European Press Review: Party Revolt | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 18.10.2004
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European Press Review: Party Revolt

Editorial comment in Monday’s papers focused on troubles in Germany conservative opposition Christian Democrat party and the quite obviously rigged election in Belarus.

The Dutch daily, de Volkskrant, called the current disarray in Germany’s leading opposition party an “inner-party revolt” against party leader Angela Merkel. She is being held responsible for the CDU’s less than stellar showing in recent regional elections, the paper noted. What’s more -- and worse, the paper said, is that now the German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, can present himself as the paragon of party solidarity.

Italy’s La Repubblica turned its attention to Sunday’s election in Belarus that essentially altered that country’s constitution and gave Alexander Lukashenko carte blanche to be president for life. Lukashenko’s triumph, the paper wrote, is built on terror and now Belarussians fear a bloodbath. Belarus society is paralyzed and without any ray of hope. A month ago, the paper said, the last two private television stations were shut down, following in the footsteps of the country’s independent radio stations and newspapers. The paper warned that the masses are afraid to revolt because they fear it would lead to civil war.

Another Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, wrote that the election outcome takes one back to another era --before the Iron Curtain fell! Belarus still has a commando, state-owned economy and hasn’t even bothered to change the name of its once-Soviet secret police: in Minsk, they are still called the KGB.

Poland’s Rzeczpospolita pointed out that the state-run media in Belarus triumphantly announced a voter turnout of more than 80 percent. How could the outcome be different, the paper said, in a country that operates on the old Stalinist premise that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, but who counts the votes. The constitutional referendum and the parliamentary election, the paper emphasized, was pure parody.

The Polish daily, Gazeta Wyborcza, wrote that the election outcome in Belarus is not especially shocking. Everything went according to plan. Opposition candidates were intimidated, students and workers were escorted to the polling booths. All under the banner of “Vodka for Voters,” the paper queried sarcastically.

The Russian daily Kommersant noted that President Lukashenko wants more than just to be reelected. He wants to be the father of the nation. Fifty percent of the vote is not enough, the paper said. If it can’t be 99,9 percent, then at least it has to be 75 to 80 percent.

Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet came right out and called the Belarus election a farce - that is, if it weren’t so tragic. If the opposition is given even a few seats that would be a victory. The paper was adamant and said the struggle for democracy against dictatorship cannot be passive. We owe it to those who gave their lives in the fight against communism, the paper concluded.