Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Political Attitudes, Values, and Procedures in the Young Eastern European Democracies. A Case Study on the Attitudes toward Democracy of the Macedonian Students

Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Political Attitudes, Values, and Procedures in the Young Eastern European Democracies. A Case Study on the Attitudes toward Democracy of the Macedonian Students

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

'Democracy' is one of the most used and arguable concepts in more recent history, i.e. in the age of so- called Third Wave of democratization and particularly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The definitions and the operationalizing of this concept vary. Hence, even though there is no universally accepted definition, there are two approaches in defining 'democracy': 'minimal' and 'maximal'. The first one focuses on the importance of 'means', that is, procedures such as fair elections, respect for human rights, and universal suffrage. In contrast, maximal definitions include not only democratic procedures but also 'ends', or outputs (such as economic equality and social services) (Baviskar and Malone, 2004: 4).

The Republic of Macedonia gained its independence in the year 1991 following the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Taking into consideration the fact that it is a relatively young democratic country, Macedonian society is still regarded as a society in a democratic transition1. Thus, discussion pertaining to the relevance and significance of democracy, as well as democratic awareness of its citizens, is one of the most contested issues in the political and academic debates in the Republic of Macedonia. The issue of the level of democratic awareness of the citizens is of a great importance having in mind, in particular, the fact that a stable democratic regime does not only require well-designed and functioning political institutions and processes to be sustainable and consolidated, it requires democrats (Mattes et al., 1999).

This paper gives an insight into the democratic awareness of young people in Macedonia, in particular about their attitudes, values and practices in terms of democratic principles. Our findings rely on the data from the project entitled "Virtual and Real Identities in the Republic of Macedonia", conducted by the Institute for Sociological, Political and Juridical Research in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia. The project was based on the research of political attitudes and identities of the student population in Macedonia, by direct surveying of respondents. The survey was conducted from September 2012 until July 2013. The survey was undertaken among the students at the Universities in Skopje, Bitola, Shtip and Tetovo. Three of these universities were public, while the other two were private. The number of respondents in the survey is representative for the Republic of Macedonia in terms of ethnicity, gender, religion, place of residence, and region2. It covered a sample of 707 respondents. General characteristics of the sample were the following: 707 students from 5 state universities and 2 private universities; 256 male and 451 female; Macedonians 442, Albanians 239 and others 26; 201 living in rural and 504 in urban area3.

The survey questionnaire includes questions that explore students' attitudes towards democracy, in particular their interest in politics and their civic engagement:

Q: "Are the students interested in politics?"

Q: "How often do they discuss about politics with their friends?"

Q: "Which political ideology is closest to students?"

Q: "Students' willingness to participate in civic activities?"

Q: "Students' engagement in civic associations?"

Yet, it has to be emphasized that the paper presents only preliminary analysis and evaluations of the empirical findings of our institutional research project.

Having in mind that the paper focuses on the attitudes towards democracy of the Macedonian students, the notions of 'democracy', 'citizen participation', and 'civic activism' are to be further defined and elaborated on.

2. Understanding Democracy

In political theory, 'democracy' is described as a political philosophy, but also as a form of governing, where the governing power lies in the hands of people, and it may be exercised either in an immediate (direct democracy) or intermediate manner (indirect democracy), i. …

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