Democracies facing crisis of faith: survey

A man leaves a booth during Hungarian parliamentary election at a polling station in Budapest, Hungary, April 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – The world’s democracies are facing a severe crisis of public faith, according to the conclusions of a large study published on Thursday.

The report by German polling firm Dalia Research, titled Democracy Perception Index 2018, found that trust in governments appears even lower among people in democracies than in states deemed by the firm to be undemocratic.

“Right now the biggest risk for democracies is that the public no longer sees them as democratic,” said Nico Jaspers, CEO of Dalia Research.

When asked “do you feel that your government is acting in your interest?” 64 percent of respondents living in democracies said “rarely” or “never”.

In non-democracies 41 percent said the same, according to the study, based on 125,000 respondents in 50 countries.

Kenya, Austria, Portugal, Sweden and Denmark were the countries where the largest proportions of people said the government was not acting in their interest.

Kenya is categorized as “partly free” and the other four countries “free” in a ranking by the U.S. organization Freedom House, which Dalia uses.

People in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and China, all countries categorized “not free” by Freedom House, most rarely gave that response.

When asked “Do you feel that the voice of people like you matters in politics?” 54 percent of citizens in democracies said their voices “rarely” or “never” mattered, compared with 46 percent in non-democracies.

Of the 10 countries that had the highest percentages of people saying their voices were rarely or never heard, nine are democracies, Dalia said.

“While citizens in democratic societies might be inherently more critical of their government than those living in non-democratic societies, perception is often as important as reality, and therefore the implications of the findings remain relevant and insightful,” it said in a news release.

The publication of the survey results came on the eve of the opening of the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, to be attended by figures including former U.S. vice president Joe Biden and former British prime minister Tony Blair.

The summit and survey are both organized by the non-profit Alliance of Democracies Foundation, founded by former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen last year.

(Reporting by Teis Jensen; editing by Andrew Roche)

Faith in Government drops, politicians jeered as France mourns

A woman takes a picture of a heart shape makeshift memorial before the minute of silence on the third day of national mourning to pay tribute to victims of the truck attack along the Promenade des Anglais on Bastille Day in Nice, France,

By Brian Love and Matthias Galante

PARIS/NICE, France (Reuters) – Confidence in the capacity of Francois Hollande’s government to combat terrorism has plummeted in the wake of the truck attack that killed 84 people in the southern French coastal city of Nice, an opinion poll published on Monday suggested.

The poll published in Le Figaro newspaper showed 33 percent of respondents were confident in the current leadership’s ability to meet the challenge, down sharply from ratings of 50 percent upwards in the wake of two major attacks last year.

In Nice, Prime Minister Manuel Valls joined thousands packing the seafront, scene of the Bastille day carnage, for a minute of silence in homage to the victims.

There were jeers as he and local politicians departed. BFMTV reported that there were placards in the crowd calling for Hollande to resign.

The latest poll came at a moment when, less than a year from a presidential election, political opponents have fast abandoned the restraint that usually prevails on such occasions to sharply criticize the Socialist leader and his government.

Ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is competing in a November primary for the ticket to run as presidential candidate for France’s mainstream center-right parties, said overnight Hollande’s government had failed to do all it could.

“I know there’s no zero risk, I know perfectly well that we don’t pull each other apart before the victims have even been buried,” he told TF1 TV.

“But I want to say, because it’s the truth, that everything that should have been done over the last 18 months … wasn’t done.”

Thursday’s attack, in which delivery man Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel plowed a 19-tonne truck into crowds of revelers, killing 84, has plunged France back into a state of grief, fear, and now political recrimination.

While Sarkozy’s criticism was true to character, the accusations of government failings also came from his rival for the conservative ticket, Alain Juppe, who is customarily more measured in rhetoric but has recently sounded more strident.

The government has struck back by denouncing opponents for breaking ranks so fast.

Speaking ahead of the nationwide minute-of-silence on Monday, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve accused the government’s opponents of breaking ranks in an unseemly way.

“We’ve seen tirades emerge immediately and personally this is both shocking and sad … it’s undignified in the current context,” he said.

He was speaking as a number of people arrested as part of a police inquiry into the attack in Nice arrived under police escort in Paris on Monday for questioning at the headquarters of France’s counter-terrorism department in the western edge of Paris.

(Reporting By Brian Love; Editing by Andrew Callus)