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Swiss press moved by “yes we can” president

"Historic" was the word often repeated in Switzerland's newspapers on Thursday to describe the election of Barack Obama as the United States' next president.

They were in agreement that Obama would help overcome racial discrimination in the US but there were words of caution in some of the commentaries.

“The whole world is counting on Obama” was the front-page headline in the tabloid Blick, above a picture of the president-elect carrying a globe on his shoulders.

“What the people in the US saw – and everyone in the world – was something great and strong: Hope. Hope for a different, better world than one of war, lies and greed,” Blick said in its commentary.

“The press are quick to use the word ‘historic’ when describing exceptional events,” said the Bern-based Bund. “The term is not always appropriate but for this year’s US presidential election one can speak of a milestone.”

The Bund added that racial discrimination in the US would not disappear as soon as Obama takes the oath of office on January 20, 2009 but “President Obama will loosen some of the paralysis which inhibits national dialogue involving the majority and minority”.

“History was written on the night of November 4. Americans provided a black president with a clear victory with a strong voter turnout…and what followed was a wave of unprecedented emotion,” wrote the Geneva-based Le Temps.

“The ‘yes we can’ resonated for everyone on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning as a wake up call to surmount the insurmountable, conquer the impossible.”

Audacious America

“America is back. Audacious America has once again proven its ability to innovate,” said the Tribune de Genève editorial, describing the US as a country that does not like to take a straight-forward approach but is willing to take risks.

The editorial in Le Matin began with the now famous “Yes we can” quote, reprinted in the French-language newspaper in English.

“The US has rediscovered the taste of hope in politics,” Le Matin summarised. “Minds will change, everywhere. This is proof that one can change history.”

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung spoke of “a new era for America”. However, the editorial in the Zurich paper remained sober, looking at the huge challenges facing an Obama presidency, reminding readers of the president-elect’s inexperience:

“America urgently needed political renewal and in this sense Obama’s victory brings new blood [into the White House].

Leap of faith

“But with this decision, Americans have taken a leap of faith. The lack of experience of the Democrat showed itself time and again during the campaign,” the NZZ argued.

“How he will govern remains an open question. His charisma will help but it will not be enough to deal with concrete challenges such as securing the state-run pension scheme or stabilising Iraq.”

The Tages-Anzeiger described Obama’s victory as also giving hope to Europe.

“The American dream is finally colour blind,” the Tages-Anzeiger said. “[The election of a black president] is not only a step of epic proportions towards ending racial discrimination in the US but it also represents fundamental progress for democracy and the cohabitation of different ethnic groups worldwide.”

Basel’s newspaper, the Basler Zeitung, spoke of an historic election but also said it was a “break and new beginning” for other reasons too.

“The 47-year-old takes over from the baby boomer generation embodied by Bush and Clinton and also stands apart from them through his accessible language which also moved and motivated less politicised young people,” the BAZ said.

The newspaper added on its business page however that Obama could be bad for the business of Switzerland’s important pharmaceutical industry.

BAZ highlighted the fact that the share prices of Basel-based companies, Novartis and Roche, dropped between five and six per cent on Wednesday on fears Obama’s healthcare reforms will cut into their profit margins.

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel

President-elect Barack Obama and two other senators are behind a draft law called the “Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act”, a 68-page document that blacklists Switzerland and more than 30 other countries.

The plans foresee widening the powers of the US economic and finance ministries as well as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate and punish tax evasion from countries the US considers tax havens.

One of the sanctions in the text would prohibit all foreign banks involved in tax evasion from introducing credit cards on the US market.

The text includes a list of 34 countries, including Switzerland, which are considered as “probable tax evasion locations” in the eyes of the IRS.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR