May 10, 2005
THE UK ELECTION: 'BLAIR III' SETS RECORD, BUT 'NOW COMES THE RECKONING'
** PM Blair posts a "remarkable achievement" with Labor's first consecutive third term.
** "Teflon Tony" suffered a "bloody nose" over Iraq, but "Iraq did not decide the election."
** Chancellor of the Exchequer Brown's firm "hold on fiscal policy" blunted electoral challenges.
** The electorate's "backlash" punished Labor, changing the "momentum of British politics."
Blair is 'in power for an uprecedented third time'-- Global media credited PM Blair for adding 2005 as a record-setting third consecutive Labor Party victory to his 1997 and 2001 wins. Outlets noted that 44 million Britons placed "Blair with Baroness Thatcher among the gods of political entrepreneurship" with their votes. South Korea's left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun lauded Labor's "success at winning a third term for the first time since it was founded in 1900," and the UK's conservative Daily Mail summarized, "rebuffed and battered he may be, but a third consecutive victory is a feat achieved by none of his party predecessors."
'The state of the British economy' overshadowed the Iraq 'protest vote'-- A Romanian outlet noted the PM warned against a "protest vote" when "more than 1,100 articles" associated "liar and lie" with his name during the campaign. UK outlets, like the centrist Scotsman, made much of Blair's "outrageous dissembling" over an "upopular war" that irked a middle class [that] felt alienated by Mr. Blair's preoccupation with Iraq and President George Bush." Like-minded writers mirrored a New Zealand editorial's view that "Teflon Tony" is no more, haunted by the "recurring ghost of Iraq." Nonetheless, the U.K. is "enjoying continued growth, low unemployment and low interest rates," economic factors on a winning and "almost unblemished domestic policy balance sheet" for voters, according to conservative outlets.
Blair's 'greatest friend, greatest rival and star' of Labor's campaign, Gordon Brown-- Austria's centrist Die Presse labeled Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown "Britain's most popular politician." The UK's conservative Daily Telegraph called him a "picture of loyalty during the campaign," while numerous writers identified him as the UK's "leader-in-waiting." Thailand's independent Nation noted, Brown "presided over eight years of economic growth and low unemployment and has taken much of the credit for the prosperity Britain now enjoys," while France's Le Figaro definitively credited Labor's win to Brown as much as Blair.
'Blair III,' now 'diminished in victory,' calls it 'time to unite now and look ahead'-- Analysts globally agreed that "support for the Liberal Democrats and the Tories sends a clear warning to Mr. Blair that confidence in his leadership is far from what it once was." Tory leader Howard and Liberal Democrat leader Kennedy benefited from a dissatisfied electorate that nonetheless "helped its Prime Minister create history." Bangladesh's independent Amar Desh noted that, in pulling off his "hat trick," Blair's Labor Party "lost some 40 seats where immigrants and Muslim voters were a determining factor." With his majority reduced from 187 to 86, an Indian observer posited Blair--"shrewd politician and formidable speaker"--has the "ability to inveigle his way out of sticky situations" and lead the UK 2006 EU referendum and other efforts.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Rupert D. Vaughan
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 75 reports from 24 countries from May 5-9, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed by the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Blair's Forgotten Genius"
The conservative Daily Telegraph commented (5/9): "Mr. Blair's genius has been to appeal to the voters of Middle England even as his government has busily traduced their values and lightened their wallets. No other member of the Cabinet has this skill. To be fair, Mr. Blair's task has been made easier by the fact that he has presided over a growing economy, allowing him to glut the public sector without causing too much pain to the rest of us. His successor will have no such luck. Labor MPs may resent Mr. Blair now; but, by heaven, they will miss him when he is gone."
"Voters' Slap Leaves Blair With Far Less Room For Maneuver"
The centrist Scotsman of Edinburgh editorialized (5/7): "The voters who deserted Mr. Blair were, in fact, his personal fiefdom--the middle-class professionals who, while they dislike the Conservatives for aesthetic reasons, are not from the traditional trade union, working-class left. Much of this assertive new middle class felt alienated by Mr. Blair's preoccupation with Iraq and President George Bush; and even more by the prime minister's presidential style and outrageous dissembling, which is at odds with its sense of collective social responsibility (for many of this class work in, or are funded by, the public sector)."
"The Electorate Has Sent A Clear Message"
The center-left Independent had this to say (5/7): "The message was clear: no prime minister can treat Parliament and the public with such contempt over an issue as serious as waging war. Labor's loss of almost 50 seats, the spoils unevenly divided between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, diminishes Mr. Blair's authority, restricts his room for maneuver and leaves the Commons with the best approximation to a three-party system that Britain has had for decades."
"Now Let's Have Real Change"
An editorial in the center-left tabloid Daily Mirror read (5/6): "Today it is right to let the Prime Minister bask in his third extraordinary election triumph.... He has done it despite taking the country into an unpopular war, despite being accused of just about every despicable act short of eating babies for breakfast, despite losing the luster of his early years in power.... But Tony Blair will want the history books to remember him as more than a phenomenal vote-winner."
"Blair Is Handed A Wake-up Call"
The right-of-center tabloid Sun opined (5/6): "David Blunkett was exactly right when he said the message was that Labour must listen to the voice of the people. Blair has secured a consecutive third term, a first for a Labour PM, but it is a bitter-sweet victory. His lower majority will be workable, although not necessarily comfortable."
"The People Punish Blair"
The conservative tabloid Daily Mail declared (5/6): "Yet the fact is, he remains Prime Minister and with a working majority too. Rebuffed and battered he may be, but a third consecutive victory is a feat achieved by none of his party predecessors. But the real satisfaction belongs to Michael Howard, who deserves huge credit for a hard-fought and highly disciplined challenge. He was written off throughout. The psephological arithmetic was firmly against him. Yet he has revitalized a party that had almost begun to take defeat for granted."
"Tony Blair Will Be Retiring Sooner Than He Had Hoped"
The conservative Daily Telegraph editorialized (5/6): "Mr. Blair may have triumphed for the third time, but he has certainly not defused the ticking time-bomb next door at Number 11. Gordon Brown was a picture of loyalty during the campaign, but he has allowed his impatience to show in the past and cannot be relied on to wait long for the inheritance he clearly thinks is his. We criticized Mr. Blair for his presumptuousness in thinking he could lead his party into yesterday's election, and then make way for his handpicked successor at a time of his choosing. In the weeks ahead, Mr. Blair may come to suffer the consequences of that folly."
"A Joyless Victory"
The left-of-center Guardian maintained (5/6): "Labour should be very humble and grateful that so many voters have been prepared to stick with them to the extent that they have. But the electorate has changed the momentum of British politics overnight. This has been a shattering blow to a political movement which until now has had no real experience of defeat to be treated in this way, losing seats to Tories, Liberal Democrats and to independents alike."
"Wanted: A Third Term Plan"
Simon Jenkins wrote in the conservative Times (Internet version, 5/6): "On any showing three election victories in succession ranks Mr. Blair with Baroness Thatcher among the gods of political entrepreneurship. But this time it was not a lissom teenager that posed before the electorate, rather a battered and bemused Casanova past his prime. Mr Blair’s ideology was still to help friends and save the world but neither seemed to appreciate it. He took a pasting at the hustings and it showed. So what next? Long terms in office are killers. They leave their principals exhausted physically and exhausted ideologically. Whey-faced politicians trained to regard keeping power as the highest ambition run out of steam when winning becomes second nature. The one political sensation of the election has been Mr. Blair’s public acceptance of Gordon Brown as his successor. What he feels he can no longer block, by dismissing Mr. Brown, he may as well accept with good grace. For the first time in many years, the Prime Minister seems resigned to his rival as both legatee and executor. He may even find in a Brown succession a sort of apotheosis. The Chancellor remains a politician strangely untested by adversity. To be followed by John Major did Lady Thatcher’s reputation no harm. Both may be left crying in the wilderness: after me the deluge. To go with dignity at a time of his choosing could be Mr. Blair’s truest memorial. He has proved himself the master of political manoeuvre. He divined that Lady Thatcher’s reforms must indeed be preserved not reversed. He meticulously deferred to her most sacred lobbies, to motorists, retailers, drinkers, air travellers, private home-owners and the celestial horde of consultants and bureaucrats who have done well out of 'Blatcherism'. It worked. With such a nobly bourgeois objective in mind, Mr. Blair deployed the most bourgeois of weapons, a plausible and engaging manner. Mr. Blair’s talent to persuade may have vanished into hot air. He has not lost his talent to charm."
"Now Comes The Reckoning"
The centrist Scotsman of Edinburgh had this to say (Internet version, 5/6): "Tony Blair has won an historic third term for Labour. Leaving aside the debate on Iraq and trust, this is a remarkable achievement.... However, the electorate has punished Labour, and specifically Mr Blair, because it feels it was misled over the reasons for going to war. But it is a qualified bloody nose for Labour.... Yet third terms are dangerous things. Governments tend to run out of steam in their third term.... Top of Labour’s in-tray is the deteriorating state of the UK economy.... There was a moment when the Conservatives looked like equalling or surpassing Labour's likely share of the vote. This morning, the Tories need to crow less and ponder longer over what went wrong.... Overall, Mr Howard fought an effective campaign but there was much to criticise in the negative and repetitive nature of it. As a result, the Tories stopped far short of offering radical policies or choices to the electorate.... Labour’s future now depends on how it responds to the message sent by the electorate on Thursday. Mr Blair promises to listen hard but his style has always been that of leading from the front. Can the old dog really learn new tricks?"
"Blair's Hat-trick: The Backlash Vote He Cannot Ignore"
The moderate Belfast Telegraph editorialized (5/6): "Although the Northern Ireland results are still awaited, the die is cast as far as Westminster is concerned. Tony Blair is back in Downing Street, having secured an historic third term for Labour, but not without a substantial backlash from the voters. It should be a moment for Mr Blair to savour.... He may feel he has survived all the many misgivings over his handing of the Iraqi war yet he returns to power with a dented reputation. On his day of victory, he is left with much to ponder.... What an irony that as he takes his party back to power for an unprecedented third term, his own leadership position does not look all that secure. The question is raised already as to whether he will hold on to the premiership throughout this new term of office or hand over earlier to the leader-in-waiting, Gordon Brown. It was an election which was always a foregone conclusion but the failure of Labour to maximise its support and the increase in support for the Liberal Democrats and the Tories sends a clear warning to Mr Blair that confidence in his leadership is far from what it once was. Mr Blair has written his place in history but given his signalled intention to bow out after this Parliament, he will have inevitably lost a measure of his authority and the focus of attention is bound to swing more and more towards Mr Brown. Thanks to the Chancellor's firm hold on fiscal policy, Britain is enjoying a high degree of economic stability. He may have won but the future does not look certain for the new Prime Minister and speculation will centre on the role of Mr Brown and when the baton of power will pass to him.... The people have spoken and New Labour takes the stage again on control. But it is one thing to bag the votes and quite another to regain the full trust of a sceptical public. The backlash in this election cannot be ignored."
"Heading For A Third Term"
George Jones and Malcolm Moore commented in the conservative Daily Telegraph (Internet version 5/5): "Tony Blair appears to be heading for a record third term in Downing Street after the final opinion polls showed Labour on course to secure a comfortable Commons majority."
"Quest For Votes"
The left-of-center tabloid Express noted (Internet version 5/5): "After a month trailing the length and breadth of the country in the quest for votes, the three main party leaders know their fate now lies in the hands of the electorate. Mr Blair, Tory leader Michael Howard and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy are set to cast their own votes in their constituencies. Labour has led the opinion polls throughout the campaign--the final batch of eve-of-polling day surveys putting it between three and six points ahead of the Conservatives."
FRANCE: "The British Lesson"
Pierre Rousselin wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (5/6): “The success of the Labour Party is as much the success of Gordon Brown as it is of Tony Blair. The Prime Minister has had the wisdom to acknowledge this and to push his probable successor to the front lines aware that his popularity had seriously suffered after the war in Iraq which a majority of British were opposed to.”
"The British Fire"
Patrick Sabatier noted in left-of-center Liberation (5/6): “Tony Blair crushed his hopes to place Great Britain at the heart of Europe by seeking to establish a ‘special relationship’ with the U.S.”
"Bush Torn Between Europe and the U.S"
Jacques Duplouich in right-of-center Le Figaro (5/4): “Beyond the war in Iraq and the issue of its legitimacy, what transpired was the nature of Tony Blair’s foreign policy, in relation to Washington, Europe and the Middle East.... While Europe is essential in Blair’s eyes, the U.S. is just as important. This is why he has suggested he serve as a ‘bridge’ between the old and the new continent. He cannot and does not want to choose, because Great Britain’s vocation is to be both European and Atlanticist. Tony Blair has defined three objectives resulting from this postulate: to anchor Great Britain at the core of an enlarged European Union, to re-instate its strategic influence...and to participate in expanding political and economic liberties by favoring democratic expansion through the fight against poverty.... But some see Blair as the ‘Trojan mule’ of U.S. interests on the Old Continent.”
Peter Sturm commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (5/9): "The way they are talking about Blair suggested that he has lost the elections, but he has actually won a historic victory. However, given the power of the circumstances he said before the elections this would be his last term. Time has obviously surpassed Blair although he has just begun his third tenure by reshuffling his cabinet. The future lies elsewhere. It is not yet clear who will hold it in his hands, but it will not be Blair. Old Labor--which is history to many people--is now on the rise again and settles scores. It remains to be seen whether this events are just death throes or whether the entire party is going backward. The outcome of this dispute will decide Labor's ability to govern in the future and what Tony Blair's historic legacy will be like."
Stefan Kornelius observed in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (5/9): "One of the simple lessons of British politics is that a small parliamentary majority generates a weak government. It happened to Margaret Thatcher, and now Tony Blair must pay tribute to the powerful and directly elected MPs. Those who defended their constituency under enormous pressure will now exert the same pressure on Blair.... However, the rebellion does not pose any danger to Blair. It comes at the worst time, given that the prime minister has just won the election. But Blair should be warned: with the small majority, he will have problems to realize his goals. He will have to water down his ambitious domestic reforms. Blair III will slowly but certainly sink in the Labor party's internal war."
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg editorialized (5/9): "The times are over when political problems simply run off Teflon Tony. The British PM has won a historic victory with his Labor Party--Labor won a third term for the first time in history--but the results are not triumphal at all. Only the government's excellent economic results secured the victory. Blair's personal charisma and the skills of his spin-doctors were a difficult legacy this time around. Many Brits have lost trust in the prime minister who once said, 'Trust me!' The Iraq war is the most important reason for it, but not the only one.... While a governing U.S. president can barely be ousted, Blair depends on his parliamentary majority all the time. Regardless of whether Blair will soon retreat or whether an impatient Brown will overthrow him, Tony Blair's countdown started on election night."
Center-right Westfalenpost of Hagen said (5/6): "Everything slips off from 'Teflon Tony' that would cause other leaders to be voted out of office, and there are two reason for this: First, the Iraq war alone will not be enough to give Blair a dressing down. The second, more important one, is of a domestic policy nature: constant economic growth, a low inflation rate, and a low unemployment rate. Labor under Blair, who has lost his magic, also represents this, and the conservative Tories have little to counter this."
Thomas Kielinger noted in an editorial in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (5/4): "The sword of Damocles is hanging over Tony Blair shortly before the parliamentary elections. We could also called is the sword of Saddamocles.... The killing of a British soldier in Iraq two days ago again brought to the fore deep aversions against Blair's intervention in Iraq on the U.S side. The distrust with which he has been confronted...finds its most important evidence with Iraq. People say he acted on his own by presenting false facts and by suppressing legal pretexts. In this confusing situation of emotions another killed British soldiers can have the effect of a 'mini-Madrid'. It would not go as far as to prevent the Labor Party from winning, but it could considerably diminish the victory, to the detriment of Blair's future. Among the British, heart and mind differ. Seen from an intellectual point of view, the majority still support the war and its goals, but even Pascal once warned: 'The heart has its reasons of which the mind does not know anything'."
Right-of-center Münchener Merkur said (5/4): "It was mainly the Iraq war which created great problems for the politician with the 'push-button' charm. He was abused as George Bush's poodle, as gullible, even as a liar. If the majority of opinion polls declare him the clear winner of the elections, then the reason is that the Blair government can score points with an almost unblemished domestic policy balance sheet. The economy is growing, inflation stagnates at a very low level, and there is a record employment level. The British are better off than the Germans and Labor is not tired of promising that everything will stay as it is, and even the sick health sector is to be reformed. There is hardly any point that is open to attacks from a helpless opposition led by a boring Michael Howard."
ITALY: "Now Europe’s Challenge"
Gianni Riotta concluded in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (5/6): “Blair challenged his public opinion in very difficult moments: in 1999, by compelling Clinton not to let up on dictator Milosevic, and in 2003, by opposing the rift...dividing Washington from Europe over the attack on Saddam. [British] voters, although reluctantly, seem to recognize that at least Blair...acted from conviction.... Blair has one final challenge to face.... He must reiterate his country’s responsibilities in the EU, when the UK will hold the EU presidency in July.... Should yesterday’s results be confirmed...they prove that public opinion appreciates one who is steadfast in his goals, even when clearly in the minority and exposed to the most bitter criticism. If Blair will be able to deal with the European dilemma...there will be few left-wing policies in the West that do not use Blair’s three-time, historical victory as a point of reference.”
"Future In Doubt"
Lucia Annunziata held in centrist, influential La Stampa (5/6): “Tony Blair fulfilled the dream of a third term, but in this [electoral] passage he lost about one hundred seats, too many not to cause one to think that his decline begins this morning.”
RUSSIA: "Blair Is Good Enough"
Boris Volkhonskiy commented in business-oriented Kommersant (5/6): “Hardly anyone in Britain believed that, had the Tories won, London would have instantly withdrawn its troops from Iraq. This means the time hasn’t come yet to change the chief executive. The Blair government is up to mark when it comes to handling problems that worry ordinary people the most.”
"British Less Politicized Than Russians"
Ol’ga Dmitriyeva observed in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (5/6): “It would be an exaggeration to say that British voters considered the elections very important. That nation is less politicized than Russia. Another peculiarity about Western voters is that they are never shy about speaking their minds.”
"Focus On Economy"
Nadezhda Popova remarked in reformist Izvestiya (5/6): “Try as they would, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats failed to make the Iraq issue central. The focus was on the economy, Labor’s chief asset.”
"How A Mature Democracy Differs From An Immature One"
Sergey Strokan commented in business-oriented Kommersant (5/5): “Today’s British elections are a textbook illustration of how mature democracies differ from immature ones and non-democracies. In a mature democracy, they elect a policy, not a leader. That is, of course, it is stupid to deny that the personality factor is very important, too. But a personality at the head of state is a mere instrument, an attachment to a policy. With real, not mock-up, political parties, they have an alternative, something much of the world, from Belarus to North Korea, doesn’t have”
AUSTRIA: "PM In Waiting"
Centrist Die Presse maintained (5/6): "Mr Brown is a prime minister-in-waiting with a temper.... The chancellor is...Britain's most popular politician, despite being known as a sober and steely politician, notorious for his fits of rage.... Britons will place greater trust in a Labour government led by Mr Brown, despite the stark contrast with the charming Tony Blair and his boyish smile."
"The Evil They Know"
Deputy chief editor for independent daily Salzburger Nachrichten Viktor Hermann editorialized (5/2): “The poor voters in Great Britain are in a tight spot with this election: The big issues such as economy, civil service and health service do not provide enough grounds for the opposition to attack the government--therefore the opposition has sunk its teeth into the Iraq war. While this is clearly an issue capable of winning a majority, it does not necessarily facilitate the decision-making process for the voters. The majority of the British opposes the war. Therefore, it might be assumed, they could turn their backs on Tony Blair’s Labor Party. This at least is what the Conservatives with Michael Howard at the top, are hoping for. The Tories actually gained slightly in the polls over the last few days. However, this trend was halted when Howard declared that he would also have gone into the Iraq war at the Americans’ side--albeit for different reasons. Does this mean, he would have told the people a different lie? It is possible that the old Labor voters will overcome their resentment and once again vote for Tony Blair. After all, if they have to vote for a war monger, why not vote for the one they already know?”
"Catch A Falling Star – Blair’s Luster Has Faded"
Commentator for centrist daily Die Presse Eva Male analyzed (5/2): “The Prime Minister who first ran for office eight years ago and has since twice won landslide victories, has lost some of his charisma. He will probably be re-elected, although there is still a tiny chance, not to be underestimated, that the Conservatives could land a surprise victory. The great open question that causes nervousness in the Labor camp during the last stage of the election campaign is the magnitude of the victory. How well will the party do in those constituencies that are not crucial for victory? How high will voter participation be? In 2001, it was at a low 59 percent. Voters who are disappointed with Blair’s policies have become apathetic and this is a destabilizing factor. Observers are counting on a Labor majority of 80 to 100 seats in the House of Commons (currently, Labor holds a majority of 161 seats). Blair, whose luster is slowly fading away, is becoming more and more of a liability for his party. It has been a long time since he’s proved the asset he once started out as. Thus, it is not expected that he will serve a full third term. It is said that, behind the scenes, he is already preparing to hand over power to his Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, formerly a bitter rival. It would indeed be wise for Blair not to cling to power at all costs.”
HUNGARY: "Blair, The Winning Man"
Columnist Endre Aczel stated in top-circulation, center-left Nepszabadsag (5/5): “The Iraqi war has only spoiled Blair’s image. A significant number of leftist intellectuals--in contrast with the union members who always vote Labour--have turned away from him. But not the right wing. Acknowledging the depressing lack of alternative represented by the Tories, they who have been leaderless ever since the Thatcher-Major era are with him. Besides: Howard’s conservatives cannot argue, since they too supported the war. In Iraq today, even if slowly, things seem to be turning out right, and--even if it is deeply painful in the moral respect, as the war had been built on obvious lies--that justifies Blair’s pro-Bush commitment. Blair will win the elections on Thursday. There is no alternative to him, say all possible sources, angles and gurus. I believe them.”
"The Laughing Third Party"
Foreign affairs writer Szabolcs Tohotom Toth pointed out in right-of-center Magyar Nemzet (5/5): “One of the most important dividing lines between the groups supporting Blair and the dissatisfied is, naturally, the opinion on the war against Iraq and the war against terror.... The Tories, however, have benefited precious little from this division. As they supported the Iraqi war, on account of the new scandal they 'only' question the credibility of the Prime Minister, and not the legitimacy of the war.... In the meantime, Labour continues to enjoy the advantages coming from the fact that they have succeeded in stealing from their rivals the issue of concern about national security--something the Democrats apparently failed with Kerry to steal from Bush’s conservatives in the United States (the question of [Kerry’s] suitability to lead the military made voters uncertain in the U.S.).”
London correspondent Andrea Talas held in prestigious economic and political weekly Heti Vilaggazdasag (5/7): “The Labour Party Prime Minister, whose credibility and popularity have suffered recently because of his role in the Iraqi war, primarily needs to convince the voters that he is not only the combative politician who, almost crossing the line of legality based on reports that fail to clearly prove the existence of weapons of mass destruction, is able to lead his country into war.... Blair, who has proved to be unwavering in his faith in the crossfire of permanent attacks, as well as an excellent orator and a true statesman, will have to pay a very high price, primarily for his Iraqi policy."
IRELAND: "The Day Of Reckoning"
The center-right daily Irish Independent editorialized (5/5): “Unless all the indications are wildly wrong, Tony Blair will win the British general election today, though possibly with a smaller House of Commons majority than those he achieved in the New Labour landslides of 1997 and 2001.... Yet Mr Blair made a nervous start, and has not yet regained his former easy domination of the political scene. Throughout, approval for the unquestionable economic successes of his government has been offset by disquiet over the Iraq war and the draining away of trust in the prime minister, notably among Labour supporters. If he wins comfortably, he will recover his confidence quickly. He will have created a record with a third consecutive Labour term of office. He has said that he will not seek a fourth. But meanwhile there is work to be done. That is nowhere more true than in Anglo-Irish affairs. Relations between the two countries at present are at their closest ever, and over the last eight years Mr Blair and Bertie Ahern have developed a remarkable personal relationship. They will need to call on it if the Northern Ireland election results turn out as the pundits and bookmakers forecast. The majority in this State, and the Government, devoutly wish for a good showing by the SDLP and the UUP. But they fear that a sweeping victory for the DUP and Sinn Fein is more likely. If that happens, it will be a tragedy but not a disaster.... This makes a strong vote for the SDLP and the UUP all the more desirable. But at best, the road of negotiation will be very tricky, and Messrs Ahern and Blair will have to stick close together as they tread it.”
NORWAY: "Blair Is Paying For Iraq"
The newspaper of record Aftenposten commented (5/7): "Tony Blair, who entered with such great hopes in 1997, who got renewed trust in 2001 and who has achieved some results in domestic politics, is now on his way out of British politics with a dark shadow hanging over him. The shadow is called Iraq. And it emerges as a warning against war adventurism in remote countries.... To George W. Bush it must be thought-provoking that also his most important partner in Europe has had to pay a high price for his loyalty to the United States. In Spain last year the voters changed the government supporting the war in Iraq, and in a number of other European countries the support for the United States in Iraq has been a burden at elections. Blair has said that he will not run for Prime Minister at the next election in four to five years. Since the result of the election has been disappointing for Labour, despite the victory, the 52-year old Blair is risking a build-up of pressure for him to retire shortly. The two-years older Minister of Finance Gordon Brown is ready to take over.... One of Blair’s most important projects was to lead Great Britain 'into the heart of Europe.’ A referendum on the EU Constitution may be his last major achievement in British politics, if the referendum even takes place. The Conservative Leader in his turn has decided to retire after losing the election. During a renewed leadership there is hope that Labour may win a fourth election in a row.”
In the local daily Ziarul de Iasi, journalist Adrian Cioflanca commented on the outcome of the UK elections (5/9): “Nevertheless, Blair is not interested in the statistics as much as he is interested in going down in history and leaving something behind. Something that would be called 'Blairism.’ The Labor leader preserves his extraordinary charisma--those who have watched him during his campaign are convinced of this once again.... Blair isn't news anymore.... The feeble parliamentary majority and the opponents in his own party render his mission difficult. If he manages to pass all these obstacles in a convincing manner, maybe we’ll talk about ‘Blairism’.”
"Blair Victory Good For Romania"
Political analyst Bogdan Chirieac opined in the new independent daily Gandul (5/7): “Tony Blair’s victory in the UK elections is important, first for the British, but also for the entire world’s politics. Many things depend on Tony Blair, ranging from the support given to George W. Bush in the Iraq campaign to London’s attitude towards the British integration in the Euro zone. The British PM’s stay in Downing Street is an almost unhoped-for advantage for Romania.... Tony Blair has made a personal bet. He has chosen to support our country...and has helped it follow the European track. To win the bet, the natural thing would be for him to see it settled as a full member of the EU.”
"A Safe Card For Romania"
Political analyst Emil Hurezeanu commented in the daily independent Evenimentul Zilei (5/7): “Tony Blair...is a safe card for Romania, both in its relations with the U.S. and as a European supporter.... Even is he’s not President Traian Basescu’s friend yet, Blair cannot be indifferent to the Anglo-Saxon vectors of current Romanian administration’s foreign policy.... Romania cannot take the UK for a role model. It has to keep on following the South-East European, European and Euro-Atlantic model, in this precise order.”
Political analyst Bogdan Munteanu commented In the newly established independent daily Gandul (5/5): “For the Americans, it is clear that Blair’s victory is a breath of fresh air in maintaining the fragile anti-terrorist coalition.... The Blair government is one of the few European cabinets with which both the former and the current government in Bucharest had or have good relations, such that the Labor continuity can only be to the benefit of Romania”.
"Iraq War Electoral Costs"
Political analyst Cristian Parvulescu stated In the financial daily Bursa (5/5): "Participation in the Iraq war cost, [from an] electoral point of view, several continental governments, ranging from the defeat of Jose Maria Aznar’s popular Spanish in March 2004 to Silvio Berlusconi’s loss in the local elections in April 2005. But the situation may not repeat itself in Blair’s case.... Politically speaking...the Labor party is more to the right today than most center-right parties on issues such as health care, public school fees, anti-terrorist legislation and, most of all, the Iraq war.... Tony Blair has constantly warned against the consequences of a protest vote (possible due to the involvement in the Iraqi adventure).... For the entire month of April, more than 1,100 articles in national dailies associated Blair’s name to the words “liar” and “lie”, which is an indication to the ethical tension that has characterized the electoral campaign in 2005. Moreover, in order to draw the attention of the public opinion on the situation in Iraq, the relatives of several soldiers killed in the war are running in the elections.”
"A Real Record, But No Significant Changes"
Journalists Sabina Nicolae and Livia Cimpoeru provided this analysis in the daily Evenimentul Zilei (5/4): “The British might offer tomorrow, with their vote in the parliamentary elections, a third mandate to Labor PM Tony Blair.... A new victory would mean a real record, given that no Labor PM has won three consecutive mandates so far.... After a long and dull electoral campaign, considered as petty by British commentators, and only enlivened by the personal attacks launched by the Conservatives against Tony Blair, there are no significant changes in the electors’ preferences”.
SPAIN: "Nothing To Do With Iraq"
Ramon Perez-Maura commented in conservative daily ABC (5/9): "Tony Blair has suffered a punishment. A serious punishment that many people will try to attribute to his policy in the war of Iraq. It should be advised to those who believe this that it does not explain why the Conservative Party has not been equally punished and did not lose votes nor seats to the Liberal Party, the only party that was against the war. There is nothing more dangerous than trying to adapt preconceived ideas to reality, and there are many people who are trying to do this since the results started to be published on Friday.... The key question is whether the new Conservative leader will be able to return to his bases the longing to lead the country as Thatcher did, and not to submit to the momentary winds. That's what the leaders with real historic vocation do. Blair didn't do it, and it will not be easy for the Conservatives to find someone among them. But they have the base of a solid party. Stronger than that of yesterday's." "B
lair Wins In Spite Of Iraq"
"Blair Didn't Convince, He Overcame"
Independent daily El Mundo wrote (5/6): "Blair didn't convince but overcame, winning after a campaign full of disqualifications.... The Conservatives' aggressive campaign against Blair failed because it was too difficult to convince the voters to punish the Prime Minister for a war that the conservative leader, Michael Howard, was the first to support.... The Conservative's candidate Howard showed in the campaign his intellectual soundness, but he might have frightened the unsure voters with very hard proposals in the fight against crime and illegal immigration, which he promised to slow down by increasing policing measures.... The conservatives have been unable to present an alternative to young people and the more dynamic sectors, while Blair knew how to capitalize on his indisputable charisma."
"Overcoming The Protest Burden"
Left-of-center regional El Periodico asserted (5/6): "Blair has been able to rely on the state of the British economy to help him overcome the burden of the protest vote.... The contrast between the dynamism of the British economy and the doldrums in the rest of the EU...spared Tony Blair a high price for the credibility he lost...justifying the war.... But the prime minister knows his image has been dented.... Blair will likely resign, sooner or later, in favour of his greatest friend, greatest rival and star of the campaign, Gordon Brown."
SWITZERLAND: "Paying The Price"
French-language Tribune de Geneve contended (5/6): "The prime minister remains a shrewd politician and formidable speaker, and was the best communicator throughout the campaign.... But the referendum on the EU constitution, scheduled for 2006, leaves him with a very rough job winning over voters.... And so if France rejects the treaty in its own vote at the end of May...it could be a weight off Tony's shoulders".
TURKEY: "Elections In The United Kingdom"
Yilmaz Oztuna commented in the conservative Turkiye (5/9): “Britain has always been considered as the center of democracy in the world. This is the first time in the country’s history that the Labor Party has won elections for the third time in a row under the same leader. Eight years of Labour rule has naturally caused some Britons to become weary of the current government. That should be considered as the main reason for the decreased number of Labour votes and seats in the House of Commons. The result shows that despite all the problems, the public in Britain supports the U.S. in its initiative on the Broader Middle East and Northern Africa. The voters decided that the U.S. project is also in the British national interest. This project can be seen as an effort to secure the energy resources of the 21st century. This is a first-come-first-served initiative that will benefit those who support it by improving the national industry and the prosperity of its people.”
ISRAEL: "As Britain Votes"
Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (5/5): "Despite the dents in Blair's standing, he is still expected to triumph over Conservative candidate Michael Howard.... From the Israeli perspective, no crucial differences emerged during the campaign between the Middle East policy perspectives of the Labor and Tory leaders.... At any rate, perhaps more crucial right now from Jerusalem's perspective is not 10 Downing Street's view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but its position regarding Iran. Europe has a crucial role in preventing Teheran from developing a nuclear arsenal, and the voice of the British prime minister will be key in balancing other national viewpoints on the continent less willing to join the U.S. in taking a firm stance against Iran. Tony Blair, in supporting Washington on the invasion of Iraq, did prove that he has the courage and foresight to break with other European leaders in recognizing the real dangers in this region. In the coming years, too, Britain's prime minister will certainly need to display the same qualities in dealing with the threat of a potentially nuclear Iran."
AUSTRALIA: "A Great Win For A Principled Politician"
The national conservative Australian contended (Internet version, 5/7): "If there was an issue that could have brought Mr. Blair down at this election it was Iraq. His resolution that it was right to remove Saddam Hussein infuriated many in the Labor Party and much of the media. With Conservative leader Michael Howard refusing to play politics and holding firm in support for the invasion of Iraq, the supposed strength of the anti-war cause flowed to the third party, the Liberal Democrats. But while they won seats, the Liberal Democrats did not inflict as much electoral damage on the two pro-war parties, especially the Tories, as anticipated. Iraq did not decide this election. The voters made their choice, as they did in the U.S. and Australia, on the issue that mattered most to them. And accusations that the president and both prime ministers are liars and warmongers were not among them."
CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU SARS): "Secret Worries For Blair's Re-election"
The pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked in an editorial (5/8): "The Labor Party led by Tony Blair won historic victories for three consecutive terms. However, the Labor Party is no longer the majority in Parliament. Its seats have been cut from 167 to 66, which may lead to Tony Blair stepping down early.... Tony Blair has become a burden for the Labor Party. He may even become a lame duck. Some Labor Party members are dissatisfied with Blair, and they may speed up the procedure of the change of leadership, and they may name Gordon Brown, who is highly respected, to become the new Prime Minister. The poor election results may force Blair to change his direction, which may affect the special relations between Britain and the U.S. and may result in a change of Britain's European Union policy. Since the Labor Party has become a weak government, and since there is strong criticism coming from the country, if Blair continues to be play the role of a tail wagging dog of Bush, it will only accelerate the end of Blair's political life."
"Voter Warning Clouds Blair's Historic Win"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post commented (5/7): "The prime minister encountered much public hostility during the campaign over Britain's involvement in Iraq. His defense of the policy gradually became less defiant.... Another worry for Labor is the gains made by the Conservatives in relatively prosperous constituencies, especially in the capital. This is likely to reflect the opposition party's support for low taxes and its tough stand on immigration. The results will strengthen the hand of the government's finance chief Gordon Brown, who is widely expected to take over from Mr. Blair before the next election in four years' time. This may now happen sooner than would otherwise have been the case. It could be hastened further if the government holds a referendum on whether Britain should accept the European Constitution. Labor will face a tough task in persuading the public to vote yes. Failure to do so would deal a new blow to the party's standing. It could prove to be the trigger for Mr. Blair's departure. But even if Mr. Blair stays on for most of his term, we can expect a different approach from the government. The rather presidential style adopted by the prime minister has been possible because of the huge majority he has enjoyed in Parliament. That has now been cut down to size. He will have to pay more attention to the views of party members, give greater respect to Parliament--and listen to the public. These will be positive developments--they are clearly desired by the British people."
"An Election To Select A Leader Regardless Of His Party"
The mass-circulation Chinese-language Apple Daily News remarked in an editorial (5/7): "In this election, the election platforms for the two political parties--the Labor Party and the Conservative Party--were almost exactly the same, including how to improve public services, to combat crimes and to improve education. The whole election only focused on the credibility of Tony Blair and whether he told lies in order to wage war against Iraq. In other words, the two major political parties requested their voters select a trustworthy and acceptable leader and not to look at their political platforms."
"Blair's Era Is Coming To An End?"
The pro-PRC Chinese-language Ta Kung Pao remarked in an editorial (5/7): "The election results show that economic and livelihood issues are the leading factors that have an effect on British voters. Although the Labor Party led by Blair won again, Blair will not have an easy life. He will have to face severe challenges. Some people believe that although the Labor Party won, the results indicate the beginning of Blair's failure.... All the hints show that Blair is becoming the 'political burden' of the Labor Party. Hence, the slim victory indicates that the Blair era is coming to an end. The Labor Party may nominate a new person to create a new era."
"Why Labor Will Win But Blair Will Ultimately Lose"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post editorialized (5/5): "British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been dogged by the war on Iraq throughout his election campaign, just as his close ally George W. Bush was in the U.S. last year. The enduring controversy is, however, unlikely to stop Mr. Blair securing a third consecutive victory when Britons go to the polls today.... Polls suggest his party is likely to be returned with a sizeable - but reduced - majority of seats in Parliament. This is due partly to the strength of the British economy, which is usually the decisive factor at the ballot box. Britain is enjoying continued growth, low unemployment and low interest rates.... There is still an outside chance of an upset. Mr. Blair is worried that a low turnout, complacency among Labor voters and weakness in key marginal seats may cost him victory. This is unlikely to happen. But Mr. Blair may well find his huge majority cut down to size. A narrow victory would increase the pressure on the prime minister to hand over power to Mr. Brown. The impact of the war in Iraq might, in this indirect way, be felt after all."
NEW ZEALAND: "Blair Should Not Stick Around For Long"
The top-circulation, center-left New Zealand Herald argued (5/7): "Teflon Tony is no more. The British general election has proved yet again that flawed decision-making catches up with even the most adroit and charismatic of politicians. The erosion of public trust, which has plagued Mr. Blair since he pitched Britain into an unpopular war in Iraq, has finally ensnared him. He will return to Downing St. as the first Labor Party leader to win three successive elections--but, more significantly, as the lamest of lame ducks. The dominant theme in the wake of the savaging of the Labor vote will be how long Mr. Blair can remain prime minister.... This election was a referendum on his personality and credibility.... He failed that examination.... Mr. Blair should go sooner rather than later. The British public have shown their disaffection, and he faces further problems with the disaffected left-wing rump of his own party. The chance of decisive policy-making in areas such as health, education and the public service has virtually evaporated. Most immediately, Britain faces a period of sterile, inactive government. That will undo much of the progress made under Labor. If Mr. Blair is to put his country's interests above his own ambition, he will go quickly."
SOUTH KOREA: "A Half-baked Victory For U.K. Labor Party"
The nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun editorialized (5/7): “The recent election in Britain, which ended with the ruling Labour Party winning a majority in Parliament, is worthy of attention for several reasons. Aside from the historic significance of its success at winning a third term for the first time since it was founded in 1900, voters’ critical attitude toward Prime Minister Tony Blair’s pragmatism can easily be seen in the results. The ‘Labour Era’ that began in 1997 will now continue until at least 2010. That will rival the 18 years the Conservatives were in power prior to 1997, making this quite an achievement for the Labour Party. However, it still lost a lot of seats in this past election. Ironically, the main reason for the loss was none other than Blair himself, even though he had swept the previous two elections by storm. In particular, it was the lies related to the invasion of Iraq, for which he had to endure criticism for being ‘Bush’s poodle,’ that were a decisive factor in people not voting for the Labour Party.... No politician has an easy time harmonizing principle with flexibility, and neither is mutually exclusive.... Principles must be firm in being flexible; that is what British voters were trying to say when they issued judgment on Blair’s pragmatism while keeping the Labour Party in power. In that sense, it was Britain’s progressives who won in this election, not Labour.”
THAILAND: "Judgement Day For Blair And Labor"
The lead editorial in the independent, English-language Nation read (5/5): "The most likely result of today’s poll is that Blair will be re-elected, carried over the line on the broad back of his finance minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, who has presided over eight years of economic growth and low unemployment and has taken much of the credit for the prosperity Britain now enjoys. The important thing in today’s election will be the margin of the probable victory because it will most likely determine how long Blair stays at the top. If it is large, Blair may be around for another three years. If it is narrow, he could be ousted by his own party, possibly as early as next year should he lose a planned 2006 referendum on the EU constitution.”
INDIA: "Tony's Worries"
The centrist Asian Age editorialized (5/7): “Tony Blair has won his people’s mandate for a historic third term in office. He has improved upon his own vote while the Labor party has paid the price for its policies on the Iraq war and has been returned to office with a reduced majority.... Credit has to be given to the democratic spirit of Britain that was all pervasive and very evident during these elections. Tony Blair took the lead after his victory to admit that the Iraq war had divided British society and that it was time to unite now and look ahead. He also said that the reduced majority was an indication that he and his party will have to respond sensibly, wisely and responsibly to the people’s mandate.... The Muslim vote has apparently been fractured in these elections, registering a shift from its favorite Labor party to the Conservatives as well. If this is true, it will present a challenge to Blair’s policy of rapprochement and unity and it will require all the skills of the Labor to ensure that the fissures are not allowed to deepen. The moment, however, is for Blair and the Labor party to savor the victory and to address the grievances with a spirit of accommodation.”
"Voters Teach Labour The Iraq Lesson"
The centrist The Hindu stated the view (5/7): “As expected, fear of the Conservative Party trumped anger against the Iraq war in the British general election to give the Labor Party an unprecedented third term in office.... But 'historic' as this victory is for Tony Blair, voters decided to teach New Labor a lesson for the Prime Minister's decision to take Britain into the war, and for his eagerness to be counted as the main ally of the Bush administration in its Iraq project. This much is apparent in Labor's reduced majority.... The election outcome makes the British Parliament a more genuinely three-party affair than it has been in a long time.... For Labor, the result will prompt a major focus on domestic policies such as education, health, and law and order but the main re-think has to be on Iraq. Blair has promised to respond 'sensibly and wisely' to the result.... This, in fact, will become inevitable if the view gains ground within the party that the third term was won 'despite Tony.' As the dust settles on this general election, the intriguing question is whether Mr. Blair is willing to make way for his deputy and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, one of the most visible and trusted faces of the party. And if so, how soon?”
"More Tonyic For Britain"
The centrist Indian Express commented (5/7): "Labor's diminished returns in the British general elections were always going to be about Tony Blair.... For voters with really just one viable option, New Labor, the verdict is almost a referendum on Blair.... This was, by all reckoning, a single-issue election: Iraq and Blair’s dodgy case for war. It is in this concern that guided voters that the success of the Blairite revolution can be found, as well as the tragic humiliation of the man himself. Of all politicians around the world in recent years, Blair has had the most intimate of engagements with his people.... Evidence of his achievement lies in popular confidence that even if Blair advances his exit in favor of Gordon Brown, the agenda will not change. But that intimacy, that holding of trust, eventually unmade Blair. On Iraq, a reluctant people finally kept their faith in his judgment. Which is why the deceptions in the case for war were projected on him alone. It is the very peculiarly personalized brand of Blair’s politics that has allowed the Iraq mis-step to overshadow the sum of his extremely substantial achievements.”
The centrist Times of India opined (5/7): “The good news for the British Labor Party is that it is back in power for an unprecedented third time. The bad news is that in both number of seats and share of votes Labor has come down significantly.... A major reason for the reduced victory margin is the Iraq invasion.... But it was not only Iraq that brought down Blair's share, the Conservatives did well on issues like taxes and immigration control. For Indians resident in Britain, the poll results won't change things much...they are yet to engage significantly in politics. When they do and if they keep expanding their business interests, who knows, they might yet colonize Britain, but not now. What do these results mean for Britain watchers in New Delhi? By Blair's own reluctant admission, he recognized Iraq as something of a misadventure.... While it is good to be on the right side of the world's sole superpower, there can be a case of it being too much of a good thing. Proximity to Washington should not compromise any country's national interest. Britain, which today runs a risk of being hyphenated with America in international perception, would do well to bear this in mind... It could be a learning experience for India, too, as it seeks to enter a strategic partnership with the US. While it should continue to nurture its growing relationship with Washington, it should not appear overly servile in that partnership. It should retain some flexibility in areas such as seeking a permanent seat in the UN Security Council or managing its strategic interests in Asia.”
"Tony Blair Receives Birthday Gift In The Form Of Victory"
The Mumbai edition of the right-of-center Gujarati daily Gujarat Samachar expressed the view (5/7): “Tony Blair’s Labor Party won the general elections for the third consecutive term. Many analysts in Britain believed that Blair’s decision to send British forces in Iraq would cost him dearly in the just-concluded elections. Some of them also believed that even if Blair’s Labor party managed to score a victory, it wouldn’t be able to form the next government. There was an intense feeling of discontent and resentment among the British who viewed Tony Blair as U.S. President Bush's lackey who joined hands with the latter for invading Iraq without a UN mandate. Despite all this, the election results announced on Friday, which coincided with Blair’s 52nd birthday, proved all the negative pre-election surveys and opinion polls to be false. By winning a third term in the office, Blair has equaled the record of the Conservative Party’s Margaret Thatcher, who remained in power for three consecutive terms. However, the pollsters' forecast about Labor winning the elections with a steep decline in its vote share has been proved right. The Labor Party's decline in votes, as compared to its 2001 share, was reflected in its loss of as many as 70 seats in the latest polls. The analysts attribute this decline to Blair’s controversial decision of sending British forces to Iraq….”
"Blair Wins, Blair Loses"
The left-of-center Marathi daily Loksatta editorialized (5/7): “Tony Blair has won three elections in a row but his margin of victory is less than half of what it was in his Labor victories of 1997 and 2001. Therefore, Blair will not be able to rejoice his `historic’ third term for a long time. Instead, he should pay attention to his drastically reduced majority, especially the loss of nine Labor seats in its former heartlands. Blair has the lowest share of the vote for a ruling party in modern times. Undoubtedly, the Iraq war has been a divisive issue in Britain. Blair and his Party have had to pay a very heavy price for acting like America's vassal. Blair was perceived as the U.S. President Bush's lackey during the Iraq war. In his post election remarks, Blair acknowledged the anger of the British public over this aspect having impacted his party's electoral fortunes. He has promised to act `sensibly and wisely’ henceforth. However, it is unlikely that Blair will learn from his past mistakes. On the contrary, he has often found solace in repeating the past errors.”
"Lame Duck PM"
The centrist Statesman commented (5/7): “Considering the historic nature of the victory, euphoria should be automatic but is conspicuous in its absence. Even Blair’s first speech, as the mandate became clear, was subdued, emphasizing that while the people had rejected the conservatives, Labor must move forward learning lessons from the past. He cannot be surprised by the message that he himself should move on.... Britain’s 1.3 million Muslims, staunch Labor voters, have left because of Iraq and the new laws on terrorism, the brunt of which they face in their daily lives.... Blair deserves credit for his unprecedented third term, but his position in the party is greatly weakened. Analysts are already describing him as a ‘lame duck’ prime minister. A post-mortem will show that the swing against Labour has been due to Blair and his unflinching support of the USA. He will find it more difficult to keep his flock together, and at the first opportunity demands to step down are bound to be heard.... Although Blair has made it clear that he is not standing for a third term simply to leave it mid-way, he may not have a choice. The UK is not the USA!”
"Not Quite Blaring"
The centrist Telegraph editorialized (5/7): “The message of a general election manifests itself in strange ways.... The electorate helped its Prime Minister create history, but simultaneously deflated his achievement by crippling his authority.... It is, of course, premature to write the political obituary of a leader who remains the envy of the democratic world for his ability to inveigle his way out of sticky situations. The credibility and integrity of the British Prime Minister were questioned by the electorate because of the way he sought to justify his country’s involvement in the Iraq war. Yet, the war is now history. The protest vote having been registered, it is unlikely that controversies over the legality of the anti-Saddam Hussein enterprise and Britain’s unquestioned obedience of American desires will continue to dog him into the third term. Mr. Blair will now be judged on the strength of his domestic agenda, particularly his ability to keep inflation under check, taxes low, raise state pensions and bolster the health and education sectors.... Tempermentally, Mr. Blair is prone to trying his hand at grand projects and relying on an overdose of spin. He will be naturally ill at ease with the parish pump agenda that has been set by the quirky outcome of…election. His instinct will be to try a break-out, regain the political initiative and reshape his government’s priorities. If he succeeds, he may well be there to fight for a fourth innings. Alternatively, the May 5 election could mark the beginning of the end of a leader who rescued his party from the infantile disorders of socialism.”
“Birthday Gift To Blair”
The Calcutta Urdu centrist Azad Hind penned (5/7): “There would have been no other better birthday gift for British Prime Minister Tony Blair than the victory of his Labor Party…for the third time in a row. By doing this Tony Blair has undoubtedly made history.... The success of two warmongers--President George Bush in November presidential elections, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in recent parliamentary elections--has raised a question. How could these two biggest warmongers win the favor of majority voters of their countries? Do the majority of people in U.S. and Britain like war? People are peaceful by nature, and they do not want war but this perception does not match with those in the U.S. and Britain.... It is because of the powerful propaganda machinery their masters use that make them believe that Muslims are terrorists. This is grossly misleading. Perhaps this has played a key role in Bush and Blair’s election success. Otherwise, they would have been thrown out of their thrones, and would have been tried as criminals of war in the international court of justice. The victory of Blair, after that of Bush, has put the world in great danger. In the coming days Blair and Bush jointly may create more Afghanistans and Iraqs. On the one hand, Blair’s victory is a birthday gift for him, but on the other, it rings a danger bell for the whole world.”
BANGLADESH: "Tony Blair's Hat Trick"
Independent Bangla-language Amar Desh observed (5/8): "Tony Blair has himself said that the Labor Party lost some votes due to the Iraq war. The Labor Party lost some 40 seats where immigrants and Muslims voters were a determining factor.... The victory of Tony Blair and George Bush, the two leaders of the war against terror, will strongly influence global politics, which may not be beneficial to Third World nations, especially to Muslim countries."
"Labor Wins Third Term"
Pro-opposition Bangla-language Sangbad took this view (5/8): "The victory of the Labor Party shows that so-called 'New Labor' image continues. Although voters did not accept increasing tuition fees and reforms in the health sector, the Iraq issue surpassed all others. Nevertheless, the Labor Party won an absolute majority, showing that its rule will not end easily. However, the Parliament will not be able to ignore the massage they received from voters. Tony Blair's authority over the party and government will be reduced greatly and it would not be surprising if he has to leave the post before the end of his tenure. Against the backdrop of Britain's mistake as an accomplice of the U.S. in the Iraq war, the government will think twice in the future. It will nevertheless maintain its special relationship with the U.S."
CANADA: "Blair Wins Historic Third Term"
The leading Globe and Mail published (5/6): "Tony Blair weathered a backlash over the Iraq war to win a historic third term as Britain's Prime Minister, but his Labour Party suffered a sharply reduced parliamentary majority that could weaken his mandate and force him to step aside before his term ends. The slip in Labour's lead could loosen Mr. Blair's grip on power and prompt calls for him to step down before he has served a full five-year term. His cabinet colleague and rival, powerful Treasury chief Gordon Brown, is widely regarded as his likely successor.... While Mr. Blair was diminished in victory, Conservative Leader Michael Howard gained stature as his party lost a third straight election but at least showed some signs of life. Mr. Howard said the national outcome marked a big step forward for the Conservatives, who lost landslides to Mr. Blair in the past two elections, in 1997 and 2001."
ARGENTINA: "Blair Seeks Another Mandate"
Graciela Iglesias stated in daily-of-record La Nacion (5/5): "Today, 44 million Britons will participate in general elections, which, according to all opinion polls, will provide Tony Blair a historic third mandate while seriously eroding his leadership. If he wins, Blair will become the first Laborite leader in obtaining such a victory and the second head of State in hitting this record after Margaret Thatcher.... Blair fears that the election could become a referendum on the war in Iraq. This is why he closed the campaign...promising that his next and last term in office will be focused on domestic priorities, such as maintaining economic stability and broadening investment in health and education areas. On foreign policy, Blair dismissed that he is planning to support a U.S. invasion of Iran, and he said he will focus on environmental issues and the development of Africa."
"Under The Shadow Of Iraq, Blair Seeks Today His Third Mandate"
Maria Laura Avignolo remarked in leading Clarin (5/5): "On the last day of his election campaign, UK PM Tony Blair attempted to scare a bored electorate, but warned it that if they elect a 'protest vote' due to his behavior in the war in Iraq, they would wake up on Friday having a Conservative government.... Blair tried to get rid of the recurring ghost of Iraq, and emphasized the importance of economic issues by being escorted by minister Brown as a guarantor of stability."
"Iraq Bursts In UK Election Campaign And Troubles Blair"
Graciela Iglesias, London-based correspondent for daily-of-record La Nacion, commented (4/29): "In the first TV pre-election debate in the UK history, Tony Blair gave clear signs of going through 'A hard day's night...' Only one week away from May elections..., the day started with the release of a devastating opinion survey in The Guardian, according to which 44 percent of British citizens believe Blair is a 'liar.' Further revelations about his questioned sending of UK troops to Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein made him release a secret document he had refused to publish for two years--the full text of the report from his top legal adviser, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, on which Blair said he had based his decision on March 17, 2003. The document emphasizes that under no circumstances could the military action be intended to change the Iraqi regime. In contrast to George W. Bush, Blair had always assured that the purpose (of the action) was to eliminate WMD. But, what was astonishing here was Goldsmith's changing view regarding a report he submitted ten days before in which he warned that opponents to war could bring the government to court, and that it was not Blair but the UN Security council the one who had to evaluate whether Iraq was violating UN resolutions or not."
BRAZIL: "Blair's Bittersweet Victory"
Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo editorialized (5/7): “Blair’s unpopularity is less the consequence of his adherence to the Iraqi adventure, which was repudiated by a majority of the British, than the result of the series of proved falsehoods with which he tried to manipulate the public opinion. He systematically hid the truth about the war during its preparation.... Blair did not remember what President Lincoln said 150 years ago about the impossibility of fooling everyone for a long time.”
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo underscored (5/7): “Analyses are practically unanimous in pointing out Iraq as the main cause of the Blair administration’s wear and tear. Blair risked going to war aligned with George W. Bush even opposing the opinion of most of his fellow citizens. He is now paying the cost of that decision. He succeeded in maintaining his term thanks to the economic success of his administration and to his main adversaries’ inability to seduce the voters.”
"The Cost of A Lie"
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo’s political columnist Clovis Rossi maintained (5/7): “Blair is seen as a liar by a significant portion of the British voters because of the war in Iraq. This is why the majority his party obtained on Thursday was reduced by half compared to the returns of previous elections.”
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