Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 11:13:12 AM EST
The face of Dr. Silvana Koch-Mehrin smiles at me on every street of Berlin. More than any other party, the free-market FDP is putting on a personal campaign, around its pretty and apparently also clever candidate.
Dr. Koch-Mehrin has spent much of her time in the European Parliament on the tough job of staying in the eyes of the German press. In this she has succeeded, by smiling and playing up her role as a working mother. Quite what she does in Europe is less well-known, for good reason.
That reason is, Dr. Koch-Mehrin has attended only 41% of the sessions in the European Parliament. Now, she has gotten two babies in this time. So this low number is somewhat understandable. But even taking into account her maternal leave, her attendance lies at a paltry 62%. Moreover, she has not produced any legislative reports, and asked only a few questions.
It appears, then, that Dr. Koch-Mehrin has been largely absent from the European Parliament. The record shows quite clearly what she has been doing: staying present in the German media; writing and publishing a book on 'new feminism', and raking in over 80,000 euros of added income through speaking fees and other extra-parliamentary work.
All of this would make for a minor and quickly ignored story if not for the bone-headed manner in which Dr. Koch-Mehrin and the FDP have gone forward against the press and bloggers. Instead, Dr. Koch-Mehrin now finds herself in a media storm that could knock down the FDP's expected gains at the polls.
The details of the presence, absence and activity of all MEPs can be read on the website parlorama.eu. This site was launched in April but then briefly closed under the weight of complaints against it, but re-opened around the end of May.
A right-leaning German newspaper, the FAZ, took this survey and wrote a brief story (de) about the German MEPs. Dr. Silvana Koch-Mehrin apparently did not like this report, and got the court in Hamburg an injunction against the paper, which promptly had to write a correction. For this injunction, Dr. Koch-Mehrin gave a declaration under oath that she had attended over 75%. At a later session of the court in Hamburg, the injunction was lifted.
A West-German journalist who writes on the Ruhrbarone blog was present at that session and published a post in which he asked whether Dr. Silvana Koch-Mehrin had lied under oath about her attendence number (see here and here (de)). In response to that, the lawyers of Dr. Koch-Mehrin also decided to issue threats to that blogger.
Koch-Mehrin had another run-in with the media when she did an interview with the regional public broadcast station SWR. The interviewer Thomas Leif asked her a few questions about her attendence, which Koch-Mehrin quickly denounced as false. After the interview was taken, the SWR got a letter from the General Secretary of the FDP who wrote that the questions should have been communicated beforehand and demanded that the segment be cut out of the broadcast.
All of this has culminated in a last minute media-storm about the FDP candidate that could seriously hurt the FDP's relatively high numbers in the polls. In recent polls, the FDP has consistently been getting around 10%, a lot more than the 6.1% they got at the last elections. But those numbers should now be under a lot of pressure.
(via Jon Worth
; see more German language media reports in the FAZ
, Süddeutsche Zeitung
, ARD Tagesschau
, and a good video report
on the NDR broadcast Zapp)