Give me 10 minutes: My speed research about German web campaigning

A few weeks ago strange posters appeared in the streets of Berlin: a grinning shark – and next to it the message “only finance vultures would vote for FDP”, the Liberals in Germany. This poster belonged to the campaign of the SPD (Social Democrats) – and was instantly copied by the FDP: showing an empty poster, “no one would vote for the SPD”. Not very funny, quite repetitive and not very informative, these posters did not seem to be directed towards citizens and the European Parliament elections. But, in fact, they were and still are. As they do not give any insight into the EP campaigns, I have set myself a task: a series of a 10 minutes speed research for the five major German parties in order to find out, what the web can tell me about their policies for Europe.

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Grinning sharks for the Social Democrats.

SPD: There is a section saying “Europapolitik”, telling the user that the European Union will be the player in directing politics in Europe. Then we get to know that the SPD has started its electoral campaign in Cologne with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who wants to be Germany’s new top model, …  uhhhh, chancellor in September, Franz Müntefering and Martin Schulz, already an MEP. A slideshow informs us about the date of the EP election, 7 June, the way of voting (via mail), links to the Website of Martin Schulz. For all those who are interested in his points of view of a more social Europe, there is also one of his speeches to read. An interactive country map shows where the SPD candidates for the EP elections are located, the election manifesto for a more social Europe (aah, we got the message) can be read. Finally, Martin Schulz is shown again, criticising the CDU/CSU (the coalition partner of the SPD in the German parliament) who in his point of view have not found a political consensus. We got it: He is the EU front-runner for des SPD; at the moment he is also the chairman of the Socialist European Party at the EP. The SPD is active in four social groups: StudiVZ, Twitter (1.257 followers), Facebook (1.537 Fans), flickr, Youtube.

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Soft Denim for the Christian Democrats.

CDU (Christian Democrats): A window with the writing “We in Europe” catches my attention. Here, I am informed about the CDU`s electoral campaign. Above it, two other windows want to invite me to find out more about our chancellor Angela Merkel on her site and to find out more about the CDU European Parliament candidates. Unlike the SPD, who is quite prominently promoting Martin Schulz, the CDU does not put their front-runner Hans-Gert Pöttering on the front page. The president of the EP has already been the front-runnter in 2004, nothing new here, but ok, he is a sort of a European prominent figure. What is his programme? He feels like a “German European”, and wants to work on the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and also on security policy. The list about the other candidates is not as simple to use as the interactive map of the SPD. No Twitter or Facebook groups visible, but a Youtube Channel: CDU TV. The campaign content in the “We in Europe”-window, displayed on a denim with a star button, looks cool, is more detailed as for the SPD, but why denim? US-orientation? Or are all CDU politicians now wearing jeans when working at EU level? Do they want to be cowboys? I have a look at their programme: There is one ruling thesis “for a strong and safe Europe”, but also a list of five main points. The programme is also available in Braille writing for blind people. And you can order posters.

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Dumb wooden socialist heads for the Liberal Democrats.

FDP: At the moment, I am working for the most important German theatre festival, the Berlin Theatertreffen, where I am organising a blog, where young journalists are writing and blogging and vlogging. The first production to be seen – it is actually now playing below my office – is “The Church of Fear” by German director Christoph Schlingensief. They have just sung a Hallelujah downstairs, in his so called Fluxus-Oratorium for which the director has build his own church, altar and is enacting a quasi-religious service around his fear of death - he has lung cancer - with a gospel choir, handicapped people, actors and many more. While doing research about politics, sounds from the performance enter my office. This morning, Christoph Schlingensief criticised the FDP in a press talk as a party whose members and fans have been responsible for the financial crisis. And I am now surprised to see that the FDP is the only web platform that announces tomorrows “Workers’ Day” – a party that has not really been a party so far to promote social policies. Their campaign is promoting small and medium-sized businesses, but also the family, culture, goldtimer. But I do not get their main message, at all, it is all very confusing. The Europe section of the site is even more chaotic: There is some information about a new EU directive concerning eco-design, warning that it might lead to a state-directed economy. I have not so far really noticed their front-runner, but on the start page, there is a small picture of Silvana Koch-Mehrin, who is known in Germany. When I press enter, I enter the “mitmach arena” (the “take part arena”) with more than 40.000 friends of the FDP, a sort of liberal community. There you can join Silvana’s Facebook group and finally find information about her engagement for Europe. But now my time is up. The FDP Facebook group has 1.232 fans. (By the way, while formatting this article, the SPD has refreshened their page, and it is mentioning “Workers’ Day” as well…)

Die Grünen: I have always liked the German campaigns of the Greens, colourful, modern, funny, ironic – and relevant. The new campaign website is also very – mmh – green and Europe plays an important role. “Five million new jobs for Europe”, it says, and how this will work is explained via an example from the solar energy sector. You can sign the “Green New Deal” online. A slideshow presents Green politicians with their statements and the campaign slogan is easy to remember, like a cartoon slogan: WUMS, W like Wirtschaft (economy), U like Umwelt (environment), M like Menschlich (human), S like Sozial (social). This campaign has four main topics, easy to remember. Their front-runners are Rebecca Harms and Reinhard Bütikofer. The Green facebook group has 3.161 fans. Wow, this was an easy-to-handle site. And I am interested to read more. But my time is also up.

Finally, Die LINKE, the left party, created by the former socialist party of the GDR who joined the WASG, an alternative left party, founded mostly by former SPD members. The first European information I can find on their page is a report on the European party day of Die LINKE in Essen on 28 February. Well, thanks. I very much like to read reports, but not now. In a sidebar I can read the party’s main claims, though: “solidarity, democracy, peace – together for change in Europe”. And there, I also find their European election programme - as a pdf file. The left voters seem to be readers. Concerning social groups, the LINKE is quite active, it has Youtube, Facebook (423 fans), myspace, flickr accounts. The picture of Sarah Wagenknecht is put prominently on Facebook as well as on the main page. But she is not their front-runner, strangely enough. Where and who is it? I have to click on “candidates” in order to find a list. Sarah is not on the EP candidates list – number one is Lothar Bisky.

Now I’m off, … bye-bye - and what about the campaigns in your countries?

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7 Responses to “Give me 10 minutes: My speed research about German web campaigning”

  1. christinamichael says:

    Excellent article! Amazing how much you can learn in 10 mins and all this to the backdrop of a theatre festival, sounds like a lot of work and fun. I will write about the Greek campaigns soon, it will be interesting to compare.

  2. Nikola RICHTER Nikola says:

    Yes, try it, 10 minutes are quite good in order to see how good pages are structured. It’ll be interesting to see how it works in other countries. And how different - or similar - the parties are. I also liked your post about expat voting.

  3. This is a fantastic idea, Nikola!

    Do you mind if I steal your idea for my own blog sometime? :D

  4. Go ahead - if you mention my post, I’ll be even happier! Have fun with speed researching.

  5. Absolutely, I’ll give you proper credit! Thanks, Nikola!

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