Five months of fruitless government talks leave Czechs in a gloomy mood

10-11-2006

In one weeks' time Czechs will be marking the 17th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution which toppled the communist regime. Do they still remember what the communist days were like - and are they happy with their lives today? A poll conducted by the CVVM agency for researching public opinion suggests that Czechs are extremely disgruntled with what's going on around them these days.

Thirty six percent of respondents said their lives today were incomparably better than under the communist regime, thirty five percent said it was 50-50 and they couldn't really say if their lives were better or not, and fifteen percent said that their lives had definitely been better under the communist regime. I spoke to one of the authors of the study Klara Prochazkova to find out what is behind the figures - in particular - why can't 35 percent of Czechs decide whether their lives today are better than before 1989?

"Well, I think the problem is that this was an October survey and the opinions reflect the political situation in the Czech Republic in the past six months. There is widespread disappointment with the political situation and politicians' behaviour in general".

What were the main complaints that people had?

"Well, a lot of people think that politicians lie a great deal, they complain about corruption and they are unhappy about unemployment. One fifth of Czechs are concerned about unemployment."

It's still a pretty strong statement to say that one is unsure of whether life is better now than it was under the communist regime and that it's 50-50. Is it that people no longer appreciate democracy, the right to travel, freedom of speech?

"Yes, that's it. It is seventeen years after the Velvet Revolution and people don't think it is a big deal that they can travel freely. They have done so for quite a while."

So they take a lot of these things for granted?

"Yes, they do."

Among the things that people complain about is a decline in morals. Now morals weren't exactly high under the communist regime. So what do they mean exactly?

"They don't like how people treat one another these days. A lot of people also think that if someone - for instance an entrepreneur - is very rich then it can't be money earned in an honest way."

So when they speak of a moral decline they mean corruption?

"They mean corruption, crime and people's behaviour in general, that life now is more individualistic and self-centered and often people think only of their own best interests. I believe that what people had in mind was selfishness."

Now 15 percent of respondents said they were better off before the fall of communism. What kind of people gave you that response?

"Usually people over sixty, who are not economically active, particularly pensioners. It is also people who feel that their living standard has dropped, whose earnings are not so good and also people who vote for the Communists."

There is one thing here that caught my attention. Many people said there was no difference in how politicians behaved before the fall of communism and in the present day. What exactly do they mean?

"It's to do with the truth. They believe politicians are feeding them lies. And it is also about corruption, tunneling and they don't like the fact that politicians have all kinds of exceptions and do not behave like "normal" people."

That they are an elite. So the general feeling is that they are in it for the money and the perks?

"Yes, that's right."

10-11-2006

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