Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Savers across Europe will look on in horror at the Troika's raid on Cyprus (Guardian)

It's now become clear: the threat to European savers and banks isn't anti-austerity parties but the Troika, writes Michael Burke.

2. Western meddling in Syria will only fuel the Sunni insurgency (Independent)

British efforts to arm 'moderate' rebels reveal a lack of understanding of this complex civil war, writes Patrick Cockburn.

3. Leveson vote: no cause for hyperventilating (Guardian)

There is much less at stake than anyone might guess from some of the discourse, says a Guardian editorial. Royal charter plus is a reasonable solution.

4. Only a gutter press can keep clean the gutters of public life (Daily Telegraph)

Legislation to control newspapers threatens our global reputation for honest dealing, says Boris Johnson.

5. Europe cannot allow unfinished business to fester (Financial Times)

In economic policy what is good for one is not good for all, says Lawrence Summers.

6. The Arab world must act – or face disaster (Times) (£)

Unless the Gulf states stump up their share of aid, the refugee problem will fuel extremism across the region, says Tim Montgomerie.

7. If MPs seize the presses it is you who will lose out (Sun)

We will suffer more bureaucracy and undiscovered corruption in public life without a free press, says Trevor Kavanagh. 

8. If Iraq taught us anything, it's this... (Independent)

Only when four vital tests have been met should we intervene in another state's affairs, but we can always help other than with arms, says Nick Clegg.

9. Is George 'too toxic' to survive the storm? (Daily Mail)

Senior Tories say Wednesday’s Budget is his last throw of the dice  as Chancellor, writes Peter McKay.

10. Dangers lurk in US permanent campaign (Financial Times)

The journey from idealist to insider is now complete, writes Edward Luce.

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Northern Ireland election results: a shift beneath the status quo

The power of the largest parties has been maintained, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

After a long day of counting and tinkering with the region’s complex PR vote transfer sytem, Northern Irish election results are slowly starting to trickle in. Overall, the status quo of the largest parties has been maintained with Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party returning as the largest nationalist and unionist party respectively. However, beyond the immediate scope of the biggest parties, interesting changes are taking place. The two smaller nationalist and unionist parties appear to be losing support, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

The most significant win of the night so far has been Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit who topped polls in the Republican heartland of West Belfast. Traditionally a Sinn Fein safe constituency and a former seat of party leader Gerry Adams, Carroll has won hearts at a local level after years of community work and anti-austerity activism. A second People Before Profit candidate Eamon McCann also holds a strong chance of winning a seat in Foyle. The hard-left party’s passionate defence of public services and anti-austerity politics have held sway with working class families in the Republican constituencies which both feature high unemployment levels and which are increasingly finding Republicanism’s focus on the constitutional question limiting in strained economic times.

The Green party is another smaller party which is slowly edging further into the mainstream. As one of the only pro-choice parties at Stormont which advocates for abortion to be legalised on a level with Great Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, the party has found itself thrust into the spotlight in recent months following the prosecution of a number of women on abortion related offences.

The mixed-religion, cross-community Alliance party has experienced mixed results. Although it looks set to increase its result overall, one of the best known faces of the party, party leader David Ford, faces the real possibility of losing his seat in South Antrim following a poor performance as Justice Minister. Naomi Long, who sensationally beat First Minister Peter Robinson to take his East Belfast seat at the 2011 Westminster election before losing it again to a pan-unionist candidate, has been elected as Stormont MLA for the same constituency. Following her competent performance as MP and efforts to reach out to both Protestant and Catholic voters, she has been seen by many as a rising star in the party and could now represent a more appealing leader to Ford.

As these smaller parties slowly gain a foothold in Northern Ireland’s long-established and stagnant political landscape, it appears to be the smaller two nationalist and unionist parties which are losing out to them. The moderate nationalist party the SDLP risks losing previously safe seats such as well-known former minister Alex Attwood’s West Belfast seat. The party’s traditional, conservative values such as upholding the abortion ban and failing to embrace the campaign for same-sex marriage has alienated younger voters who instead may be drawn to Alliance, the Greens or People Before Profit. Local commentators have speculate that the party may fail to get enough support to qualify for a minister at the executive table.

The UUP are in a similar position on the unionist side of the spectrum. While popular with older voters, they lack the charismatic force of the DUP and progressive policies of the newer parties. Over the course of the last parliament, the party has aired the possibility of forming an official opposition rather than propping up the mandatory power-sharing coalition set out by the peace process. A few months ago, legislation will finally past to allow such an opposition to form. The UUP would not commit to saying whether they are planning on being the first party to take up that position. However, lacklustre election results may increase the appeal. As the SDLP suffers similar circumstances, they might well also see themselves attracted to the role and form a Stormont’s first official opposition together as a way of regaining relevance and esteem in a system where smaller parties are increasingly jostling for space.