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24 Sep, 2017 15:58

‘No info pointing at that’: German election chief on fears of meddling in parliamentary polls

‘No info pointing at that’: German election chief on fears of meddling in parliamentary polls

There has been no evidence of any interference in the ongoing German federal parliamentary elections thus far, the head of the German Federal Election Committee, Dieter Sarreither, told Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Speaking on potential hacking attacks or any other forms of interference, Sarreither said he had “no information pointing at that.”

Earlier, the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily also reported that there were apparently no attempts to meddle in the electoral process.

A special cybersecurity center established ahead of the vote and comprised of IT specialists, police officers and members of the German domestic security service, the Federal Agency for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), reported “no significant incidents over the days leading to the elections,” the paper reports.

Facebook also registered no “suspicious activity” on the social network linked to the elections, the company’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said, adding that Facebook “closely monitors” suspicious accounts and potential “fake news” related to the vote.

Having been confident that an interference attempt was imminent, the German authorities now face what they perceived as a “least likely outcome,” the Sueddeutsche Zeitung says.

Among the explanations as to why such an “outcome” has taken place, the paper cites Chancellor Angela Merkel’s potential wide margin of victory, which would make all attempts to damage her election result pointless, and the fact that US President Donald Trump, who is routinely accused of coming to power as a result of alleged Russian interference in the US 2016 vote, turned out to be far from “Moscow’s dream candidate.”

The German authorities on several occasions claimed Russia is seeking to interfere in its voting process. In early September, Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of the BfV, called the legitimacy of the election into question, saying that Russia could influence it in a number of ways.

In July, the BFV also issued a report in which it blamed Russia for attacks on German political targets and accused Moscow of using internet trolls to sway public opinion and spread pro-Russian views. However, in all these cases, Maassen admitted that there was no evidence proving that Russia was actually behind the activities mentioned by the BfV or even intended to influence the German elections.

German politicians began to speculate about potential Russian meddling in the elections as early as in November 2016. At that time, Merkel first claimed that Russia could try to influence the vote.

She raised the issue several times throughout November 2016 and her claims were also echoed by Bruno Kahl, the president of Germany’s foreign intelligence service (BND), who told the German media that his agency had evidence of cyberattacks aimed at “triggering political uncertainty.” However, in December 2016, the German government officially stated that there was still no solid evidence that Moscow was planning to somehow influence the general election.

The hysteria about the perceived Russian intention to meddle in the German polls could be just a means to force Merkel to follow an anti-Russian policy, Kees van der Pijl, an international relations expert, told RT, drawing certain parallels between Germany and the US.

“The RussiaGate story has fallen through completely [in the US],” van der Pijl said, referring to the US accusing Russia of interfering in its 2016 presidential vote. He also said that such meddling “was never going to happen in Germany either.”

“The reason why certain voices bring that up is that they want Merkel to be hooked up on anti-Russian policy in the same way they took [the US President Donald] Trump hostage,” the expert added.