Terror looms over German elections

Terror looms over German elections

Militants slam countrys ties with US

German Chancellor Angela Merkel waves to supporters as she arrives at the Christian Democratic Union party’s final campaign rally at the Treptow Arena in Berlin on Saturday. AFP

Two threatening videos surfaced on Friday — one by al-Qaeda and another by the Taliban — showing video of top German landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and Munich’s world-renowned Oktoberfest.

IntelCenter, an organisation that monitors terrorism, said the threats directed at Germany are “now at unprecedented levels”. Chancellor Angela Merkel hopes to return for a second four-year term and ditch her conservative party’s “grand coalition” with her main rivals, the Social Democrats, led by her foreign minister and challenger, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Personally popular
Fifty-four-year-old Merkel wants to form a new centre-right government with her preferred partners, the pro-business Free Democrats. But while she is personally popular among voters — some 49 per cent said they would vote for her — Germans vote for parties and do not directly elect candidates.

Merkel is widely expected to remain chancellor and her conservatives to be the biggest party. Although Germany’s election campaign has centred mainly on how to spur economic recovery, the role of German troops in Afghanistan has leapt into the spotlight after al-Qaeda issued a string of threatening videos aimed at Germans.
In an audiotape that surfaced on Friday, Osama bin Laden demanded that European countries pull their troops out of Afghanistan and threatened “retaliation” against them for their alliance with the US in the war. The Interior Ministry on Friday also confirmed the existence of a Taliban video that threatens attacks on Germany — the seventh terrorist message directed at Germany in two weeks.

Security tightened
The authorities tightened security after the first threats, with more officers at airports and train stations, but the Interior Ministry refused to say whether the bin Laden threat was prompting even further security increases.
 President Horst Koehler urged Germans go to the polls, recalling that the right to vote was not something to take for granted. “People have died for the free, secret and equal right to vote. It is our democracy and we should not weaken it,” Koehler said in a statement on Saturday that was to be published in the Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag.