World Watch

5 minute read

Another Right Turn
Europe ‘s left took a new beating as Greeks voted in a conservative government, ousting George Papandreou’s socialist PASOK party, which had dominated Greek politics for more than two decades. Incoming Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, head of the victorious New Democracy party, is the nephew and namesake of a former PM, and was elected on a pledge of more jobs and a crackdown on corruption.

The move to the right in Greece is just one of a series of recent snubs to leftist governments. In 2002, voters in France gave conservative President Jacques Chirac the parliamentary majority he’d asked for. In traditionally left-leaning Scandinavia , the right has gained ground. In 2001, both Denmark and Norway dumped their center-left governments and ushered in conservatives. And at least until Thursday’s terrorist bombings

killed at least 200, Spain ‘s center-right Popular Party was expected to retain its hold on power in Sunday’s general election.

Where the left is still in power, all is not going well. Poland and Hungary elected leftist governments in 2001 and 2002 respectively; both are now at or near all-time lows in opinion polls. And while Britain ‘s Labour government seems safe for the moment, despite voter disaffection with Tony Blair, support for German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s Social Democratic Party is ebbing away; last month it lost a key election in Hamburg . One of the few countries where the left is enjoying a minor resurgence is Austria . Out of power since late 1999, the Socialists won a provincial election in Salzburg this month. But that success was overshadowed by the victory in neighboring Carinthia of Jörg Haider’s far-right Freedom Party. One step left, two steps right.

Free at Last
U.K. The U.S. released five Britons held as terror suspects for two years at the Guantánamo Bay detention center. The five were briefly detained by British antiterrorist police on their arrival back in the U.K., and then released without charge. One of the men, Jamal Udeen, said he had been subjected to beatings and psychological torture in the camp.

Mending Fences?
MIDDLE EAST Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with three U.S. envoys in Jerusalem in a flurry of diplomatic activity meant to promote his proposal for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank . Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, on a trip to Cairo , secured assurances that Egypt would secure its border with Gaza if Israel pulled out. Palestinian President Yasser Arafat gave guarded support to the plan, on the condition that it be carried out within the framework of the U.S.-sponsored road map to peace. A first meeting between Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei is expected to take place this week.

Judging the Judges
SERBIA The trial of six Serbs indicted for killing 192 Croat prisoners of war in 1991 opened in Belgrade . The first case to be heard by the newly established special war crimes court, the trial is a test of the Serbian justice system’s ability to deal with the country’s violent past. Prosecution spokesman Bruno Vekaric said, We are very aware that this is a big test for our judiciary, and we intend to pass it.

Taylor Targeted
LIBERIA The U.N. Security Council unanimously voted to freeze the assets of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, who fled to exile in Nigeria in August 2003. Taylor faces war-crimes charges at the U.N.-backed tribunal for Liberia , whose opening in Sierra Leone was marred by allegations of bias lodged against the presiding judge.

Charge Rebuffed
RWANDA President Paul Kagame rejected an allegation that he authorized the shooting down of a plane carrying then President Juvenal Habyarimana in 1994, killing Habyarimana and triggering the genocide that led to the deaths of more than 800,000 people. French newspaper Le Monde reported the charge, which it said is part of the findings of a French judicial investigation.

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