By Saurabh Sahni:
Recently, the Arab Centre and Policy Studies (ACRPS) conducted a first-of-its-kind poll that involved surveying 16,731 people residing in 12 Arab countries. The motive was to take down their opinion on democracy, corruption, Israel and the US. The 12 different Arab countries represented about 84% of total population of the Arab world. The survey was basically undertaken to know better about the political mood of the Arab people. And the poll revealed some interesting results.
Most of the Arab countries do not enjoy a good reputation. Women over there are known to face discrimination since ages and people are restricted in their rights for freedom. Thus, this poll worked as a medium to bring out the region’s public viewpoint to the rest of the world.
The results were indeed interesting with most people being in favour of the goals of Arab revolutions. Majority of those surveyed wanted a democratic system of government in their country. Furthermore, a large number of people wanted the religious authorities to stay out of the political issues of the country. There were also polling regarding the most threatening country. And with a one-sided ratio of 15-1, Israel and the United States were voted as more threatening countries compared to Iran.
However, every issue had a different result in different Arab countries. In fact, results varied not just from country to country but from region to region as well. Also, on all questions that were related to the national priorities, people’s opinions were rather trans-national and trans-border.
Apart from the fact that people placed themselves mainly on the religious side, the poll also revealed that most of these people were against the involvement of religious authorities in their political choices. About 71% of people were against the discrimination among religious and non-religious people on the basis of their social and economic backgrounds. Regarding the major authorities in the Arab world, 77% of people showed their trust in the country’s military force, 50 per cent of them trusting the police, 47% of people believing in their respective governments, and about 36% of individuals showed their faith in the local councils before the initiation of the revolutions. Furthermore, as much as 83% of people claimed that the corruption is widely spread in their country and mere 19% believe that the laws laid down for the citizens are equally implemented among them.
Apart from this, as much as 75% of individuals believed that the countries of the Arab world should come closer. The same percentage of individuals believe that the restrictions put upon free travel shall be lifted, about 67% of people are not happy with the current Arab-Arab cooperation. In addition, about 84% people believe that the Palestinian question was not just the cause of the Palestinians but for the Arabs as well. The same percentage of people was against the fact of Israel being categorized as a State. Mere 21% of individuals were in favour of the peace agreement signed with Israel by Egypt, Jordan and the PLO. In addition, only one-third of the surveyed people had faith in the foreign policy of their country. When asked about weapons for mass destruction, about 55% of them wanted nuclear weapon-free region. The same percentage of individuals was fine with Israel possessing nuclear weapons.
The poll is the largest one conducted in the region. It brought to the forefront the scenario of majority of Arabs supporting the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. It gave a relatively clearer view of the socio-political environment in these 12 Arab countries.
The poll made it clear that Arab people want an honest democratic system that gives them the freedom of expression, political plurality, etc. Even though the majority of people wanted democracy in their country, there were also a small percentage of people that really don’t understand what it actually is. 36% people said they would not support a party’s decision that decides against their political views. This somewhat depicted the intention of pluralism among the people. A certain number of people living in Egypt and Tunisia had faith in their country’s government that it would do well in the coming three years as compared to how it worked under the rule of Mubarak and Ben Ali.
On a conclusive note, it is yet to be seen as to how freely do Arab citizens express their viewpoints without having any fear. This could be classified as the first time when they were willing to express themselves, and the credit could be given to the revolutions that took place in the Arab world. All these surveys were result of a 40-minute face-to-face interview with each of surveyor. This ensured more accurate results compared to what the usual over-the-phone interviews deliver. What this does is, it gives a clear picture of the vote patterns and brings forward the viewpoints of those who have been quiet in the past.