This weekly broadcast series presents the European news from different angles and perspectives. Which events and developments have made the news, and how? Each week we take a closer look at one event that dominated this week’s news, and quickly discuss other topics that grabbed the headlines in various countries across the continent.
In the midst of a dark winter, marked by Covid-19 and an economic crisis, Romanian voters were hitting the poles last Sunday. The virus withheld many from voting, pulling the turnout down to the lowest since the collapse of communism. Even though Social Democrat opposition party PSD gained the most votes, governing party PNL initially claimed victory, until it was let down by potential partner USR-PLUS, and Prime Minister Orban resigned. How did European newspapers report on these remarkable elections?
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Romanian voters were hitting the poles last Sunday. Although the Social Democrat opposition party PSD gained the most votes, Romania’s governing party PNL initially claimed victory, until it was let down by potential partner USR-PLUS, and Prime Minister Orban resigned.
How did European newspapers report on these remarkable elections?
Indeed, most newspapers picked up on the fact that the turnout of these elections was extremely low. A bitter defeat of democracy, writes Austrian newspaper Kurier. While Covid-19 discouraged people from voting, it was also one of the main themes of the electoral campaign, stated Arnout LeClerq in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. With the elections approaching, now former prime minister Orban of liberal party PNL was reluctant to announce a full-lockdown, despite the pressure on the country’s health system. The current medical and socio-economic crisis was a determinant factor for the outcomes of the elections, stated Romania Insider. An end to the political and economic crisis, that was what the Romanians who casted their vote were hoping for, according to Kurier.
And is this also what will happen, according to the press?
Well, they are not optimistic. Since the fall of communism, the votes of Romania’s poor have been bought with populist promises that were never kept, according to Deutsche Welle. Romania Insider summarised the answer to the question ‘What can we expect after the elections’ with two words: ‘’not much. According to Alexandru Busca, the two biggest parties PNL and PSD promised major investments in healthcare, education, infrastructure, the economy etc. etc. without really explaining how to achieve these objectives. Politico writes the plans of President Klaus Iohannis to implement constitutional changes and anti-corruption measures are unlikely to survive the battle. PSD is in a strong position to block proposed changes.
What else was surprising about these elections?
Besides the close race between the PSD and the PNL, and the sudden resignation of Orban, newspapers also paid attention to the unexpected victory of the far-right party AUR, a party that is proclaiming to defend ‘family, nation, faith and freedom’ and has a strong connection to the Romanian Orthodox Church. According to Stephen McGrath in euronews, the party rose from obscurity to 9% of the votes, playing the anti-vaccine, anti-medicine and anti-restrictions card. The party hosts curious members, revealed Politico, like Mircea Chelaru who denies any Romanian Jews were deported to camps during WWII.
Taking a look at other events that made the news in Europe this week. What dominated the headlines in Spain ?
All eyes were again on the former King of Spain, now living in the United Arab Emirates. Juan Carlos paid more than 600.000 euro to avoid going to court and according to newspapers such as El Mundo or La Razón, he has tried to put pressure on the royal house to be able to come back home for Christmas. Other than that, Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos also advocated for the inclusion of the 4-day working week in the new labour reform. This option has been rejected by the Socialist Party, the biggest party in the governmental coalition. Looking beyond the Spanish borders, two issues have been particularly relevant in Spain: vaccination in the UK and the elections in Venezuela - with a record abstention.
And in France?
The fight against radicalisation is back on the front pages. The government has presented its new bill that has as some of its main proposals: banning virginity certificates, restricting home schooling, controlling the financing of associations, etc. Just this same week, Macron awarded the Legion of Honour - one of the biggest French recognitions- to Egyptian President Al-Sisi, who has been allegedly accused of violating fundamental rights. Also in the news was the suspension of a champions league match between PSG and Istanbul following alleged racist comments by one of the referees.
What about Germany ?
In Germany, the second wave of the Coronavirus is hitting hard. Within 24 hours, 590 people died as a consequence of the virus, the highest number since the start of the crisis in Germany. Chancellor Merkel delivered an emotional speech on Wednesday, calling on the population to respect the measures. “About to break out in tears” was the headline of newspaper Die Zeit. Existing measures in regions with high infection rates such as Bavaria, including a ban on alcohol in the capital Munich, have not been as effective as hoped, writes Der Spiegel.
Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen
crédits photo: Markus Winkler