Friday, August 11, 2017

German national elections in September - blink and you miss the campaign

So, there will be national elections in Germany in about six weeks, and the blogster almost missed the official start of the campaign season.

Exciting German campaigns tend to be extremely boring by American standards. No billion dollar extravaganzas spread out over more than a year, no competing lawn signs, no "honk for whatever".

And the current one is not even exciting by German standards.

Only orderly campaign posters in standard sizes fastened to light poles and trees with zip ties. To be recycled later.

The height off the posters off the ground varies with the height of the volunteers on the pickup trucks that slowly work their ways through towns and cities.

It also seems to depend on the attractiveness of a party to vandals.

Which means that the populist right AfD tends to go higher than the traditional mainstream Christian Democrats or Social Democrats.

None of the much dreaded Russian election interference has materialized either. Imagine that.

Even the Russians don't care.

Polls have the Christian Democrats of chancellor Merkel in an unbeatable lead, the second largest Social Democrats in the same pitiful spot somewhere below 30% that has been their home ever since the great disappointment of the turn of the century, when the supposedly social party took the chainsaw to several social security programs.

"Free market liberals", populist right, Greens, and the Left party fight over what remains of the voting share.

The populist right AfD had its day in the sun in last year's state elections and has been heading downhill when migrant numbers dropped and the country did not become Muslim within a few weeks.

The Social Democrats enjoyed a brief honeymoon with voters when they brought Mr. Schulz in from his cozy European job to tackle the seemingly immovable Ms. Merkel.

It didn't work.

The initial appeal to social justice and the aim to undo some of the "reforms" to the social system were quietly put on the back burner in favor of a half hearted attempt to copy Ms. Merkel's "We made Germany great" style non-campaign.

Calls for a quota for electric cars has replaced it.

So, yes.

Wake me when it is over.

In time for the asteroid the size of a house in October.

[Update 8/13/2017] Even the Germans are bored by this campaign and are now debating - yes - why the campaign is so boring.

And the up and coming Christian Democrat poster boy makes headlines by complaining about wait staff speaking English in Berlin cafes.

[Update 8/20/2017] The blogster was wondering if the main parties would even bother to put up campaign posters this year.


About four weeks before the vote, campaign posters are up.

By the side of the freeway, we saw one by the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) right next to one by the Social Democrats (SPD).

The CDU one shows a young man, safety goggles on, leaning forward over a workbench, measuring a long piece of wood he is working on.
The one word you need to remember of the bland slogan? "Arbeit" (work).

The SPD poster shows a young man sitting on a bench next to a small anthropomorphic robot. You know the type, big child like head, big eyes.
The one word you need to remember of the bland slogan? "Denker" (thinkers).

The meticulous hard working male, with protected eyes and not quite dirty hands versus the laid back thinker/tinkerer male.

No contest: Even the thinkers/tinkerers will vote for the guy with wood.

And the headshots of political leaders are dating site or LinkedIn quality, taking at least 10 to 15 years off of the faces, in the best tradition of venerating the powerful.

[Update 9/7/2017] Finally, a good vote hacking scare! A Zeit online article today says German elections can be manipulated. The article describes how a computer science student found that the software used to transmit results of the manual vote count of paper ballots to a state election board can indeed be easily hacked.

Again, this is a piece of software which simply sends vote tallies to the state commission.

The software has been around for 30 years with the flaws reported today.

Nobody has every certified the code, nor has the proprietary source code been checked by experts. A German court rejected a suit some years ago, simply saying that use of the software by a state election commission meant the software was fine.

The known issues of tampering with votes have all occurred in the manual counting after polling stations closed. Human error or, yes, outright collusion of polling workers appear to be the main threats to the integrity of the vote.

Oh, and the Russians?

They obviously either missed their 30 year long window.

Or don't care.

Maybe they achieved their ultimate goal: show German politicians their elections were not worth hacking.

[Update 9/16/2017] The German authorities knew of the reporting software flaws, ZEIT online and others reported today. Isn't it nice to have a country that uses paper ballots and keeps them for later recount?

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