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A "Merkel-App" for German Voters

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, August 29 2013

Screenshot of the Merkel-App

The German Conservative CDU party has launched a mobile "Merkel-App" a little less than a month before the German election on September 22 and a few days before the race's only televised debate on September 1.

A special feature of the app, according to its description, is that users can take pictures of the CDU's campaign posters, which, like those of the other parties, are omnipresent during Germany's election season, and can then receive video messages with more information.

In addition, the app lets users track their own campaigning efforts and find out about Merkel campaign events in their area.

The app, developed by new media agency be-columbus, is available for Android and iOS.

The Social Democrats released their own app in June. That app allows users to find and save information about SPD candidates in their area and submit questions.

As techPresident previously reported, German political parties have been looking to the U.S. in planning their campaign efforts. Der Spiegel recently reported on the SPD party's door-to-door effort modeled on the Obama campaign. Both mobile apps echo those released by the Obama and Romney campaigns.

Thursday also saw the release of the 2013 version of "Wahlomat," or "Vote-O-Mat" that, since its start in 2002, has become a staple of the German election campaign season.

As in the past, the German Federal Agency for Civic Education worked with young people, journalists and political scientists to analyze the party platforms and questionnaires sent to the parties to come up with 38 political statements. Users can indicate whether they agree, disagree, or are neutral, give extra weight to certain positions, and then see with which party they have the most overlap. According to the agency, the "Vote-O-Mat" was "played" over 6.7 million times ahead of the last 2009 election.

The national daily Süddeutsche Zeitung also launched a similar tool with a focus on getting opinions from lawmakers themselves rather than the political platforms, which are often based on compromises.

The newspaper's first attempt to go through the parties' press offices was unsuccessful. Instead, the paper, with some effort, was able to collect the e-mail addresses of 2,400 state and federal lawmakers, which aren't available in any structured way, and was able to get 600 answers to e-mail questionnaires. While some of the 30 statements in the questionnaires related to obvious political questions, the paper also aimed to get a sense of the ethical views of the lawmakers, with statements such as "I sometimes cross the street at a red traffic light if nothing can happen." As with the "Vote-O-Mat," users can see the the average overlap of their views with those of the politicians and give extra weight to certain positions. In addition, users can see to what degree the law makers from each party agreed with the statements, and view anonymous comments on each statement.

Last week, techPresident reported on how German journalist Tilo Jung's web interview series with politicians, called Jung & Naiv, inspired by the Colbert Report, aims to make politics accessible to the disinterested. Jung's young and naive character conducts very informal interviews focused on basic, provocative and somewhat uncomfortable political

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.