Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Germany’s ‘Pirate Party’ hopes for election surprise

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Founded by computer geeks in Sweden in 2006 and now active in 33 countries, the Pirate Party is hoping to win over young, disaffected voters in Germany’s federal election on Sept. 27 with demands to reform copyright and patent laws along with their policies that oppose internet censorship and surveillance. But do the single-issue activists, with no stance on foreign policy or the economy, even have the faintest hope of overcoming the five percent hurdle needed to enter parliament?

This looks unlikely given the 0.9 percent of the vote they won at the European parliamentary elections in June.  Nonethless, the Piratenpartei with more than 8,000 members is the fastest growing party in Germany, a development partly sparked by the German parliament’s ratification of controversial legislation on blocking certain websites in a bid to fight child pornography.

Gero Neugebauer, political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, said the traditional parties’ failure to properly understand the internet may have put wind in the Pirates’ sails. “The large parties have treated the issue as if the only people using the internet are old men with lewd ideas who want to look at pornographic images or practice paedophilia,” Neugebauer said in a recent TV interview.  ”If the Pirate Party manages to make clear in society the conflict which they presently represent … then they definitely have the potential to get above the five percent hurdle,” he added.

Among the ranks of the Pirate Party is a former Social Democrat member of parliament — Joerg Tauss. He resigned under pressure in September amid an investigation into possession of child pornography by state prosectors. He denies any wrongdoing.  “The internet has been increasingly tightened in recent years and made into a civil rights-free zone,” Tauss said in parliament when the legislation was passed. 

Merkel smiles through pre-election jitters

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Pressure? What Pressure?

That was German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s message during a 90-minute grilling in Berlin by journalists at her last major news conference before the Sept. 27 election. Even though opinion polls show a narrowing in her re-election campaign and amid a growing nervousness in her conservative party, Merkel was a picture of tranquillity.

Although some of her conservative party allies are pushing for her to raise the volume and intensity of what has been an exceedingly cautious campaign, Merkel made it abundantly clear that she is not at all worried. Perhaps it was all a good bit of acting. But she answered even the most surly of questions from the pack of 100 journalists with a nationwide TV audience watching with smiles and jokes along with the usual assortment of evasive answers.

Less content, more Merkel in campaign posters

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With two weeks to go before Germany holds an election, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives have unveiled a new set of election posters, depicting Merkel, Merkel, and more Merkel.

Rather than campaigning on the issues highlighted in their election programmes, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) are keeping it simple and hoping to capitalise instead on the popularity of their leader, Germany’s first female chancellor.

German election TV debate: Live 2

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- 10:45 p.m. – My colleagues Madeline Chambers and Noah Barkin have been busy filing updates on the debate. Here is the start of their latest story: BERLIN, Sept 13 (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Social Democrat (SPD) challenger Frank-Walter Steinmeier clashed in a TV debate on Sunday over tax cuts, manager pay and nuclear energy two weeks before an election in Europe’s biggest economy. Steinmeier, whose SPD trails Merkel’s conservatives in opinion polls, went on the attack at the outset, criticising the chancellor for resisting a minimum wage and limits on manager salaries. Merkel parried the attacks of Steinmeier, who has served as her foreign minister for the past four years in Berlin’s “grand coalition”, defending her record but largely steering clear of direct confrontation.
10:30 - ZDF has just published the results of a quick poll of 1,129 viewers: 31 percent said Steinmeier had the upper hand while 28 percent Merkel came out better with 40 percent saying “no difference.” The poll by the Electoral Research Group also found Merkel’s big lead melting among voters after the debate when asked “Who would you rather have as chancellor?” Merkel got 64 percent before the debate but only 55 percent after it while Steinmeier was preferred by 29 percent before the debate and 38 percent after the debate.That is quite a quite a shift. ”This debate marked the start of the hunt for the ‘undecideds’,” said Matthias Jung, head of the polling institute.

10:20 p.m. - My colleagues Dave Graham and Sarah Marsh have been busily keeping track of the debate highlights. Here is their report. 10:02 p.m. – It doesn’t take long for the spin doctors to pop up on the airwaves on all four networks. I’ve been watching public broadcaster ZDF. They’ve got the editor of the left-leaning Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Heribert Prantl, and he says somewhat predictably that Steinmeier won while Helmut Markwort, editor of the right-leaning Focus newsweekly, calls it a draw. “Steinmeier was surprisingly strong,” says Prantl. “I didn’t think he had that in him. He came out of the defensive and went on the attack from the start. Merkel didn’t find her form until towards the end.” Markwort disagrees: “It was a clear draw. They will have galvanised their own supporters. It was relatively lively. I didn’t expect them to go after each other like that.”

9:58 p.m.- Merkel has also obviously rehearsed her closing speech-let. She gets all those terms in that conservatives want to hear: family, children, parents, grandparents, education and “ensuring jobs.” After a rousing debate, Merkel is back in her “feel-good” campaign-speech mode now: vague. “Together we can accomplish a lot,” she says.

German election TV debate: Live

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- 9:15 p.m. - The whole country has come to a standstill for this debate, it seems. It’s like during the World Cup soccer tournament — with “public viewing” arenas like this one in Berlin set up from The Black Forest to the Baltic. 9:00 p.m. - The sparks are flying here in the first half hour. The four interrogators, network heavyweights, are grilling both Merkel and Steinmeier and there’ s an unexpectedly good discussion going on here without a lot of long speeches. They’re debating about Opel right now — who deserves credit for saving the carmaker. Steinmeier said it would be “Mausetot” (dead as a mouse) if it had been up to Merkel and a centre-right government. Merkel counters — nonsense.

 

Germany’s Greens trade in woolly sweaters for business suits

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Having traded in their woolly sweaters, jeans and sandals for dapper suits and shiny shoes, Germany’s Greens are ready for business, claiming that to be the “party that truly knows its economics”.

The world’s most successful environmental party is eager to get back into power at the federal election on Sept. 27 after a first stint in coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD) from 1998 to 2005.

Are seniors shafting younger German voters?

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Are young German voters getting the short end of the stick because the country’s political leaders fall over themselves to placate senior citizens?

 

Or is it simply a case of democracy pure when politicians listen attentively to what seniors demand because they are the group that votes more faithfully than any other age group?

What the election campaign says about Germans

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Strikingly different election campaign styles in Germany and Britain, especially parties’ contrasting use of the media, provide some intriguing insights into the political traditions of the two nations.

in Britain, the parties hold daily news conferences, broadcast live, where leaders attempt to set an agenda for the day — be it on health, tax or education — and then get grilled by the press corps.

Merkel ally insult of Romanians, Chinese an internet scoop

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In the “old days” of journalism, before the rise of the internet, an alert journalist might pick up on a politician’s gaffe in the middle of an election speech or somewhere on the campaign trail and publish or broadcast a story with the potential to change the dynamic of a race.

 

Nowadays, it could be instead the political opponent or citizen journalists armed with cell phone cameras or small hand-held cameras who can upset the applecart with a YouTube videos, blog or website report documenting a serious verbal blunder.

Does Sorb’s election win point to a more multicultural Germany?

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Under Adolf Hitler, the Nazis tried to extinguish the culture and language of the Sorbs.

This week, a member of Germany’s indigenous Slavic minority won a state election for the first time. Stanislaw Tillich’s victory puts him firmly in control of Saxony, the most populous eastern state – and looks likely to catapult the 50-year-old to the front ranks of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).

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