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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
European press review
European press
Several European papers focus on Sunday's elections in Sweden and examine how the centre-right Alliance for Sweden was able to defeat the Social Democrats, who have been in power for 12 years.

Elsewhere, gains by the far-right in eastern Germany and an admission of lying by the Hungarian prime minister spark debate.

'Are the Swedes crazy?

Denmark's Berlingske Tidende says Sweden's population "chose to bite the hand that feeds it - and that is actually a very healthy, democratic move". The daily concedes that electing Fredrik Reinfeldt's centre-right alliance probably won't lead to "major and visible revolutions straight away".

But Swedes have chosen a path, it says, "which will very probably mean more liberalisation and privatisation", and possibly a change to the tax system, "which as we know is even more oppressive than in Denmark".

"Even the Swedes, who are accustomed to security, have dared to take a step towards a more Conservative society. There is reason to be happy that it really happened," the daily says.

German daily Der Tagesspiegel disagrees, asking: "Are the Swedes crazy?" Under the Social Democrats Sweden has had a strong economy, low unemployment and model education system, the daily says.

Swedes "have voted for change, not a fundamental break with the past", it notes. "They want things to be cleaned up a little, but not completely scrapped," the daily adds.

Unlike previous conservative candidates, the daily says, Mr Reinfeldt realised that "anyone wanting to touch the main pillars of the welfare state has no chance with Swedes".

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says Swedish voters did not choose between different systems but between "a spent power and fresh energy, between a party bigwig who was tired of office and a youthful conqueror".

The centre-right candidate "also wanted a welfare state", it says, and promised continuity rather than radical change.

The Russian business daily Kommersant agreed, saying the Alliance had no intention of breaking the welfare model and took an "if it ain't broken, don't fix it approach".

French daily Le Monde says the Social Democrats lost the election over unemployment. The Alliance successfully argued that the real rate of unemployment is 15% rather than the official 5.7%, the daily says.

Prime Minister Persson lost the election because his welfare policies discouraged too many people from working, the daily says.

"This is an intrinsic flaw which the Swedish left has obviously been slow to remedy," the paper says, adding this is "a lesson for Europe's left-wing parties".

'Wake-up call'

The German papers see Sunday's gains by the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) in the regional assembly in the north-eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania as a wake-up call for the mainstream parties.

Die Welt says the NPD's rise was helped "by the fact that the political elite has ignored the problems in the east for years".

"The decline of whole regions, as in Western Pomerania, only marginally interests the established parties," it adds.

Extreme right-wing party members have entered parliament in three east German states and it is not "outlandish" to see this as the start of a new trend, the daily argues.

Whole sections of the population are so alienated in east Germany, the daily warns, they are now "almost beyond the reach of democracy".

Der Tagesspiegel says democrats are once again saying they are "shocked" at the result, even though the NPD's victory was expected.

Their outrage, it says, masks a lethargic attitude "that little can be done about right-wing extremism".

"Meanwhile the right-wing extremists are conquering political terrain in east Germany metre by metre," the paper warns, and the "resentful mood" in the east continues.

Hungary in turmoil

Hungarian daily Nepszabadsag hopes something positive will emerge from the political uproar caused by Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's admission that he lied to the nation before the April elections.

Violent unrest broke out in Hungary on Sunday after a national radio station broadcast a recording of a speech Mr Gyurcsany gave at a closed-door Socialist meeting in May

The daily quotes the prime minister pledging "reform or failure, there is no other way". The government "should now have the guts to get on with it, or fall", the daily concludes.

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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