Outside experts weigh in on German elections | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 20.09.2013
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Outside experts weigh in on German elections

Little dispute, rather unsubstantial election posters and an alarming increase in euroskeptics - these are the results of a discussion about the German election campaign between Germany experts from around the world.

Mazen Hassan, a political scientist at the University of Cairo, is surprised not by the number of election posters currently hanging on street lamps and buildings all over Germany, but by their content. "They aren't as aggressive as I expected them to be," he said.

His Greek colleague, Vasiliki Georgiadou from the University of Panteion in Athens, said she was struck by an election poster from the Left Party with the slogan: "100 percent social". "There are hardly any negative campaigns in the German election," she said.

The picture shows professor Chunrong Zheng from the Tongji University, China.

Chunrong from the Tongji University in China thinks the question about Europe's future is missing in the current German election campaign

"The bigger the parties, the larger and more colorful the election posters," said their Chinese colleague, Chunrong Zheng, from Shanghai Tongji University. In his view the election posters are pretty tame when it comes to content. The two largest German parties, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), tend to bet on a candidate's personality rather than on content, he said.

Georgiadou, Hassan und Zheng all belong to a group comprised of 20 Germany experts from around the world. They were invited by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to observe the election campaign and the federal election on September 22.

Focus on domestic political issues

The elections and the subsequent formation of a government are very interesting for scientists in his field, Hassan said. "It is fascinating for us how small parties sometimes have a huge impact on coalition policy."

The picture shows professor Vasiliki Georgiadou, political scientist from the Panteion University, Athens.

Georgiadou from the Panteion University in Athens said the German elections are being discussed at length in Greece

Or that the SPD, which is the second largest party in Germany, would not be part of the new government in the case of a coalition between Angela Merkel's party, the CDU, and her current coalition partner, the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP). It is also interesting for Hassan how strategically German voters think. "They actually reflect on the different possibilities of a coalition," he said.

However, once outside the academic realm, the German elections are hardly a topic of conversation among the general public in Egypt, according to Hassan. "The people there are simply too busy with all of their domestic political problems," he said.

That's not the case in China. There, citizens follow the German elections with great interest, according to Zheng. After all, Germany is China's most important partner in Europe.

However, Zheng regrets that Germany's big parties almost exclusively bet on domestic political issues in their election campaign - with the exception of Greece. "The question about Europe's future is missing, especially now that the Europe crisis is slowly abating," he said, adding that this topic is currently only being addressed by the small euroskeptical parties, such as the newly founded party Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The picture shows political scientist Dr. Hassan from the University of Cairo

Political scientist Hassan from the University of Cairo doesn't think the AfD party will make it into the Lower House of German Parliament

Keeping an eye on the AfD party

The AfD party has also recently been discussed at length in the Greek news media, according to Georgiadou. After all, the party arose from the protest against the government's policies to save the euro currency and is clearly directed against Greece, she said. "It's the first time in a long time that such an extreme party gained so much popularity with the voters."

Georgiadou thereby refers to current polls showing support for the AfD of between three and five percent in Germany - something that makes her feel uneasy. "Germany is a pioneer in the European Union and the Germans are proud Europeans, which is why I don't think it's normal that such a party enjoys such popularity," she said.

But her colleague Hassan is less concerned about the anti-EU sentiment. Every European country has euroskeptic parties, he said. "It would be strange if such a party didn't exist in Germany as well, especially after the euro crisis."

Hassan thinks the elections will result in a grand coalition between the SPD and CDU. His colleague, Zhen, agrees. Only Georgiadou shakes her head. She believes the FDP will get enough votes to be able to make it into the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament. According to her, it is always difficult to forecast election results, but: "I bet that you'll end up getting a black-and-yellow government," she said refering to the colors associated with the CDU (black) and the FDP (yellow).

Whether Georgiadou is right or not, all three political scientists and many of their fellow citizens will follow the election on Sunday with great interest..

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