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Countdown Germany: Day -33

by Saturday Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 03:28:07 PM EST

Two days ago, you probably heard me moaning about the absence of issues in the German election season. This has not changed. I would really, really like to present you some content-rich, hard-as-bone political infighting. But sadly, still everytbody talks about that TV-or-not-TV (freely adapted from Shakespeare) duel. So here we go:

  • Conservatives beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel
  • Catholic World Youth Day: The Pope in Cologne
  • New poll numbers
  • Off-topical birthday

Conservatives beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel

After an unprecedented series of gaffes (including insubordination to the chancellor-candidate, voter insult and back-pedalling from plans for a TV duel with Oskar Lafontaine) by Bavarian prime minister Edmund Stoiber, conservatives now seem to think that it just can not get worse. And, consequently, that they weathered it.
And they could be right: Stoiber's withdrawal from the TV debate, which now is supposed to take place as a "printed debate", might be called "Chicken!!!" by a thousand newspapers - but it helps Merkel and unifies the notoriously disunited conservative camp. Stoiber disqualified himself for a position on the federal level and will have to stay in Bavaria. And there will be no competing TV duel, which probably saves Angela Merkel at least 1 1/2 hours of sleep per night.
Moreover, today she presented Paul Kirchhof, former judge at the High Court, as finance and tax expert for her so-called "competence team" (in fact a shadow cabinet). Kirchhof is widely regarded as one of the best tax law pundits. He is known for his ideas to simplyfy the horribly complex German tax laws and as an advocate of a more "family-friendly" tax system. He will be able to shape the CDU financial policy in a conservative way without alienating too many progressive or centrist voters. Merkel's move payed off instantly: Today, conservative newspapers are already back on track. The "Bild" yellow press paper for example opened with a huge full page-story about Kirchhof while the TV duel-mess was hardly worth a small box.
And finally, there is another event that will push any campaign news to the periphery of all media coverage this week:

Catholic World Youth Day: The Pope in Cologne

Today the world catholic youth day started in Cologne, and everything is being overshadowed by Benedikt 16 who will pay a visit in the course of the week. I am amazed by 405 000 young people who gathered there to celebrate their religiosity. What happened to my agnostic country? Until now, I always thought of Germany as one of the most secular countries of the world. Maybe this is changing - the signs of some sort of "new spirituality" are becoming highly visible. E.g. the record visit to the protestant Church Day a few months ago in Hanover which I was able to witness: More than 300 000 people turned one of the loudest and hectic places of the city into pure silence just by praying. This really, really impressed me - and I too think that the issue of religion and politics in Germany and Europe is worth a few diaries on Eurotrib.
As for now, the black news media hole created by Benedikt's visit will most likely further delay this slow-going election campaign.

New poll numbers

Tuesday is the day for Forsa-polls. Here are the new numbers:

.       08/16  08/9
CDU/CSU   43.0   42.0
SPD       29.0   28.0
Green      7.0    7.0
FDP        7.0    7.0
Left/PDS  10.0   12.0

In the light of the recent days' events, these numbers look kind of inconclusive. I'd rather wait for the weekend polls before commentating.

Off-topical birthday

Today is Robert De Niro's birthday (62 years, can you imagine?)! Happy birthday Bobby! I'm gonna watch Taxi Driver tonight...

By the way: What do you think happens when 405 000 young people come together to celebrate? Isn't there a slight possibility that some of them find someone they fall in love with? And then, despite of all the Catholicism, isn't there a slight opportunity that they are going to have sex?
"Umm, yes", said a youth organisator to a reporter just some minutes ago on TV. "But still, we are not allowed to distribute condoms. We advise anyone to care for him- or herself."
The Lord moves in mysterious ways.
by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 03:38:05 PM EST
Diaries on religion and politics in Europe are an interesting prospect.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 05:52:19 PM EST
Just a quick comment on the Protestant Kirchentag, that is an event that - since about 50 years - takes place every two years in a different German town (usually attracting around 100.000 regulars and up to 400.000 including day visitors.
Not to be mixed up with the World Youth day, which attracts mainly Catholics from all over the world, takes place since 19 years (thanks to JPII) and meets in a different country every
The other difference is that it is annually and takes place all over the world (They had four millions in the Philipines in 1995)
if you compare their respective programs the differences between the two events(ev) kath could not become more obvious.
Kirchentag: Kulturprotestantism in its most diverse and excellent form - a celebration and exchange in mainstream, tolerant Christian practice, exploration of new liturgical forms - with programs from Cabaret to Meditation and Organ music to Didgeridoo. Politicians and Lay ministers share platforms and participants don't have to be Christians to enjoy the experience and multitude in offers.
comparison to the Weltjugendtag is probably not fair, because that is basically just four days of services. Their intention is of course completely different and afterall there is a Katholikentag in Germany as well - which is next year in Saarbruecken however it is only about half the size of the Protestant version. Which is slightly suprising considering the distribution between Protestants and Catholics in Germany are roughly equal.
by PeWi on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 06:04:01 PM EST

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