling organization, told reporters.

Hopes of a better life were highest in Albania, whose Stalinist rulers fell in 1991.

″The most newly liberated nations have high hopes which without any doubt are going to be dashed,″ said Heald.

In Albania, prices soared by up to 500 percent as part of the first moves toward a market economy soon after the Gallup pollsters completed the questioning in October.

European Community officials said the poll of 10,000 people was probably the most comprehensive ever done in Eastern Europe.

A thousand people, from intellectuals in capitals to rural peasants, were questioned in each country or area: Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the western part of the Russian republic, Romania and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

On average, 54 percent said they were dissatisfied with democracy, with only Lithuania showing a majority - 52 percent - satisfied.

Among Russians, just 15 percent were satisfied - below the 22-30 percent who said they were satisfied in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

In Western Europe, previous polls indicated 50 percent of those questioned were satisfied with democracy, 46 percent were dissatisfied, and the rest had no opinion, Gallup said.

However, majorities in six countries surveyed thought their nation was going in the right direction - from 65 percent of Albanians to 53 percent of Estonians. Only one-third of Russians and Hungarians, one-fifth of Poles and 43 percent of Czechoslovaks thought things were going right.

The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Most people questioned took a dim view of the economic situation. Apart from the Albanians - 60 percent said they were hopeful - less than half said they thought things would improve. The figures ranged from 48 percent in Bulgaria to 25 percent in Russia.

However, a majority of those questioned in each area except Romania and Russia said they believe in a free market economy. In Romania, 35 percent favored it; in Russia, 47 percent.

But Heald cautioned, ″I don’t think they have much understanding of what it is about.″

Most people expressed impatience at the pace of economic reform.

″This is very disturbing,″ said Heald. ″If these levels of personal economic pessimism continue over the next two to three years, I think there will be ... some coups.″

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