17 July 2013, 20:09

Merkel battles to stop spy scandal hitting September poll hopes

Angela Merkel Ангела Меркель Герамния Бундестаг

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is stepping up efforts to head off the threat posed to her re-election bid by the scandal surrounding allegations of rampant US surveillance of Europe's communication networks.

Instead of Germany's solid economic performance and Merkel's deft handling of the euro debt crisis, the campaign for the September 22 election has been dominated recently by claims that her government knew the US was collating information from online services in Europe.

The uproar in Germany was triggered by US whistleblower Edward Snowden's disclosures that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on allied governments and their citizens through the so-called PRISM programme.

In addition to speaking to US President Barack Obama on the issue, Merkel has also called for strict European Union rules on the protection of personal data and demanded that US intelligence services adhere to German law.

"The chancellor sees her job and her duty to protect German citizens," her spokesman said Wednesday. This includes both providing personal security and protecting people's private lives, he said.

Having so far failed to dent Merkel's commanding lead in opinion polls, the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens have seized on the stream of claims about the US intelligence service collecting information from telephones, emails and internet searches.

The opposition has moved to increase the pressure on Merkel by portraying her as having mishandled the scandal and not protected German data from international spying agencies.

Underlying the risks for Merkel have been attempts by the junior member of her coalition, the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), to bolster their weak poll numbers by taking the high ground on the issue.

The internet activist Pirate Party hopes the anger in Germany about the US snooping claims might translate into votes for them in September.

"(Germany) is going down the wrong road," warned the party's general secretary, Katharina Nocun, this week. "We are in danger of sacrificing democracy."

Opinion polls so far show that the revelations about the global eavesdropping by the United States have had little effect on the German election campaign.

Voice of Russia, dpa

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