Swiss media guardedly optimistic after Obama win

Obama's face plastered the front pages of newspapers around the world on Thursday Reuters

Although they agree that reaching compromises and working across the political aisle will be the re-elected US president’s greatest challenges, Swiss papers differ over whether Obama will ultimately be able to achieve his political agenda.

This content was published on November 8, 2012 and agencies

The Basler Zeitung had one of the harshest views of Obama’s close re-election, declaring his win “no good news for America, nor for the West in general” on the grounds that Obama will continue to polarise his country.

“Nobody polarises more than this [first] black president, who was specifically elected to end polarisation.”

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung also warned that Obama now finds himself in a precarious position, since he is no longer viewed as a uniting figure above partisan politics as he was in 2008.

Now more than ever, the Zurich-based paper said, America needs a politician with the ability to compromise with his ideological foes, especially since the election failed to define the heavily debated question of what role government should play in boosting the economy.

The Neue Luzerner Zeitung pointed out that the Democratic Party could become overconfident as the Republican party’s influence wanes, and risk focusing on the 2016 election before today’s essential work is done.

Show of confidence

However, many Swiss media outlets also viewed Obama’s re-election as positive, with Geneva's Le Temps newspaper stating that “Obama succeeded in showing that the US is moving in the right direction after its worst financial crisis since the 1930s.”

In an interview in Le Temps, Ian Lesser, Brussels director of the German Marshall Fund, argued that the European Union will benefit from Obama’s re-election, mostly because “Europeans already know what to expect and have learned, in the past four years, to work with Barack Obama and his team”.

The German-language Südostschweiz newspaper went so far as to assert that the dynamic in Washington had changed overnight, with a majority of Americans choosing a vision that “keeps the American dream alive for all”. Their choice, the paper argued, gives Obama a mandate to put pressure on Congress to push through his agenda.

The French-language La Liberté newspaper also placed confidence in Obama’s ability to unite the increasingly fractured American electorate, declaring him fit to do so despite this election leaving little room for “hope and wonder”.

The Berner Zeitung called the American election a choice between “a disappointing visionary and a tough manager with skills as a salesman”. In that contest, said the paper, Obama emerged as the calming and persistent reformer, albeit with fewer expectations placed on him than after his last election, which could be a good thing.

Readers react

Many of those reading Swiss papers reacted online with relief and hope for reform after the American election.

“It’s finally over!” said one reader of Zurich's Tages-Anzeiger. “It would be good if the GOP (the Republican ‘Grand Old Party’) would re-orient itself with its liberal roots and its biggest personalities like Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt”.

Many readers didn’t think it made much difference who won, expressing that all candidates “have the same goal: money and power” and that “the typical American president only spouts hot air anyway, whether his tie is red or blue”.

Other readers wondered what influence the American election would really have on their lives.

“What will change, what will stay the same? What effect does it have on Switzerland?” one reader postulated. “Don’t worry, nothing will change in Switzerland as a result”.

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