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European elections: Meet Germany’s contenders

On May 26, Berliners will be voting Germany's MEPs into office for five years. Are you a EU citizen? Voting in Berlin? There's a sea of choices out there (41 parties in total!). Here's an overview of what the top 20 contenders have to offer...

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On May 26, Europe elects a new EU Parliament that will vote EU legislation for the next five years. The EU Parliament is comprised of 705 MPs from the 28 member states, with 96 MPs coming from Germany. But who might occupy those spots? Out of the 41 parties eligible, we’ll simplify for you: Here’s a rundown of the top 13 parties in Germany already there and some of their most contentious policies, their Spitzenkandidaten (“top candidates”) and their (unsurprisingly) similar campaign slogans. CDU: The CDU’s conservative platform this year doesn’t contain many surprises, keeping the slow-and-steady course that’s kept them with the majority in EU Parliament since 1979. They haven’t really made waves this round until “Rezo”, a 27-year-old Youtuber from Aachen, did it for them when his video “The Destruction of the CDU” (in German) was published on May 18. Since then it’s amassed over 5 million views. The biggest critique: The CDU (as well the SPD) are consistently ignoring experts on climate change in favour of corporate concerns. Top candidate: Hildegard Bentele (42). You may not recognise the name but she’s held different positions in CDU since 2002, as well as worked at the German embassy in Zagreb and Tehran. Slogan: “For Germany’s future. Our Europe.” Parliamentary group: European People’s Party group (EPP Group) Number of seats elected in 2014 (combined with CSU): 34 Where they stand in the polls (according to ZDF Politbarometer, May 24): 28 percent SPD: Aside from the usual emphasis on social issues, taxation of large corporations and maintaining long-term peace, the SPD are also pushing for the expansion of the EU, particularly in regards to western Balkan countries like Serbia. They were also the subject of Rezo’s ire in the now infamous viral video. Top candidate: Gabriele Bischoff (58), SPD member since 2008, a “passionate European”, trade unionist and feminist – she’s also a bike nut. Slogan: “Come together – Make Europe strong.” Parliamentary group: Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats Number of seats elected in 2014: 27 Where they stand in the polls (according to ZDF Politbarometer, May 24): 17.5 percent Die Linke: One of their demands is likely to go down pretty well: they want to establish free public transport systems. On top of that, they want to swap out European border protection agency Frontex with a civil European maritime rescue programme, next to the standard motions of improving the situation of refugees. Top candidates: Özlem Demirel (35). The ver.di union secretary has been politically active since her school days. Originally from Turkey, her family fled to Germany in 1989. Martin Schirdewan (44). Member of the European Parliament for questions of economy and currency, over the years, he’s been the editor of several leftwing magazines. Slogan: “For a Europe of millions in solidarity against an EU of millionaires.” Parliamentary group: European United Left–Nordic Green Left Number of seats elected in 2014: 7 Where they stand in the polls (according to ZDF Politbarometer, May 24): 6.5 percent Bündnis 90/Die Grünen: According to ZDF’s Politbarometer, the Greens are set to be the second strongest party out of the German options coming in at 18.5 percent – riding the wave of current climate change activism and concern for the environment. The Greens are strongly pro-European and leftwing when it comes to the refugee situation, opposing unilateral armament of Frontex and demanding legal alternatives to get here for asylum seekers, so they no longer have to be at the hands of smugglers. Top candidates: Ska Keller (37). A whole decade in Parliament, Keller was voted in at just 27. She focuses on fair trade policy and the creation of legal migration opportunities. Sven Giegold (50). Originally finance and economic policy spokesman for the fraction Greens / EFA (European Free Alliance) in the European Parliament, co-founder of Attac Deutschland (a globalisation-critical non-governmental organization). Slogan: “Come, we’re building a new Europe.” Parliamentary group: Greens EFA Number of seats elected in 2014: 11 Where they stand in the polls (according to ZDF Politbarometer, May 24): 18.5 percent FDP: No matter what’s said about the FDP, they keep on resurfacing (their fluctuating election results are definitely a thing). The pro-business liberals’ most stand-out platform point is a call against taxing companies for digital services and to speed up the creation of a Single European Digital Market. Top candidate: Nicola Beer (49). Lawyer, member of Bundestag and secretary-general of the FDP. Slogan: “Take advantage of Europe’s chances.” Parliamentary group: Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Number of seats elected in 2014: 3 Where they stand in the polls (according to ZDF Politbarometer, May 24): 5.5 percent Die Piraten: The nerds. The Pirates address topics of internet policy and participation. They want a less centralised EU and advocate transparency and digital public participation. Top candidate: Patrick Breyer (42). Civil rights activist, legal professional, expert on data protection, 2012 to 2017 member of the Landtag in Schleswig-Holstein. Slogan: “Freedom. Dignity. Participation.” Parliamentary group: European Pirate Party Number of seats elected in 2014: 1 Die PARTEI: Germany’s surprisingly effective satire party’s goal this time around is to “chase” the AfD voters. How? By using candidates that have the same last names as famous Nazi figures (Kevin Göbbels and Fabian M. Hess, among others.). Top candidates: Martin Sonneborn (54). Editor of Titanic since 1995, he’s also the party chairman of Die PARTEI. Nico Semsrott (33). Cabaret artist, head candidate for Die PARTEI in the 2017 German parliamentary elections. Slogan: “YES to Europe, NO to Europe!” and “We don’t care about Europe!” Parliamentary group: Non-Inscrits Number of seats elected in 2014: 1 AfD: No surprise here: they want all asylum and immigration policy returned to the national level, implying with it that the nation-states have no sovereignty as it is. And they’re flirting with the oldie but goodie idea of a “Dexit” referendum. Top candidate: Jörg Meuthen (57), AfD party chairman.  Slogan: “On May 26 vote the alternative!” Parliamentary group: European Conservatives and Reformists Number of seats elected in 2014: 7 Where they stand in the polls (according to ZDF Politbarometer, May 24): 12 percent Next to the main known parties, here are the outliers and their basic programmes. ÖDP: The ecological yet very conservative party demands an ecological-social economic system and is against European free trade agreements. They want more participation in decision-making for European citizens and support ecological farming for Europe. Top candidate: Prof. Dr. Klaus Buchner (78) Physicist. Slogan: “People before profits.” Number of seats elected in 2014: 1 Die Tierschutzpartei: The party for “humans, environment and animal welfare” advocates a switch to veganism and more laws to keep your furry friends safe. Top candidates: Martin Buschmann (49). Deputy Secretary-General of the party and an active member of Doctors Without Borders, the Animal Table and Foodwatch. Robert Gabel (40). Federal chairman since 2017 and active member in several organisations like Doctors Against Animal Testing; ProVeg; Amnesty International. Patricia Kopietz (37). Head of lobby groups BAK against Hunting & Fishing and Animals in the Entertainment Industry, and activist for animal rights. Slogan: “So that the future has a chance” Number of seats elected in 2014: 1 FREIE WÄHLER: This liberal-conservative party is put together by different local voting communities. Their focus lies on empowering the individual citizen, cities and communities, so Europe becomes a “citizens’ project”. Top candidate: Ulrike Müller (57). Farmer in Oberallgäu, and member of the party since 1987. Slogan: “Europe, our home.” Number of seats elected in 2014: 1 Familien-Partei Deutschlands: A minor conservative political party in Germany with a focus on family and education. Among other things they want to make homeschooling a thing in Germany while, on the other hand, also giving teachers long term contracts. Top candidate: Helmut Geuking (55) National chairman of the party since 2017, founded the company Humanitas Münsterland and the association Humanitas Gemeinschaft e. V. for the care of elderly and sick people. Slogan: “For a united and social Europe!” Number of seats elected in 2014: 1 NPD: The extreme right-wing party is pretty much only represented in politics through its seat in the European Parliament. Since the rise of AfD they all but vanished from the political scene. Basically, their aim is the exit of Germany from the EU. Top candidate: Udo Voigt (67). A run-of-the-mill rightwing extremist, a member of the EU parliament and author. He was unemployed for long segments of time before landing this gig. Slogan: “To create Fortress Europe; protection zone for Germany! Number of current seats: 1 Still can’t decide? Check out Wahl-O-Mat to let the internet pick for you.