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Western Press Review: Elections Retain Spotlight

  • Don Hill



Prague, 5 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary in the Western press continues its fascination with elections -- the presidential and congressional elections today in the United States, and those over last weekend in Central Europe and the Balkans.

DAILY TELEGRAPH: Will Clinton be proved to be a crook?

The British newspaper says today in an editorial: "This has been, according to conventional wisdom, one of the dullest American presidential campaigns in memory," and adds: "The conventional wisdom is half right. There are, on policy, few wide differences between the two candidates." The newspaper says, "But the conventional wisdom about the dull election is also half wrong, for there has been one abidingly fascinating question lurking beneath the surface, (which is this): Will America re-elect a man who may be proved to be a crook?"

The editorial concludes: "If Mr. Clinton is re-elected, it must be hoped that the nation's doubts do not harden into the certainty that he is corrupt -- and has to be removed. In other words, would the re-election of Mr. Clinton be a small mistake, or a very big one?"

BOSTON GLOBE: Clinton gives the electorate what it wants

In the United States, columnist Robert Jordan comments today: "One major reason President Clinton is on his way to victory (today) is his success at giving voters -- at least large segments of the electorate -- what they want."

Jordan writes: "The first bill that Clinton signed was the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires companies with more than 50 employees to allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for workers to care for a new child or ill relatives. Clinton also focused on ending "drive-through deliveries" by ensuring that new mothers and their babies could, with full insurance coverage, stay in the hospital at least two days after delivery. He also provided a $500 tax cut for young people pursuing a college education. Meanwhile, Clinton's active support for increasing the minimum wage was widely appreciated in those homes in need of a little financial boost."

The columnist says: "This does not mean, however, that families and women would not like to have a President with fewer personal flaws than Clinton. Rather, it means that women and families have decided it's more important to have their own issues addressed rather than worry about the character issue."

BOSTON GLOBE: Americans scarcely lift a finger to help Chinese dissidents

Jeff Jacoby, another columnist for the paper, comments today: "Which (Americans) would risk years in prison to win the right to vote? How many of us would speak out against the government if it meant a lifetime of persecution?" He writes: "In a country where half the adults can't even be bothered to vote, perhaps such questions are better left unexplored. But this much is certain: Of the 100 million Americans who will head to the polls today, and of the nearly 100 million who won't, not one will have sacrificed as much for democracy as Wang Dan, the young Chinese dissident sentenced last week to spend the next 11 years of his life in a communist dungeon."

The columnist asks: "On this Election Day, do we (Americans) regard the right to vote and to choose our leaders so cheaply that the sacrifice and courage of China's persecuted democrats doesn't even draw our notice? One day the world will honor Wang Dan and Wei Jingsheng as the Andrei Sakharov and Mahatma Gandhi of their people's freedom. And it will look back at the Americans of our day and wonder how it was that we who lived in the oldest democracy on earth scarcely lifted a finger to help them in their hour of need."

DIE WELT: The Socialists have slipped from power

In today's edition of the German newspaper, Boris Kalnoky writes in a news analysis: "Two years ago, the former communists in eastern Central Europe made a sensational comeback as socialists. From Poland to Bulgaria they were swept back into power on a wave of popular disappointment with economic restructuring. Now the pendulum has swung back in the other direction. The presidential election in Bulgaria shows that the Socialists have slipped from about 50 percent to well below 40 percent in just two years."

Kalnoky says: "In Romania, the Party of Social Democracy, the successor to the Communist Party, has lost power for the first time since dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown in 1989."

He says, "Meanwhile, in rump Yugoslavia, elections were held for the federal parliament of Serbia and Montenegro. As President Slobodan Milosevic's last term of office according to the Serb constitution expires at the end of 1997, he had to make the most of these elections. A two-thirds majority for his Socialist Party and its coalition partners would enable him to continue ruling as head of the Yugoslav state. However, it was not all plain sailing for Milosevic either. The Socialists needed two partners to make it."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The people of the southern Balkans want to belong to Europe

Writing from Istanbul, Wolfgang Koyd comments in today's paper: "Since the weekend, things look different (in the Balkans). Three elections in three countries -- Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), Bulgaria and Romania -- have given cause for real hope for the first time in seven years. Even though the three countries are different in many ways, voters sent the politicians in their respective capitals of Belgrade, Sofia and Bucharest the identical message: They want security and stability and are demanding reform, even though they may be its victims. Small wonder then that a leading Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, rejoiced. 'The Balkans has moved closer to Europe,' it declared."

Koyd writes: "The people of the southern Balkans have sent a clear signal that they want to belong to Europe, even if that means some suffering and doing without, and now is the time for Europe to reply with a signal of its own. In Brussels, Paris and Bonn, there has long been little regard for the poor relations from southeastern Europe -- and that must change. Because without them, Europe is incomplete."

LONDON TIMES: Some Soviet ex-satellites refuse to learn from the West

The paper says today in an editorial: "As they stockpile cabbage heads and firewood against another winter of food shortages, power cuts, shriveled family budgets and chaotic state finances, most voters in Bulgaria and Romania expect things to get worse before they can conceivably get better."

The Times concludes: "Bulgaria and Romania have been stranded in history's chilliest anteroom, that reserved for ex-Soviet satellites whose rulers refuse to learn from the West. Their people have not escaped it yet, but they have kicked open the emergency exit."

INDEPENDENT: Peaceful change is becoming the norm in the Balkans

Columnist Tony Barber comments today the London paper: "Peaceful political change achieved by the voters' will is becoming the norm in most parts of the (Balkan) region."
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