Six cities, two reporters, one question: What matters most to Germans ahead of the 2017 federal elections? Sumi Somaskanda and Nina Haase are hitting the road to find out.
Several years of crisis upon crisis have brought German politics to a crossroads. Controversial refugee policies and the rise of terrorism - among many other issues - are expected to be on voters' minds during federal elections in September.
But which direction will Germans choose for their country? That's what DW reporters Nina Haase and Sumi Somaskanda want to find out as they set out on a six-week road trip across the country.
Each week they will visit a different city or region that represents an important facet of this year's big election issues. They also want to engage with people online to answer questions the world has about Germany.
Follow Nina and Sumi's road trip on DW's 2017 elections page here and on Facebook (Live), Twitter and Instagram using the hashtags #GermanyDecides and #Deutschlandwählt. Their latest episodes will be aired on DW-TV.
Six cities, six questions
Trundling down the autobahn in a VW bus, Nina and Sumi will head to Dresden on June 12 for the first leg of their journey.
The picturesque eastern German city has gone from a top tourist destination to a top gathering point for far-right group PEGIDA. So, the first installment will pose the question: How strong is the far-right in Germany?
Each installment will follow a similar approach, taking Nina and Sumi from Stuttgart on June 19 and the question: Is Germany's economy ready for the future?, to Bavaria on June 26, where they will ask: Are refugees still welcome?, then on to Cologne on July 3 to ponder: Is Islam changing Germany?, and to Bremen on July 10 to find out: How fair and equal is Germany?.
The final stop will be in Berlin on July 17. To address ever-evolving public discourse, Nina and Sumi will determine their final question after hearing what people have to say over the course of their road trip.
Putting the average German in focus
Well-known cities have been chosen for each leg of the journey, however, the reporters will also travel to some of the lesser known corners of Germany during this major election year.
Recent events, not least of all the US election and the referendum that led to Brexit, have shown how important it is for the media to cover the opinions and moods of people outside major cities. For this reason, the central focus of the reporting for both TV and online will be the people of Germany and what matters to them most in their daily lives. Interviews with politicians and experts will provide the necessary context.
'This election is important on a global scale'
Sumi Somaskanda has worked for DW's English program as a presenter since 2011 and has years of experience as an online and TV reporter. Born and raised in the northeastern United States, Somaskanda studied in Chicago and worked in San Francisco before coming to Germany. She has lived in Berlin for nine years.
"With more than 80 million people, Germany never fails to surprise me with its incredible diversity - not just geographically, but also socially, culturally, and even in dialect," she told DW ahead of the road trip. "I'm looking forward to traveling the breadth of the country, from the north to the south, east to west, to talk to voters."
How drastically has the political landscape changed?
Nina Haase has been working for DW's English and German programs as a reporter, editor, presenter and writer since 2009. Born and raised in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Nina spent a significant amount shaping her worldview as a student in France, the UK and the United States. She has been living in Berlin since 2014 after working as a DW Brussels correspondent for two years.
Her central question for the road trip is how stable the Germany's political system is.
"Everywhere the political landscape is changing, old alliances are being questioned - look at the Brexit and US election - and politicians are winning elections with an anti-establishment message," she told DW. "The traditional parties in Germany, on the other hand, are part of the Western community of values."
Chancellor Angela Merkel has been labeled the new "leader of the free world" by foreign media. Her biggest challenger, Martin Schulz of the Social Democrats, is probably the most staunch defender of the European Union in German politics. At the same time, gains by the populist Alternative for Germany party reflect a certain level of dissatisfaction with Merkel's politics among the electorate.
Follow Nina and Sumi's road trip on DW's 2017 elections page here and on Facebook (Live), Twitter and Instagram under the hashtags #GermanyDecides and #Deutschlandwählt. Their latest episodes will be aired on DW-TV.