WMU News

War in Iraq could jeopardize future of some European leaders

March 18, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- European leaders have lined up on different sides of the fence when it comes to a war with Iraq. But they have one thing in common: the stakes to their political futures could be high.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Aznar have sided with a U.S.-led plan to oust Saddam Hussein from power militarily, while German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac believed continued U.N. weapons inspections were a better answer to the crisis. The political fallout depends on how swiftly a war with Iraq goes, according to Dr. Gunther Hega, associate professor of political science.

"Tony Blair's popularity is lower than it ever has been," Hega says. "But he has a huge majority in Parliament. And neither Blair nor Aznar has to face election in the near future. They probably both assume that time will be working in their behalf. If a war with Iraq is short and successful, they probably anticipate that they might actually get some political capital out of this in the long run."

Schroeder, who was elected because of his anti-war stance, could end up the biggest loser, Hega says, because his coalition government is very fragile and there is a strong pro-U.S. faction in German politics. The leader with the least at stake appears to be Chirac, Hega adds. "Something that's not mentioned very often in the American media is that Chirac is the most popular he has ever been. He sees this as an opportunity to be a leader in the anti-war faction in the Security Council and a way to resurrect his presidency." Unlike Germany, there is no powerful, pro-U.S. political faction in France, Hega says.

Media representatives may contact Hega for comment at (269) 387-5885 or <gunther.hega@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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