Bitter Spaniards to vote in German poll with 'donated' ballots

Michelle Martin

By Michelle Martin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Spaniards and Greeks bitter about tough austerity measures in their countries for which they blame German Chancellor Angela Merkel hope to oust her in Sunday's national election by using ballots 'donated' by German voters.

On a Facebook page called "Electoral Rebellion" foreigners unable to participate in the election can post requests for votes and Germans who believe they deserve a say in a poll whose outcome will affect the rest of Europe can offer theirs up.

Project manager Filip Nohe said most of the interest in the scheme, which is open to all nationalities, came from Spain.

"The idea is that German people are giving their votes to people in other countries who are affected by German or global politics," said Nohe, an activist at Egality Berlin, which campaigns for democracy beyond the confines of the nation state.

"There are many examples - one is the austerity policies that are being forced onto southern European countries."

Nohe said the project was legal, making clear that it would still be German voters themselves who went to the polling station and cast their ballot in private.

"They're just taking on a recommendation technically from someone in another country," he added.

The Spanish government, struggling with recession and high unemployment, has made deeply unpopular budget cuts in an attempt to slash its deficit and many Spaniards see Merkel's insistence on fiscal austerity as the cause of their suffering.

"The German and Spanish governments forced me to emigrate to France because in Spain I can't find a job. I think that I have the right to vote in the country who decides my future," Pablete Willifo from southern Spain wrote on the Facebook page.


Many, like Daniel Correa, 33, favor left-leaning parties, which generally support a softer stance on the euro zone crisis than Merkel and greater focus on the social costs of austerity.

"I think I'll vote either for the Green party or the socialist party," Correa told Reuters, referring to the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD). "I hope they might develop a more solidarity-oriented policy."

Anna Politi, 34, a Greek writer, echoed this sentiment.

"I think if Greece had a say in the general policies that are being decided, the cuts wouldn't be so severe. They wouldn't be asked to do them so fast," she said.

In Greece, protesters have made effigies of Merkel wearing a Nazi uniform to show their anger over German-backed austerity.

Opinion polls put Merkel's conservatives well ahead of other parties but their current coalition partner, the Free Democrats, may not clear the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament, making more likely a 'grand coalition' between the chancellor's party and the SPD.

Further complicating the parliamentary arithmetic, a new Eurosceptical party that wants to force weaker countries such as Spain out of the single currency area may also enter parliament, buoyed by German anger over the costs of euro zone bailouts.

Nohe said he did not know how many people would join the project but the Facebook page so far has around 1,300 Likes.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)