September 29, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Election surprises in Europe are major stories for many

While American dailies are focusing on the economic bailout plan and who will be the next president, elections yesterday in other countries are making headlines in Europe today.

In national elections in Austria, the far-right political parties made major gains, although the Social Democrats won the most votes. Kurier in Vienna tells it all with a banner about the “Radical swing to the right,” and Der Standard, also in Vienna, has a two-line banner headline reporting on the “debacle” for the great coalition and the “triumph” for the right. Another Vienna daily, Die Presse, trumpets the “Victory of the third camp.” Kleine Zeitung in Klagenfurt has a couple of sad-looking politicians taking up most of the page with a lead headline about the Christian Socialists falling off, while the Vorarlberger Nachrichten in Vorarlberg reports that the “election brings a swing to the right” and the Salzburger Nachrichten in Salzburg tells its readers that “Despite historic defeat, the great coalition hopes to remain” in power.

Moving next door to the German state of Bavaria, yesterday’s state election was a shocker that might have countrywide repercussions in next year’s national elections. That is why the story rates top coverage in most of Germany.

The Christian Socialist Union (CSU) has ruled Bavaria in unchallenged fashion with an absolute majority since 1962. Indeed, in the last major election four years ago the CSU had 60.7% of the vote, which dropped down to about 43.5% yesterday. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung in the Bavarian capital of Munich says it all with the headline “Devastating defeat for the CSU.” The Augsburger Allgemeine in Augsburg, also in Bavaria, reports “Political earthquake in Bavaria,” adding that “The CSU needs a coalition partner.” Even the Heilbronner Stimme in Heilbronn in Baden-Wuerttemberg leads with “Historic debacle for the CSU.” Up in Berlin, Der Tagesspiegel reports that “After 46 years: End of the CSU myth,” and Die Welt leads with “Bavarian election: Heavy losses for the CSU.”

There was another election of sorts yesterday in another country, Belarus, which has been ruled since 1994 by Alexander Lukashenko, the man often referred to as “the last dictator in Europe.” The election was for the 110-seat Belarus parliament in the capital, Minsk. Lukashenko promised a free and fair election, hoping to ease his strained relations with the West. There were indeed opposition candidates, but somehow only pro-Lukashenko candidates won all 110 seats. We don’t have any front pages from Belarus, but we thought that the Polish dailies might cover the election and, indeed, it’s the lead story in the major Warsaw daily, Gazeta Wyborcza.

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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