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Western Press Review: Elections In Slovakia And Germany Challenge Status Quo

Prague, 30 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary continues to focus on ruling party setbacks in weekend elections in Germany and Slovakia.

TIMES: Meciar's defeat has been a demonstration of the resilience of the democratic ideal

The Times of London and the Financial Times scrutinize the apparent defeat of Vladimir Meciar in weekend elections in Slovakia. The Times, warns in an editorial, however, that "the stake has not yet been driven through Mr. Meciar's political heart."

The editorial says: "Democracy makes a comeback (in Slovakia), but it needs immediate support. It was, inevitably, overshadowed by the earthquake next door (in Germany). But the general election in Slovakia has yielded a result as momentous for that country as the eviction from power of Helmut Kohl. The crushing defeat of Vladimir Meciar's nationalist government by the four-party opposition has been a demonstration of the resilience of the democratic ideal. In the face of intimidation and the government's abuse of the media, Slovaks voted by a large margin to rid the country of the mercurial autocrat who has already led them into international isolation and threatened to return Slovakia to totalitarianism."

The newspaper says: "Euphoria, however, must be tinged with caution." It says: "(Meciar's) Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) remains the largest party, and he has refused to accept defeat or comment on the nation's repudiation of his policies. He is hoping that the fissiparous opposition, comprising the right-leaning Slovak Democratic Coalition and the reformed Communists, will fail to agree on a common platform on which to form a government."

The editorial says: "Most Slovaks would be horrified by his return to power. With the exception of Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus, (Meciar's) record has been uniquely disastrous in post-communist Eastern Europe."

FINANCIAL TIMES: The new Slovak government will inherit mounting economic problems

Writing in the Financial Times, Kevin Done and Robert Anderson say in a news analysis that Slovakia's new government must form quickly and act promptly to head off financial trouble. They write: "The government's budget deficit is running far in excess of the 1998 target, while the unsustainable large deficit in the balance of payments and current account is exerting heavy pressure on the Slovak currency, which financial markets believe to be significantly overvalued."

The writers say: "Vladimir Masar, governor of the National Bank of Slovakia, urged the country's political leaders to form a new government quickly after last weekend's general election and take action to combat the country's mounting economic problems."

They write: "The new government will inherit mounting economic problems, and yesterday the highly illiquid Bratislava stock exchange fell to its lowest level since the bourse was opened in January 1994."

A number of Western newspapers, and the Iran News continued press examination of the meanings of Germany's election results ousting Helmut Kohl as prime minister.

IRAN NEWS: Iranian officials do not consider the Greens as reliable

The Iran News, as reported by the official IRNA news agency, said in an editorial: "Iran's foreign ministry has a positive view about the leader of the victorious Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), and the new German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder." The editorial goes on: "The danger, however, is that SPD's coalition with the environmentalist Greens Party may bring into the new German cabinet some who have negative views about Iran." It says that "Iranian officials do not consider (the Greens) as reliable."

LA REPUBBLICA: Political reformers in Europe have an historic chance

Rome's La Repubblica says that Social Democrat victories in Europe signal less a shift in ideology than a rejection of policies that have tolerated unemployment and social injustice. The newspaper says, though: "Now the political reformers in Europe have no more excuses. They have an historic chance to come up with a reformist answer to the continent's political problems."

DER BUND: Schroeder must prevent the tail from wagging the dog

In Switzerland, Bern's Der Bund warns that a coalition with the Greens will require Schroeder to be vigilant to "prevent the tail from wagging the dog. (He must) resist such demands as more than doubling the price of gas, abruptly doing away with nuclear energy, or stopping the German armed forces from taking part in peace-keeping missions."