PUBLIC OPINION, DEMOCRACY, AND AUTHORITARIANISM IN CENTRAL ASIA
Saodat OLIMOVA, Muzaffar OLIMOV
Saodat Olimova, Ph.D. (Philos.), Director of the SHARQ Research Center, Representative of Central Asia and the Caucasus in Tajikistan (Dushanbe, Tajikistan)
Muzaffar Olimov, D.Sc. (Hist.), Coworker at the SHARQ Research Center (Dushanbe, Tajikistan)
Based on Tajikistan’s experience, this article examines the evolution of views, values, and preferences of the population of the Central Asian (CA) countries that support the sustainability of their political regimes. Based on public opinion poll results, this article presents the population’s preferences regarding the political system, sheds light on its attitude toward state power and its institutions, and gives assessments of the current regime and efficiency of different forms of citizen engagement. It also looks at the ways citizens participate in state governance and how effectively value judgments are being implemented.
The paper shows that despite the differences in the traditional social institutions of the CA states, as well as in the development paths they have chosen, they are all evolving according to the neopatrimonialism model. However, the evolution of political views in the CA societies shows that democratic values and preferences continue to occupy an important place in the mass consciousness. From this it follows that the government’s necessitated support of certain elements of democracy is generated not only by its desire to create a façade or its willingness to make concessions to foreign donors and the international community, but also by social pressure. At the same time, the population’s political views and preferences are contradictory and fragmented. They form the base for mass support of democracy, on the one hand, and for social consensus regarding restrictions of citizen rights and recognition of the privileges of heads of state, including patrimonial supremacy, on the other.
Keywords: Central Asia, Tajikistan, public opinion, elites, political regimes, political preferences, democracy, neopatrimonialism, elections, values, forms of citizen engagement.