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from The Great Debate UK:

German elections too close to call

Erik Kirschbaum- Erik Kirschbaum is a Reuters correspondent in Berlin. -

Has this been dullest German election campaign in decades or the most exciting?  Has the battle for power in Berlin between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that concludes with Sunday's election been a memorable showdown or a forgettably boring contest?

Many journalists, pundits and voters have complained it's all been a merciless bore compared to the high-octane battles of the past with little action and precious few highlights.

But I would argue that in many ways it has been one of the most interesting campaigns in decades. Why? Because the outcome is so uncertain and there are more different government possibilities that could result from it than at any time in Germany's post-war history.

Instead of the usual centre-right or centre-left choice that German voters had for the last 60 years, there are options galore this time -- at least in theory.

Flashmobs target Merkel at final election rallies

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Getting pelted by eggs or tomatoes is an occupational hazard for most hardened politicians on the election trail.******But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seeking re-election on Sunday, has been confronted with a new kind of protest during her final campaign rallies: flashmobs.******The mobs, groups of people summoned over the Internet to show up at a specific time and place to do something unusual, have materialised at several election events in the last week to wave flags and banners and heckle the unsuspecting Merkel.******Mostly, they have been chanting “Yeahhhh!” after every sentence she utters and the slogan is meant as an ironic expression of support.******It may not sound like the most damaging critique, but Merkel has cottoned on to the flashmobs and now even addresses them at the rallies as “My young friends from the Internet”.******So is this a new form of political protest or just a bit of fun?******Blogger Rene Walter, who writes for nerdcore, says there is a serious idea behind the light-hearted gatherings.******”We are not just going to swallow the election messages, we are spitting back the rubbish Merkel speaks in the ironic form of a “Yeahhh!”, he says in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.******Many involved in the flashmobs support the Pirate Party, who are popular among young voters and oppose what they say is censorship of the Internet that has been brought in under Merkel’s government.******One thing is for sure. Flashmobs are injecting some much-needed spontaneity into the final days of a campaign which many voters think has been the most turgid in decades.******But are flashmobs here to stay? Could they become the political protest movement of the Internet age?

Fringe parties abound but have little chance in German election

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Strangers to electoral office and with little experience in government, 23 parties outside the political mainstream are aiming to gain ground in Germany’s federal election this month, and their success or failure may give a taste of what’s to come in a country whose two main parties are losing appeal. Some analysts say that without reform, the number and importance of smaller parties will rise and make the country’s coalition system of government unmanageable – a harrowing reminder of the chaos of the Weimar years that made Hitler’s rise possible. At the moment the small parties are polling at around 5 percent, compared to the last election when they won 4 percent. But none alone is even close to clearing the 5 percent hurdle to access parliament.

Most of the micro-parties are based on single issues, some focusing on things like pensioners rights or animal protection. A smattering of religious parties are calling for stronger Christian values, and far-left groups urge different visions of proletarian revolution and state economic control. The computer-geek founded Pirate Party, which is also the fastest growing party in Germany, wants to legalise free downloads.

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.

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.

 

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.

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