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DW-RADIO

European Press Review 06.04.05

Europe’s editorial writers are concerned with politics in the UK and Italy.

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British Prime Minister Tony Blair hopes for a win in national elections on May 5. Most papers think he has high chances. In fact Germany’s Darmstädter Echo points out that a British oddsmaker "has given Blair’s Labour party a sixteen to one chance of victory." The Berlingska Tidende from Copenhagen is astounded how many times Blair "was declared dead" as a political figure, but "now all polls suggest that he can easily expect another term in power." The paper calls him the "comeback kid of the 21st century." It describes his change from someone who "panders to the polls, to a man who sticks with his beliefs, even when they’re unpopular."

As for the British papers, a commentator in The Guardian also expects a Labour victory. But he wishes there were a box on the ballot for "a sharply reduced Labour majority so that Tony Blair learns the lesson of the Iraq war," which Blair supported. The Telegraph backs the conservative Tories. It is appalled by Labour’s high taxation, writing that "low earners... are most affected by a high tax philosophy, since they are dependent on a Byzantine system of tax credits."

Berlusconi: "advertising specialist"

Meanwhile, the ruling Forza Italia party of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is showing less chance of staying in power. It lost 11 of 13 constituencies in regional elections. European papers seem pleased. The Salzburger Nachrichten calls him an "advertising specialist", who "tortured coalition partners with cabinet reshuffling and government crises." But Die Presse from Vienna believes most Italian voters see "his smoke and mirror show for what it is." They’re "bitterly disappointed" and "don’t believe him anymore."

In order to keep his power, the Basler Zeitung from Switzerland says Berlusconi "has tended to turn to the far-right" parties, the National Alliance "and the Northern League." But now he has to listen to his more moderate partners. And the Financial Times of London recommends immediate economic reform: "more competition by much overdue privatisation" and allowing "foreign banks to take over Italian banks and breath new life into the financial sector."

The next pope should be Italian

There’s also still commentary on the late Pope John Paul II. La Repubblica from Rome wants a new Italian pope. It says "Italians are flexible and diplomatic. They know the machinery of the Vatican. And they’re able to find the right language to achieve careful reform of the Catholic church."