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Bush receives a "slap in the face"

The press give Bush and his Republican party mainly bad marks

(swissinfo.ch)

President George W. Bush has been taught a lesson in the United States mid-term elections, according to many Swiss newspaper leader writers on Thursday.

They say he is reaping his just reward for his administration's conduct of the war in Iraq.

And they are convinced that for the next two years Bush, termed "a cowboy" and even a "lame duck", will now be on the defensive.

The Democrats have won control of the House of Representatives, and appear poised to take control of the Senate too.

In its commentary on the Republican losses in the elections, the Zurich tabloid Blick calls it "a slap in the face" for the president. "The United States is smiling again", it comments.

Geneva's Le Temps also has harsh words saying that the "promised punishment" has arrived. The defeat of the president "heralds the end of the short period of time during which the United States believed it was the only superpower and behaved as such".

Winners and losers

The fall of the Republicans in the House of Representatives is a triumph for Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi, according to the 24 Heures newspaper of Lausanne. It describes her as the "bête noire" and nightmare of Bush.

"If there is a big winner, it is her... with perhaps another woman, Hilary Clinton, who already has her eyes turned towards the White House."

The Basler Zeitung, like others, also looks at the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld - "the architect of the war in Iraq" - from the Pentagon.

"The election result and Rumsfeld's quick departure show how much the political wind in Washington has changed direction. The era of conservative dominance in the Capitol is at an end."

It also comments that Rumsfeld's departure is just a beginning.

"It shows that the White House recognised the seriousness of the situation. If Bush wants to rescue his presidency, he in future needs the help of the Democrats on the Capitol. Rumsfeld's disappearance will offer this opportunity."

The Corriere del Ticino refers to the "weight of Iraq" that weighed on the electorate, with national security the dominant issue in political debate in the US.

"The change of the majority relationship in the Congress is a kind of life-saving democratic mechanism to balance the imbalance of political power and to steer against the tide."

Pendulum swing

Some leader writers comment that the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, with the Fribourg newspaper arguing that the "electoral boomerang was violent".

"Paradoxically for the president this defeat can turn into an opportunity to bring change. Certainly, he will be harassed and have to cohabit [with the Democrats]. But the man is tough, obstinate in his mission and preoccupied by the judgement of history."

Despite all the criticism, there is a warning from the Tages-Anzeiger of Zurich. It says Europeans should not gloat about the election result. Although this reaction is understandable, it writes, it is inappropriate.

It notes a series of international problems, including Iraq, Iran, the Palestinian territories, North Korea and terror. It comments that the Europeans should not overestimate their authority.

"Without a reward or pressure from Washington, nothing ever happens on these issues. President Bush remains the commander in chief of the only super power worldwide."

swissinfo, Robert Brookes

US Congress

The United States Congress is the legislature of the US federal government. It has two chambers (like Switzerland): The House of Representatives and the Senate.

The mid-term elections come half-way through the president's four-year term.

On Tuesday, there were also elections for 36 of the 50 state governorships.

The 435 members of the House face elections every two years. One third of the 100 Senate members are up for election at any one time – this translates into 33 this year.

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