Trust in democracy at an all-time low

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Almost eight out of ten Cypriots do not trust the political system and believe democracy is suffering in Cyprus, according to CyBC’s latest opinion poll ahead of May 30 parliamentary elections.

Confirming two other opinion polls contracted by ANT1 and Sigma earlier this year, CyBC’s poll found that Cypriots fear that democracy on the island is declining, crushing their trust towards institutions, political parties, and other representative bodies.

Insights Market Research centre of the University of Nicosia found just 22% of 1,400 participants surveyed said they felt satisfied over the level of democracy on the island.

“The feeling of dissatisfaction towards the way democracy is functioning in Cyprus is at its all-time low.

“The last time we found this level of disappointment in Cyprus was back in 2016, just three years after the 2013 financial crisis.

“Back then, people had lost trust in institutions as a result of the haircut (on bank deposits) that was imposed three years earlier,” researcher Yiannis Mavris told CyBC radio.

Mistrust in democracy was at 50% in 1996, 63% in 2016 and now at 77%, according to IMR’s survey.

The feeling has only been compounded by the golden passports scandal, which highlighted corruption in public office, sparking street protests.

According to the survey, Cypriots trust towards institutions has also hit rock bottom.

When people were asked which institutions they trust most, the army emerged first with 67%, followed by the police with 55% and the church 43%.

Cyprus’ justice system enjoys just 42% of people’s trust and public service only 39%.

The church recorded the biggest drop in trust, plunging by 26 percentage points, followed by Cyprus’ justice system, which lost 21 percentage points compared to 2016 data.

“There is a general lack of trust towards institutions, but also towards representatives bodies, revealing a representation crisis,” said Mavris.

IMR’s survey found that trust towards local government is at 62%, dropping from 69%, people’s faith in trade unions has fallen to 36% from 26%, five years ago.

Things are even worse when it comes to the government, politicians, and the parliament.

The government scored poorly, with only 25% of people feeling able to trust it, down from 44% in 2016.

Just 20% (41% in 2016) of those asked said they had faith in parliament and a lower 13% in politicians.

Mavris told CyBC the very low levels of trust towards institutions and representative bodies reveal a general feeling of discontent over how the political system operates in Cyprus.

“It was to be expected. These elections come at the end of a decade marked by the financial crisis, the pandemic, corruption, and the ups and downs of the Cyprus problem.”

He believes that this discontent and representation crisis will be expressed through lower voter turnout at the May elections.

“Abstention has been building up a dynamic since the 2006 parliamentary elections, starting from 10% and reaching 30% in the last parliamentary elections.

“Voters are currently even more alienated, and the trust crisis will push the abstention rate even higher. If you don’t trust anybody, you will not go to vote for anyone,” said Mavris.