European Press Review: Iran Elections A Slap in the Face of Democracy | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 23.02.2004
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European Press Review: Iran Elections A Slap in the Face of Democracy

European newspapers on Monday weighed in on the controversial win by Iranian conservatives in the recently concluded elections.

Britain’s Financial Times wrote, that as expected, Iran’s theocrats have wrenched back control of the parliament from the reformists. With the triumph of the theocrats, the illusion that the Islamic Republic could be reformed from within has ended, the paper noted. The paper said that even the hardline mullahs would however know that winning a landslide as a result of a collapse in the popular vote is not an exercise that demonstrates credibility or legitimacy. But the paper wondered what would take the place if the banners of reform are folded?

The results of Iran’s parliamentary elections are a slap in the face of democracy fumed Spanish daily El Mundo. It also agreed that the illusions created with the 1997 election of reformist president Mohammed Chatami are gone. The star president, who had already begun to fade, is now completely washed out. The paper said that it was wrong for U.S. President George W. Bush to put pressure on Iran -- the pressure has backfired and now the U.S. is further away then ever from bringing peace to the Middle East.

Iran’s fundamentalists know they can't turn back the clock any longer, wrote Vienna's Die Presse. The newly empowered old ruling powers by no means represent a monolithic block. It’s not only ideological hardliners, but also numerous pragmatists who preach the Chinese model: Liberalize the economy, improve relations with the international community, but restrict individual freedom, the paper wrote. It however hoped that opening up the country might blow a fresh wind under some robes.

Other European editorials turned their attention to the suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem on the weekend. It happened just hours before the International Court of Justice in the Hague was to consider the legality of Israel’s security barrier being built around the West Bank.

Regardless of the goodwill gestures by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s party, the Parisian Libération didn't see a clear line between the delegates in the Hague at the International Court of Justice and the suicide bombers who kill innocent civilians. On the other hand, the paper observed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is less tolerant than ever towards criticism of his wall, be if from the quiet Americans or the louder Europeans.

Milan’s Corriere della Sera found the timing of Palestinian suicide strikes cynical. They always seem to stain new dialogue in blood in order to weaken Washington’s influence and discourage negotiations with the Palestinian authorities, Sera said. But the paper asserted that never before have the motives been as clear than with the attack in Jerusalem on the weekend – the strategy of the terrorists, “the worse the better”.