In test city in Germany, election coincides with beer festival – 26/09/2021 – World

There was no beer festival queen election this year in Hassloch (pronounced haslórr) in southwestern Germany. Last year’s Queen and Princess “will hold their positions for another year,” says the website that announces the event, held every year on the fourth weekend in September.

In 2021, the beer party coincided with the federal election, which will define the successor of Prime Minister Angela Merkel. But it was the pandemic, not civic commitment, that canceled the beauty contest in Germany’s biggest village, with 20,000 inhabitants and 12,000 voters.

The “beer gardens”, however, were open to anyone who showed a vaccination certificate.

At the long tables covered with plaid-print plastic tablecloths, locals and tourists alike could drink the drink produced in the monastery of Andechs, in Bavaria, and eat classic dishes from the state in southern Germany.

Politics was also present. Among the eight entities that organized the event were the two main parties in the country, the CDU, by Angela Merkel, and the social-democrat SPD.

On Saturday morning, 50 meters from the entrance, a Greens kiosk and a stand of activists from the ultra-right AfD shared the same sidewalk.

Located about 500 km southwest of Berlin, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, Hassloch is at the center of the map of the marketing departments of German companies.

Because of its population structure in which age groups and social classes approximate the German average, it was chosen as a test city for new products.

Its stores receive the news beforehand, and a cable television network and newspapers display advertisements made especially for these products that other cities will only see in the future.

Part of the families use a barcode on all purchases, and their habits are tracked and monitored by the GfK (Consumer Research Institute), which analyzes the acceptance of the products tested.

The results typically predict future success with about 90% accuracy, according to the consultancy.

If it represents an average public for consumption, the same cannot be said of politics. In the 2017 election, the city gave a third of its votes to the Union as the country’s total, but the AfD’s share reached 16%.

“They grew from the arrival of refugees in 2015, with a speech that ‘Germans don’t feel at home anymore,’” says Annemarie Dewald, 37, a member of the Greens.

Hassloch took in 211 refugees at Merkel’s 2015 opening, a number that represents 1.1% of the population—the same proportion recorded for the country as a whole. Today, there are 152, of which 72 are still awaiting analysis of the asylum request.

In the three days it spent in Hassloch, Folha saw only two non-white people.

“I’m afraid to come home at night,” says one of the AfD’s advertising posters posted on poles across the city, although on Saturday night people of all ages walked peacefully.

“This is ridiculous, it doesn’t make any sense here, but it has an impact with some people”, says Annemarie, for whom the xenophobic acronym continues to gain space.

Hassloch also differed from the German average in the share of voters who preferred to vote in advance, by mail. Around 40% in Germany, it reached 50% in the village.

On Sunday (26), while the polling stations counted the hours, the 2nd team of 1. FC 08, wearing a white uniform, faced the TuS Maikammer Reds, under the watchful eyes of 27 fans.

Started at 4:15 pm, the match ended at 6:00 pm, exactly when the polls were closed. Until 10pm, players and fans would still find the beer gardens open.

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