European Press Review: Farewell, Democracy? | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 14.09.2004
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European Press Review: Farewell, Democracy?

European editorialists on Tuesday commented on the plans by Russian President Vladimir Putin to change the country’s political system and the continuing violence in Iraq.

The Financial Times in London commented on what it calls Putin’s play for power. The British daily wrote that President Vladimir Putin took a chainsaw to the fragile roots of Russian democracy (when) he announced plans to reduce the independence of regional governors and the national parliament – the Duma. He claimed to be trying to strengthen Russia’s defences against terrorism. In truth, he was doing nothing of the kind, the paper wrote: “While Russia’s security forces certainly need a drastic overhaul... Mr Putin must go no further down the dangerous road of authoritarianism. History shows that authoritarian government are less efficient than democracies.”

The Guardian, also in London, simply called Putin’s measures “depressingly predictable reactions of a man who came to power as the strongman of Chechnya and is using the latest terrorist outrage to boos the Kremlin’s already formidable authority. “

The Polish paper Rzeczpospolita wrote that Putin’s logic is simple: Russia must adapt to the new reality of terrorism and declare a war against it. Putin calls this the “strengthening of power” -- his power. He has obviously had enough of playing with democracy and this move was only to be expected, the daily noted. Putin has in the last five years strengthened Russia’s central powers. Now it is stronger, more centralized, and more or less in the hands of one man. "Farewell, democracy," the paper lamented.

The Russian paper Kommersant observed that the concentration of power which Putin instigated at the beginning of his second term of office as president could not protect Russian from terrorist attacks in the past months. The daily stated that Putin’s announcement of a new and comprehensive reform of the security forces is an admission that his past policy has failed.

Looking at the continuing violence in Iraq, Die Presse in Vienna wrote that the Iraqi hotspot of Fallujah has become a symbol for the country’s chaotic situation. It is obviously a sign of the Americans' inability to deal with it appropriately, the paper concluded.

French paper Liberation wrote that peace is the country is, like the US-led invasion of Iraq, more murderous for both the Iraqis and coalition soldiers. The political process, which introduced the re-establishment of the sovereignty of the Iraqi government, has now become a dead end. The daily said that there is doubt as to whether the elections in Iraq, planned for early next year, can take place because of the country’s various ethnic and religious factions. No one knows how to withdraw from Iraq without this being interpreted as a surrender or defeat. And everyone, including the critics of US President George W. Bush now realizes that a withdrawal from Iraq would be disastrous and that the country’s dire situation is an emergency which all must deal with, the paper concluded.