File pic of German police. (Xinhua/Ulrich Hufnagel)
BERLIN, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- The upcoming Sunday will see Germans cast their ballot for the next federal parliament at nearly 70,000 polling stations across the country. Amid strained security situation in Europe and reported loopholes in the election software, Germany faces challenges to keep sabotagers and hackers at bay.
Apart from alert due to terror attacks occurred lately in other European countries, controversies surrounding this year's election, concurrent events such as the Berlin Marathon and Munich's Oktoberfest, as well as feared cyber attack further strained security situation in the country in the lead up to the federal election.
CONTROVERSY SPARKED OFFENSES
Controversies surrounding certain political parties lead to election related offenses. Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has reported 2,250 offenses in connection with the federal election campaign as of Sept. 13, 54 cases of which were acts of violence such as bodily harm, according to a BKA situation picture.
Victims of attacks during the election campaign are more often representatives or helpers of the far-right Party AfD. "Especially the candidates of the AfD and their events are increasingly affected by the reports of material damage and disturbances", according to the BKA situation picture.
One of the most frequent offenses is the damage to election posters. In Saxony-Anhalt, according to police, significantly more posters were destroyed than during the last federal election in 2013. The provincial council office in Magdeburg counted 1,238 damaged or stolen posters, the AfD being particularly affected with 867 destroyed posters, followed by the CDU with 121 and the SPD with 95.
In Dresden, a man attacked an election information stand of the AfD and injured a 72-year-old helper of the party.
More nerve-wracking for law enforcers of the country is the fact that the election will be held concurrently with the Berlin Marathon and Munich Oktoberfest.
On Sunday, in the German capital, the 44th Berlin Marathon will take place with its various individual competitions. This year more than 60,000 participants are expected to attend the event, according to the Berlin Police.
Amid a spate of terrorist attacks that struck Europe in the recent past, including one truck attack that killed at least 12 in Berlin last December, a big event like Marathon demands strong security presence.
"Hosting federal election on the same day of the Berlin Marathon is not optimal," Stephan Mayer, the CDU/CSU interior affairs spokesman, was quoted by RP online as saying. Meanwhile he was convinced that the authorities and the organizers were doing everything they could to ensure optimum security.
SPD faction leader Thomas Oppermann defended the event by saying major events must be possible even if it poses a logistic challenge, the RP online reported.
In Munich, the federal election is concurrent with the all-popular folk festival, Oktoberfest. This year, too, an "abstractly high threat situation" would have to be assumed, but there are no concrete threats, Werner Feiler, police chief of Munich, was quoted as saying by local media Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
Munich geared up security measures for the Oktoberfest, including applying loudspeaker system and body cameras, according to Feiler. However, the police chief believed the upcoming federal election does not present any particular threat.
Security experts have long warned that German authorities did not have a sound plan for hacking-proof election security, but officials said that a hand-counted result could not be manipulated.
In the nearly 70,000 polling stations in the country, electoral volunteers will hand out the votes on the evening of Sept. 24 and write their results on paper. Everything else runs on computers.
German media Zeit Online reported that a Dortmund computer scientist and analysts of the computer security society, Chaos Computer Club (CCC), showed that the software used in election, PC-Wahl, is outdated, with deficiencies to be exploited by attackers, and in the worst case, the counting on the election evening might be manipulated.
However, the CCC has already taken actions to address the weaknesses of the software. Still, fingers have to be crossed for a safe election day.