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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 05:35 GMT 06:35 UK
European press review
Russian newspapers on events in Ukraine, German papers on the looming election and French and Spanish press on political rifts in Paris.

Parting of ways

Russian newspapers regard events in neighbouring Ukraine, where President Viktor Yushchenko last week sacked the government of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, amid claims of corruption and infighting.

The popular former prime minister, one of Mr Yushchenko's key allies in last year's "orange revolution", now looks set to become a powerful political rival in parliamentary elections due to take place in March.

Having weakened each other, they will play into the hands of the as yet uncoordinated opposition
Nezavisimaya Gazeta

In the view of Moscow daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, "The list of scandals in Viktor Yushchenko's team and the loud resignations in the highest echelons of power ... have turned the start of the campaign for the March election into chaos."

The paper sees little hope of reconciliation between the former allies.

"Having weakened each other, they will play into the hands of the as yet uncoordinated opposition ... In the situation that is taking shape the result of the parliamentary election may turn out to be unexpected both for the authorities and for the opposition," the paper says.

Speaking in an interview published in the prominent Russian daily Izvestiya, Ms Tymoshenko confirms that she is determined to go her own way.

"The election has already begun and Yushchenko and I are going into it absolutely separately," she says, adding: "I have forgiven Viktor Andriyovych and do not harbour any malice against him. But our paths are parallel ones."

"The bloc which I head is capable of conducting an election campaign by itself," she tells the paper. "I reckon that we will get a good result at the election. I believe we will be able to form the country's policy and will be able to continue the reforms."

Tax worries

Several German newspapers see growing alarm in the opposition Christian Democrat camp over shadow Finance Minister Paul Kirchhof's radical flat-rate tax proposals, which have become the focus of fierce attacks by Chancellor Schroeder and other Social Democrat leaders.

Like an Indian raindancer, Gerhard Schroeder beseeches election victory, while the conservative opposition looks anxiously at the sky.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung

At first feted as a like-minded ally of conservative leader Angela Merkel, Mr Kirchhof is now no longer a "crowd pleaser", says the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

"Like an Indian raindancer, Gerhard Schroeder beseeches election victory, while the conservative opposition looks anxiously at the sky."

"With Paul Kirchhof, Merkel demonstrated her desire to combine politics and vision, and now vision and politics suddenly seem to be unbridgeable contradictions," the paper says.

Die Welt, however, believes the "panic" over Mr Kirchhof's 25% flat-rate tax is misplaced.

In contrast to claims by the governing SPD, his ideas "will not lead to an impoverishment of the lower or middle classes", it says.

"The current German tax system has no future," it adds, and the Kirchhof model "is far more simple, fair and socially responsible than the status quo".

Japanese lesson

Der Tagesspiegel contrasts the campaign styles of Mr Schroeder and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, currently heading for a landslide election victory.

Unlike Schroeder, who wants to be re-elected by virtue of reforms implemented long ago, Koizumi specifically promised the public more transformation, more change, more radicalism
Der Tagesspiegel

"There were remarkable parallels between the political situation in Japan and Germany - both countries whose heyday seemed behind them, both highly in debt, decrepit and spoiled," it says.

But under similarly difficult circumstances, the paper adds, "the two men opted for quite different election campaigns".

The Japanese premier, it explains, "successfully turned the issue of post office privatization... into a litmus test for the whole people's desire for reform".

"Unlike Schroeder, who wants to be re-elected by virtue of reforms implemented long ago, Koizumi specifically promised the public more transformation, more change, more radicalism," it says.

Die Tageszeitung meanwhile notes that although the SPD and Greens are likely to lose on Sunday, recent opinion polls suggest two-thirds of the public do not believe the economy will improve under the CDU/CSU.

It warns that under a Merkel chancellorship, "the country will for the first time be governed by a radical who... will try to destroy the German model of consensus politics."

Divided left

The Paris daily Liberation says a festival organized by left-wing parties at the weekend highlighted divisions that will be hard to mend before the presidential elections in 2007.

The grouping opposed to the European constitution - led by socialist Laurent Fabius - will have trouble capitalising on its referendum victory last May, it says.

The race for the 2007 (French) presidential elections will be long and tiring and threatens to paralyse the whole European Union
El Pais

"It is not enough to win a battle: you have to win the war too," it argues, noting that the once-peaceful and pluralist left has now become a "free-for-all".

The paper sees "an ever deeper gulf between two lefts, divided since the European referendum".

Moreover, it says Mr Fabius - remembered by French communists more as a bourgeois ex-minister than as the EU "no" vote's champion - was booed at the festival.

"The time of reconciliation is definitely not yet with us," the paper concludes.

Across the Pyrenees, the Madrid daily El Pais agrees that the socialists' rifts over the EU charter threaten their election hopes.

But it also highlights the rivalry within France's governing UMP, with Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy presenting "quite different" socio-economic visions.

"The race for the 2007 presidential elections will be long and tiring and threatens to paralyse the whole European Union," the paper warns.

Steady on the pedal

A commentary in Hungary's Nepszabadsag warns the government against making hasty cuts in fuel duties just because drivers demand it.

"As there is no such thing as a free lunch, the price of cheap petrol will also have to be paid by someone," it says, referring to those in society who do not own cars.

The paper says duty should only be cut when high fuel prices damage the economy and society as a whole, not just drivers.

"I, for my part, would rather drive more slowly, and I suggest the politicians also operate the gas pedal gently. They must remember this is not the only pedal they can push," the writer argues.

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





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