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Germany

Oktoberfest Revelers Vote First, Drink Later

The German election is driving some of the populace to drink. However, such is the importance of the election, many Oktoberfest revelers have had the good sense to cast their ballot first before hitting the brew.

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The future of Germany's democracy is in safe hands

Visitors to Munich's Oktoberfest on Sunday headed for the voting stations before turning to the beer, some saying they wanted to cast their ballots for conservative Angela Merkel while their hands were still steady.

"We voted this morning, for the conservatives, because we will be in no state to do so after a day at the Oktoberfest," said student Florian Lau, adding with a smile that his group planned to have fun "until we fall over."

BdT: Oktoberfest München 2005

The 172nd Oktoberfest opened in the capital of Bavaria, a conservative stronghold in southern Germany, on the eve of elections widely expected to be won by Merkel's alliance, and revelers showed no intention of breaking with the region's political tradition.

One of the organizers, Heinrich Krebs, said he wanted a change of government after seven years under Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder because the country needed the radical reforms Merkel has promised.

Conservatives get thumbs-up in stronghold state

"I voted black -- it had to be done," said Heinrich Krebs, one of the organizers of the festival, referring to the color representing Merkel's alliance of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and its sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union (CSU). "It is urgent that things get done, even if there is some apprehension about Merkel because she lacks experience," Krebs told AFP.

Bildgalerie Oktoberfest 2004 Bild 16

Bavarian state Premier Edmund Stoiber, here with Munich's Mayor Christian Ude

"I voted for the CSU's candidate and for the CDU as a party. I have always voted for them because I think they have done a lot of good in Bavaria and I am happy with them," 35-year-old economics student Susanne Gerllich said.

Dressed in a traditional pink dress, Gerllich said she was in favor of upsetting at least one tradition by having a female chancellor. "It will be a good thing that the political scene becomes a bit more feminine."

TV ban won't stop the results getting through

Even if you spent all day and night in the beer tents, she said, there was little risk of missing the anxiously-awaited outcome of the election despite the official festival ban on TV screens.

"I think everybody will be informed, either by text message or by the folk groups performing in the tents, just like we always know the soccer results," Gerllich said.

BdT: Trachtenumzug während des Oktoberfests in München

Even though the partying will go on long into the night, Germans will be closely watching whether the Christian Democrats and their favored coalition partners, the Free Democrats, win enough votes to form a grand coalition -- with pre-election opinion polls showing they barely had enough support to form a government.

If not, Merkel could be forced to form a coalition with the Social Democrats -- a potential recipe for political deadlock and an option opposed by both main candidates.

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