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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 20 May 2009

JOHANNESBURG (AP) - More Africans than ever want democracy - though violent, rigged elections and failure to translate freedom into better lives have left a bad impression among some, according to a survey published Monday.

Only 45 percent of African citizens support democracy, up from 40 percent in 2005.

Afrobarometer, which has done such surveys every three years since 1999, questioned more than 25,000 people in 19 countries for the latest survey. The poll was run by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, the Ghana Center for Democratic Development and Benin's Institute for Empirical Research in Political Economy, with support from Michigan State University at Lansing in the United States. It had a margin of error of plus or minus three percent.

Afrobarometer found the demand for democracy _ and democracy itself _ advancing in various countries, including Botswana, Cape Verde and Ghana, and democracy declining and at risk in Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria and Senegal.

In Botswana, which has had uninterrupted democracy since independence from Britain in 1966, 91 percent of respondents considered their country a full democracy or one having only minor problems _ the survey's most favorable rating.

Perhaps the most telling figure came from Madagascar, the Indian Ocean island where an army-backed politician in March ousted a democratically elected president who failed to tackle endemic poverty.

Only 14 percent of the island's people want democracy, according to the survey.

"For us, liberty is the same as anarchy,'' Doline Rasoamananoro, a 57-year-old nurse told The Associated Press, disgusted by violent protests that killed scores of people and helped bring down the president.

"Madagascar needs to be managed by a person with an iron fist,'' she said. "It needs a lot of discipline, even a bit of dictatorship.''

Most Africans interviewed rejected that: 79 percent rejected strongman rule, 75 percent rejected military rule and 73 percent rejected a one-party system.

However, only 57 percent rejected all three alternatives to democracy, and just 45 percent are listed by Afrobarometer as "fully demanding democracy'' by both rejecting all three alternatives and explicitly supporting democracy.

In Madagascar, 42-year-old business consultant Tovo Rakoto-Andrianome said people need to be educated about democracy and that, given his country's experience, "I am not surprised that many end up being disgusted by democracy.''

Only 43 percent of Kenyans believe they live in a democratic state since marred elections led to tribally charged violence in which hundreds of people were slaughtered last year.

Zimbabwe had the largest gap, with demand at 53 percent and supply at 10 percent, according to a survey from 2005. Violence after elections last year prevented a survey in that country in 2008.

Only 48 percent in South Africa gave their country high marks for democracy, reflecting unhappiness that economic gains in one of the continent's youngest democracies have not translated into better lives for the poor majority.

Robert Mattes, an American political scientist at South Africa's University of Cape Town who helped analyze survey results, said ambivalence about democracy in countries like South Africa also reflected the people's loyalty to liberation movements turned political parties. Groups like the African National Congress in South Africa dominate politics across the continent.

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