2009/06/19

A second term for Barroso is hardly a sign of approval

Jose Manuel Barroso is almost certain to clinch a second term as European Commission president when EU leaders meet in Brussels today – thanks largely to the absence of a strong challenger.

The green light for the conservative former Portuguese prime minister comes despite the fact he has been described as "mediocre and weak", despite the heavy flak he took for his handling of the financial crisis and despite the doubts raised recently by France and Germany over his re-appointment.

Mr Barroso was not even in the running for the job in 2004. It was only because the British vetoed the front-runner, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt (largely for his opposition to the Iraq war), that Mr Barroso entered the race.


The dead of Iran are mourned – but the fight goes on

Tens of thousands of Mousavi supporters marched in black through the streets of central Tehran yesterday evening, in an emotional demonstration of mourning – the second in two days – for the post-election dead. In a city symbolised by its brutal traffic and decibel records, they walked in total silence for three miles, holding banners and posters lamenting the killings in Azadi Square and Tehran University and in other Iranian cities. And they had no doubts about the political – and physical – risks they were taking.

A chemical engineer walking at the centre of the huge black trail thought for several seconds when I asked him what happens next. "Nobody knows but we think of this all the time," he at last replied. "We cannot stop now. If we stop now, they will eat us. The best is for the United Nations or some international organisations to monitor another election." Upon such illusions is disaster built.

But the same man's wife had a humour that almost belonged to the vast black crowd yesterday. She was a commercial lawyer but had studied psychology. "If we let go now, we are going to face someone like Pinochet – and our dictators here are not even up-to-date dictators," she told me without a trace of a smile. "My psychological training is very useful. Ahmadinejad has a classic psychosis problem. He lies a lot and he's hallucinatory and the problem is, he thinks he's related to someone up there!" And here, the lady pointed upwards in the general direction of heaven. But no jokes about religion. These marchers were chanting the Muslim "salavat" prayer, giving greetings to the Prophet Mohamed and his family.

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