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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
Press celebrates end of 'nightmare'
"Immense victory" reads the headline on the front of France's Le Figaro following the second round of elections which saw Mr Chirac win four-fifths of the vote.


Millions of left-wing voters 'held their noses' and voted for the president - who is suspected of corruption - in order to stop Le Pen

Sydsvenska Dagbladet

"The very high turnout... visibly worked against Mr Le Pen," the paper says, with Mr Chirac becoming the "best-elected president, in terms of figures, in the history of the Fifth Republic".

The Paris daily Le Monde describes Mr Chirac's success, however, as an "embarrassing victory" for the mainstream Right.

Clearly, the paper says, the "breadth of mobilisation" of the Left and the "republican surge" are the "most awkward political fact for Jacques Chirac".

The left-wing Liberation sums up the outcome with a single-word headline: "Phew".

Warning

"Thank God it went as expected," says Sweden's Sydsvenska Dagbladet.


The rallying... behind Chirac's candidacy... expresses agreement on fundamental values without which political debate is impossible

La Tribune de Geneve

The paper says the victory was thanks to the Left: "Millions of left-wing voters 'held their noses' and voted for the president - who is suspected of corruption - in order to stop Le Pen."

But Mr Le Pen's defeat doesn't mean that the extreme-right threat has passed, the paper says, warning that the National Front leader may reap the benefits of recent media coverage in next month's parliamentary elections.

"The nightmare scenario is the Front holding the balance of power in parliament," it says.

Geneva's Tribune de Geneve says Mr Chirac's win - "unexpected in its size" - expresses "agreement on fundamental values without which political debate is impossible".

Berlin's Tagesspiegel cautions against wishing to forget Mr Le Pen following his defeat. He could tip the balance in the parliamentary elections next month, the paper says, and therefore cannot be ignored.


Le Pen has not become president and has been cut down to his true size

Sueddeutsche Zeitung

And it rejects the view that voters simply wanted to give the mainstream parties a wake-up call.

"Friends of the National Front are not simply protesting. These people want to see Le Pen's policies - immigration ban, death penalty, withdrawal from the EU - actually put into practice," it says.

"Partial" win

The Financial Times Deutschland calls the win simply a "partial victory" which brings Mr Chirac little political legitimacy.

Mr Chirac will only be recognised as the undisputed political leader of France if he wins a majority in the June elections, it says.


All political parties of good will must now make huge efforts to reintegrate the great class of the disillusioned and outcast back into the heart of society

Der Standard

The paper warns against the possibility of a continued paralysis of the French political system and urges Europeans to wish Mr Chirac luck.

"The nightmare is over," says Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Le Pen "has not become president and has been cut down to his true size," it says.

But the effects of his fight for the presidency "will linger" and "preoccupy French politics for some time to come", it adds.

Belgium's De Standaard welcomes the "no' vote in what it says was a referendum on the extreme right, but adds that Mr Chirac's re-election is no cause for celebration.

Describing the president as "a figure tarnished by scandals and belonging more to the past than the future," it argues that "Chirac's moral legitimacy is very limited".

Temporary unity

Vienna's Der Standard sees the unity engendered by anti-Le Pen sentiment as a temporary phenomenon that will quickly disappear in the run-up to the parliamentary elections.


The majority mobilized itself in defence of the values of the republic: liberty, equality and fraternity

El Pais

The paper also urges "all political parties of good will" to woo the "great class of the disillusioned and outcast back into the heart of society".

London's Independent says while the vote for Le Pen may have been smaller than feared, it cannot be ignored.

The presence of such a numerous minority supporting racist policies in the civilized heart of Europe, it says, "cannot be wished away" or dismissed as either a protest vote or a freak of the French electoral system.

The Spanish daily El Pais says the election became a "referendum in favour of the Republic".

"The majority mobilized itself in defence of the values of the republic: liberty, equality and fraternity".

Defeated

The Copenhagen daily Information says what the election really evidenced was "three beaten men" - Mr Le Pen, who won a relative victory in the first round, but lost in the second, and Mr Chirac and Mr Jospin who were both "given the cold shoulder" in the first round.

And in Russia, the newspaper Kommersant says it is not Mr Le Pen, but the Western European election system which has suffered the biggest defeat.

France's "traditional system of choosing between 'two good parties' has not only suffered a serious blow, but is disappearing irretrievably into the past," it says.

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


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