Postcard from Germany: Pac-man for Politicians (and Fridays)

As Christmas draws nearer and the lure of day trip across the border to visit a good Christmas market grows stronger, one of our resident Germans Frederik Seeger provides a short overview of the use of the internet by politicians of his native land. This being Friday, he also highlights a number of sites from politicians to whittle away the last working hours of the week.

An in-depth analysis of the web presence of German politicians, carried out by German public affairs magazine p&k, has uncovered the reality of German politicians and their websites. 75% of all (the 2456) national and regional Parliamentarians own a sophisticated personal website.

More surprising than this is the rapid increase in politicians’ web presence: within only 3 years, almost one additional fifth of all regional Members of Parliament have opened a web presence. Clearly, the main motivation is the hope to improve one’s chances of winning elections. Surprised and sometimes slightly angry, some MPs have even asked p&k why it carries out the survey between elections, and not when the voters’ interest for web sites is at its peak! Well, this might well have to do with the idea that transparency, informing the electorate and legitimacy shouldn’t stop once elections are over…

However, contentwise, a few German politicians do remarkably well. Nicolette Kressl, Social-Democrat Member of the Bundestag and since last week Secretary of State in the Finance Ministry, leads the ranking by far. Her website is a school-book example of how to keep the public informed, defend political ideas in a creative manner and exchange arguments interactively. Other MPs set their digital focus on other aspects. If there weren’t a small logo of the Social-Democrat party on the top right corner of the web site of Parliamentarian Linus Förster, “politically interested people would think they clicked on the wrong site’, says p&k. Indeed, Förster comes up with plenty of photos of his rockband (complete with music), his youth and of himself supping beers at the beach… A politician in touch with the internet generation clearly.

Some MPs go even further, offering the possibility to the modern and stressed employee to unwind a bit while at work, Green Parliamentarian Harald Terpe proposes a Sudoku on his site, and Green Kerstin Andreae insisted on having a version of the old-school video game Pac-man on her site. Germany seems to have the right attitude for entering the digital age!