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Elections

UK 'disengaged' from German elections

Despite the importance of Germany to the British economy, there has been very little interest in the German election campaign in Britain. But on a political level, the UK government is hoping for more stability.

It's quite hard to find a Brit who can even name Angela Merkel's main rival in the forthcoming German elections. And that's hardly surprising. The German elections have so far received very little coverage in the British press. Of course, on election day itself, journalists from the UK will be sent to Berlin and elsewhere to cover the event, but reports about the campaign have been almost absent from the mainstream media.

"What's interesting is how little coverage there is in advance, given the importance of Germany," said UK Member of Parliament Mark Field, a British Conservative politician, representing the Cities of London and Westminster. "There is a general presumption, perhaps a slightly lazy one, that Angela Merkel is going to win," he told DW.

'Safe pair of hands'

Field has been following developments more closely than most. He is half-German and was born in Hanover, though he was raised and educated in Britain. Field maintains links with fellow thinkers in the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the political foundation associated with Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party (CDU).

City workers walk towards the City Of London financial district on September 30, 2008 in central London, England. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

The UK public are not following the German elections closely

Field points out that Merkel is seen by many as a safe pair of hands, both at home and abroad. But the German system of Proportional Representation makes life unpredictable for her junior coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), who may struggle to clear the five percent hurdle.

But the British don't have a good understanding of coalition wrangling. The current UK government is unusual in that it's the first coalition since World War II. The nitty-gritty of German politics is therefore hard to convey to the British public, who are more interested in personalities than in parties. Perhaps that's why the French presidential election battle got more coverage in Britain. It was a clear head-to-head between the flamboyant Nicolas Sarkozy and the cartoon-like Francois Hollande, with a "winner takes all" outcome.

'Completely disengaged'

Thomas Kielinger, long-time London correspondent for the German newspaper, Die Welt, says the British are far more interested in what's going on in the US and in Syria right now.

A symbolic picture of a German flag with the 'Made in Germany' tag attached

Most British people only know a few things about Germany, mostly centered on their export success

Asked how the British view the German elections, Kielinger said, "they don't view it at all." The public are "completely disengaged" from the whole thing, he told DW.

The election campaign is "utterly boring" to the British, he continued. They couldn't care less about the political content. According to Kielinger, the only German names that mean anything in Britain are "BMW, Mercedes and Merkel." Oh, and a handful of footballers.

The Merkel-Cameron relationship

On a political level, the center-right Conservative-led coalition government in the UK would no doubt be happy to maintain the status quo in Germany. Angela Merkel is a known entity, people are used to her. In the City of London, says Mark Field, those working in the finance industry like the fact that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble "tells it like it is" when it comes to the eurozone.

However, there is concern in London that the eurozone may be heading towards more fiscal and banking union under the Merkel government, which the UK has already said it does not want to be part of. As Field points out, "you have to be careful what you wish for in the case of the eurozone."

Field himself is in favor of staying in the European Union, but while he recognizes the strong desire in Britain for a referendum, he is skeptical about what can be achieved in terms of a renegotiation of the UK's relationship with the EU.

 British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a stroll in the garden following his arrival at the Meseberg government guest house on April 12, 2013 in Meseberg, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Merkel and Cameron are said to be close, and 'each needs the other' says Kielinger

As far as David Cameron's own personal relationship with his counterpart in Berlin goes, Field believes that the strength of their bond has been "overstated."

"Angela Merkel has never forgiven David Cameron for pulling out of the EPP [the European People's Party, the coalition of center-right parties in the European Parliament]. If it's a choice between holding the EU and the eurozone together or losing Britain, Merkel will choose the former," he predicts.

But Kielinger believes there is a closeness between Merkel and Cameron. Earlier this year, the entire Cameron family went to stay with Merkel and her husband at Schloss Meseberg, a retreat north of Berlin. "Each needs the other," Kielinger says. "Merkel doesn't want to let go of Britain."

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