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Europe

European Press Review: Algeria's Choice

The unrest in Iraq and presidential elections in Algeria dominated the editorials of European papers on Thursday.

The Russian paper Kommersant asked if it is really unrealistic to believe the Americans will flee from Iraq. The Americans also fled from Somalia, the paper noted. Of course, the Americans won’t actually say they’re fleeing. They will call it a controlled withdrawal, and say they have ended their mission and now it’s time to go home, the daily commented. But they’re not going to walk away, they’re going to run, wrote the paper, adding that everybody’s going to be watching.

Belgium’s De Standaard newspaper took a complex stance in its commentary on Iraq. The Americans don’t want to be involved in a war without the support of local allies, wrote the paper. The allies are the Kurds, but most importantly the Shiite majority. Americans didn’t expect to be given so much trouble by this group that was so horribly oppressed by Saddam Hussein, the paper observed. The Arab media also churns out hate propaganda against the United States, and puts Jews in the same boat with Americans. It’s a difficult task to be able to win the hearts and minds of the people under these conditions, according to the daily.

Turning to Thursday’s presidential elections in Algeria, the French paper Líberation noted that one thing is for sure: Current president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s inflexible political system is beginning to change. But the elections in Algeria are only partially democratic, the paper wrote. President Bouteflika calls himself “independent”, but the military regime doesn’t offer him much freedom, the daily commented. To his credit, however, at least the situation in Algeria hasn’t become worse during his term. But real improvement for the Algerians is taking a very long time. Algerians deserve better, said the paper. The Belgian paper De Morgen described the female candidate’s position in the Algerian presidental elections as absurd: A woman candidate is in the running for the first time in Algeria’s history and the second time in the Arab world. According to polls, the candidate Louisa Hanoun of the Workers’ Party could get 8 percent of the vote. Not enough to become president, but enough to send out a strong signal--that women are still second class citizens in Algeria, and that a woman can become a presidential candidate but not have any say in a marriage or divorce or her husband’s polygamy, the paper concluded.