by Sarah Wolpers

In the beginning of the year many people were talking about the Superwahljahr. The Spitzenkandidaten of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) Angela Merkel will run for a fourth term. But why is this year called Superwahljahr even though Merkel has been the chancellor for more than 11 years? And can Mrs Merkel continue her chancellery after the federal election?

This year is called Superwahljahr in German, which means literally super election year. The Reason for it is of the high amount of elections in Germany 2017. There have been already three German regional elections. And on the 24th September, there will be the national election for. In Addition, another state election in Lower Saxony will take place in October. Actually, it should take place next year but for unexpected reason it postponed to this autumn.

For the federal election, Angela Merkel (CDU) who has been chancellor for three terms continuity while Martin Schulz (SPD) is a new face in German politics. Both are the Candidates of the two German people’s parties. Furthermore, Christian Linder (FDP), Katrin Göring-Eckardt and Cem Özdemir (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), Dietmar Bartsch and Sahra Wagenknecht (Die Linke) as well as Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel (Alternative für Deutschland) are the Spitzenkandidaten who are running for chancellery.

Nevertheless, it is obvious that these smaller parties will not provide the chancellor because of the low percentage which is presented by current polls. In January, the polls showed a nearly 20 points gap between CDU and SPD. When the Social democrats announced their candidate Martin Schulz the polls initially increased. Some were talking about the “Schulz-Effect”. But at the latest after the election in North Rhine Westphalia SPD lost control of the major state and the “Schulz-Effect” came to a sudden end. In all the election in Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine Westphalia the CDU earned electoral victory and die Social democrats bitter political defeat. The CDU has since regained it lead with polls generally showing a 13 – 16 % lead over the SPD. Angela Merkel appears to be on course for victory in September.

However, what could be a reason why the CDU is leading in polls and won all German regional elections?

The CDU was able to mobilize a biggest number of former non-voters compared to the other parties. Thus, the CDU got the vote of 430.000 former non-voters in North Rhine Westphalia,

28.000 votes in the Saarland and in Schleswig-Holstein 65.000 former non-voters. Nevertheless, what is the secret of the triumph of the Christian Democrats?

Probably, it is the campaign strategy which is a combination made of Gamification, door-to-door-campaigning and a well thought-out social-media-strategy.

For the first time the Party is using an App for the street door campaign. Connect17 was developed by the CDU and Junge Union. It creates analysis of potentials based on the possible political opinion of a specific area. The data is a combination of old election results and purchased addresses. This strategy is already used in the US for swing states. You only mobilize your own supporters und do not try to persuade dissidents. Nothing more is so convincing than the candidate, friends or the neighbor who are campaigning or the candidate.

Last year there was the trend PokémonGo, where the user had to walk around to find new Pokémon’s and to the win battles. This method the Christion Democratic Union is using for their door-to-door campaigning in Germany. After the visit the supports type in if the person could be a possible CDU-voter. The supporters get points per visited household. Also, the user can reach points if the campaigner post or share something in the social media. Furthermore, new supporters can be registered. The App-User can increase their status from the level apprentice to level campaign –legend. The Top 10 Campaigner will receive a personal phone call by Angela Merkel after the election.

The App creates a channel for feedback in the direction to the party headquarter. Current evaluation shows that the CDU has a higher score up to 2 percent in constituencies which are using the Connect17-App. Therefore they can campaign more effectively in those streets and areas where possible sympathizers of the CDU are living. The probability should be 60 percent or higher.

In mid of August, the CDU opened the #fedidwgugl-House, which is named after the CDU campaign’s central slogan “For a Germany in which we live well and happily”. The house is located in the Center of Berlin and shows the election manifesto. On each floor, there are interactive rooms where the visitors can e.g. their visions for the future by robots or open info boxes about family policies. There is also a Europe-room, where is the possibility to write a value, which stands for the European Project. Furthermore, there is a Cyber-Space level, where visitors can play how to prevent Cyber-attacks, to combat internet hate speech and identify copyright piracy. There are only a few of the voters who make their way to the polls on September 24 who will actually take the time to read through the lengthy platforms published by all the German parties in the election. Because of this, the CDU created the walk-in campaign program of the CDU.

The hashtag #fedidwgugl is also used in the party’s social media strategy. When Peter Tauber, the Secretary General announced this hashtag, it went viral. The twitter community retweeted the hashtag. Some asked if that would be the German form of #cofveve. Twitter is popular in terms of opinion-makers. That is why it is used to provide information for journalists, thus guaranteeing a multiplier effect. But the CDU reached their goal to get attention to their campaign’s central slogan.

Additionally, the candidates are using the campaign Hashtag for their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Furthermore, the photos of the knocking on doors are often part of the politician’s Instagram-Story. In times of social media, it is quite easy for the sympathisers of a party to follow, repost or share their party’s policy positions.

Digital campaigning has thus far not driven offline campaigning out but replenished the “old-school campaigning“. The CDU supporters manning street stalls and knocking on doors also without using the App.

And last but not least, Angela Merkel is holding town hall meetings in all regions and different cities of Germany. Most of these events are taking place on market squares where more than thousand people listening to the Spitzenkandidat’s speech.

Nevertheless, the App is not the only reason why the CDU could and can mobilize people. Also, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and co. are playing a main role in the campaigning 2017. In Addition, the #fedidwgugl-House promotes the CDU image and creates an additional campaign area than the party-headquarter and the market square speeches.

The most important point is that digital campaigns as offline campaigns have a strategy. In particular, all parts of an election campaign have to be embedded in one strategy.

A poll by Allensbach released on August 23th shows, that CDU/CSU would get 39,5 percent and SPD 24 percent of the votes. For that it is safe to assume that Angela Merkel will win the election on 24tth of September. But the question of, who will be the coalition partner, cannot be answer yet.

07 October 2017
This text was published in Bullseye issue 69